Qualcomm to Announce New Adreno 400 GPU at CES 2014

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The latest GPU to come out from Qualcomm is the Adreno 330, which is roughly 100 percent faster than Adreno 320 that was launched a year before it. The improvement is actually nothing that spectacular, as the mobile GPU’s at least, tend to double in performance every 12 months, which means their improvement rate is roughly twice the speed of Moore’s Law. It used to be that way for CPU’s, too, until more recently, but the CPU improvement rate has started slowing down lately.

With new 2014 GPU’s that are set to pass 300 GFLOPS (more than PS3 and Xbox360), like Nvidia’s mobile Kepler and Mali T760, Qualcomm will need to come up with something new, too, and at CES next year they intend to announce the Adreno 400 series GPU. We don’t know yet any details about its performance, other than the fact that it’s supposed to have at least 4000 Mpix/s, while Adreno 330 has 3,600 Mpix/s.

However, depending on when it will launch (early 2014 or late 2014), it should be roughly 100 percent more powerful than Adreno 330, too (in terms of GFLOPS). If that’s the case, then it should reach somewhere between 250-300 GFLOPS, too (current Adreno 330 reaches about 115 GFLOPS  at 450 Mhz, but there are supposed to be higher clocked versions of it). Either way, the GPU should be more or less competitive, especially if they launch a 200 GFLOPS version in early spring, and a 300 GFLOPS one in fall. That should be doable.

But the GPU will not be the most interesting part of Qualcomm’s 2014 chips. What I’d like to know most is if it will have an ARMv8-based 64-bit CPU, and all the hints so far (including Qualcomm’s previous marketing executive trashing 64-bit CPU’s) may indicate that their first chips in 2014 won’t be 64-bit. That would be really unfortunate, as I don’t see any reason to buy a 32-bit chip anymore in 2014, when those chips will literally be the very last ones on the ARMv7 architecture. I’d rather wait a little more and be future proof.

Three years ago, for example, you could still buy mid-range ARMv6 phones, and now Google is already dumping that platform with its new Google Apps, by not supporting it anymore (which they should do, because it’s a very old and weak architecture at this point). I wouldn’t feel comfortable buying a 32-bit chip in 2014, knowing some apps might not work anymore 2-3 years later. But it remains to be seen if Qualcomm’s new chips will be 32-bit again, or 64-bit.

Another thing we don’t know yet is whether this first batch will be 28nm again, or 20nm. Qualcomm has been pretty good about moving to the new nodes early on, and my guess is they’ll want to move fast to 20nm, too.  There’s a pretty high chance all of their high-end chips will be 20nm in 2014. Now, all we have to do is wait a couple more months to see exactly what they are announcing at CES.