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Qualcomm's Snapdragon S4 Integrates LTE, Tops Benchmarks

By Wesley Fenlon

Qualcomm's latest Snapdragon SoC outperforms 2011's fastest chips by a wide margin and integrates LTE processing in the name of battery efficiency.

Qualcomm's long-awaited solution to the horrors of LTE battery life will make its debut at Mobile World Congress, which kicks off on February 27. The Snapdragon S4, Qualcomm's latest dual-core system-on-a-chip, integrates the LTE processor onto the chip. Phones running on the S4 will be the first LTE devices to operate without an independent (and battery-draining) LTE processor. They'll also be very, very fast.

Benchmarks for the MDP (Mobile Development Platform) MSM8960, released on Tuesday, show that Qualcomm's new Krait CPU crushes competing mobile chips. In several cases, the SoC doubles the performance of 2011's fastest devices.

The MDP device benchmarked by Anandtech isn't a phone that will reach the market this year--as its name suggests, it's a reference device for Qualcomm and developers. For example, the 13 megapixel camera in the MDP exists to prove the CPU can handle processing high resolution images.

If Qualcomm makes as big a dent in LTE battery drain as we hope by integrating the LTE processor into the SoC, the Snapdragon S4 will be a huge hit in 2012's Android devices.

The reference device may pack a crazy camera and look a bit rough around the edges, but the SoC inside it will soon be powering Android devices to new heights. Thanks to a new processor architecture in the 28nm Krait platform, the 1.5GHz CPU doubled the performance of Samsung's Galaxy S II in Java-based Linpack tests, topped the charts in Browsermark and doubled the Galaxy Nexus' score in Qualcomm's own Vellamo performane test. Granted, Qualcomm's going to ace its own test, but the new Krait platform nearly doubled performance over its previous Scorpion CPU in the MSM8660.

The Adreno 225 GPU included in the SoC isn't as shiny and new as the Krait CPU, but it's running at a higher clock speed and memory bandwidth than it has when paired with previous CPUs. It performs better than the iPhone 4S GPU in some tests while running at a 1024x600 resolution, but the iPhone 4S came out on top in others. The Snapdragon S4 is definitely a bigger step forward in CPU performance than in GPU power.

If Qualcomm makes as big a dent in LTE battery drain as we hope by integrating the LTE processor into the SoC, the Snapdragon S4 will be a huge hit in 2012's Android devices. Nvidia's lagging behind in integrating the LTE processor, meaning its Tegra line won't be as battery efficient in 4G devices for the better part of the year.

The Snapdragon S4 will make its product debut in several phones at this year's Mobile World Congress.

Image via Anandtech