If you've been following our SoC and smartphone related coverage over the past couple of years, you'll probably remember how Qualcomm let us take home an MDP8660 from MWC 2011 and thoroughly benchmark it. Qualcomm has done essentially the same thing this year, this time sending their latest and greatest MSM8960 SoC inside the aptly named MSM8960 Mobile Development Platform (MDP) just before MWC 2012. The timing is impeccable as we're fully expecting to start seeing MSM8960 based phones next week at MWC, and we've been telling you to hold off on any smartphone purchases until the 8960's arrival. Today we're finally able to give you an indication of just how fast Qualcomm's next-generation Snapdragon S4 will be.

We've already been teased MSM8960 and Krait a few times, and have talked about the architecture and what to expect from the SoC itself. The super short recap is this: Krait is the name of Qualcomm's new out of order ARMv7-A compatible CPU architecture (previous generations of Snapdragon used Scorpion) which is designed for TSMC's 28nm process. Inside MSM8960 are two Krait cores running at up to 1.5 GHz, Adreno 225 graphics, improved ISP and Qualcomm's new baseband with support for nearly every air interface out there.

The MDP we were sampled is clearly a descendant of the MDP MSM8660 we were given last year, sharing the same black utilitarian look and purpose-built design, though it's notable that the new device is markedly thinner. MDP MSM8960 is running Android 4.0.3 at 1.5 GHz, and includes 1 GB of LPDDR2, and a 4" 1024x600 display. It's an interesting note to make that both Intel and Qualcomm have somehow settled on 1024x600 for their reference designs.

We also asked Qualcomm for a copy of the old MDP8660 for comparison purposes, just to see how far we've come since the first dual core Snapdragon SoC.

Qualcomm Mobile Development Platform (MDPs)
SoC 1.5 GHz 45nm MSM8660 1.5 GHz 28nm MSM8960
CPU Dual Core Scorpion Dual Core Krait
GPU Adreno 220 Adreno 225
NAND 8 GB integrated, microSD slot 16 GB integrated, microSD slot
Cameras 13 MP Rear Facing with Autofocus and LED Flash, Front Facing (? MP) 13 MP Rear Facing with Autofocus and LED Flash, Front Facing (? MP)
Display 3.8" WVGA LCD-TFT 4.03" SWVGA (1024x600) LCD-TFT
Battery 3.3 Whr removable 5.6 Whr removable
OS Android 2.3.2 (Gingerbread) Android 4.0.3 (ICS)

We're taking a look at just CPU, GPU, and power performance today on MSM8960, as cellular baseband is disabled on the MDP just like it was when we looked at the previous MSM8660 MDP. We'll get a chance to investigate that further in the future, again right now the key areas are CPU, GPU, and power.

As we talked about in the previous MDP piece, the purpose of the MDP is just to serve as a reference design for both Qualcomm to get its Android port running on, and also for individual developers to profile and test their applications against. It's analogous to TI's OMAP Blaze platforms - you won't ever likely see one out in the wild, but it's a reference target that the silicon vendor leverages to port Android, and a piece of hardware that OEMs can use as a reference when they start customizing and building handsets.

Just like last time the MDP also comes with a software build that lets us easily enable or disable vsync on the device, restart surfaceflinger, and then run benchmark tests. There's no such analog for shipping retail devices, only development builds contain this functionality. As there are parts of each benchmark that could instantaneously peak over vsync's 60 FPS on some of the shipping platforms we're comparing to, we're providing results with vsync on and off.

In addition, last time when we ran tests on the MDP MSM8660 I noted that the governor was set to "performance" mode, which means it doesn't adaptively change CPU frequency as a function of load - it was 1.5 GHz all the time. This time the MDP MSM8960 came running with the much more typical "ondemand" governor selected, which does scale CPU frequency as a function of load, so there's less of a concern about the lack of pauses while the CPU changes performance states making results non comparable.

CPU Performance - 1.5 GHz Dual Core Krait
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  • Denithor - Wednesday, February 22, 2012 - link

    Probably very much like desktop performance here: going from 1 to 2 cores is a huge upgrade, even for single-threaded apps, because it off-loads background chores to the second core and you get a full core dedicated to your running app. Going from there to 3/4/6/8 cores is really only helpful if your apps are truly multi-threaded or you're heavily multitasking.

    Now, the increase in IPC is definitely going to help everything go faster.
  • vision33r - Wednesday, February 22, 2012 - link

    Then, what's the point of Nvidia doing the quad core and even planning for greater than 4 cores.
  • Wishmaster89 - Wednesday, February 22, 2012 - link

    IMHO its only pure marketing. Eventually we'll get to a point where we'll have more cores in our phones than in most desktop workstations, only because it'll sell better. Sad but true.
  • Smart hero - Friday, February 24, 2012 - link

    I think an optimizes performance for Smart phone win over high-end end one ( I believe pod’s need high-end performance )

    1.Less game can be played in a small screen .
    2.smart phone is not a cloud computer .
    3.Traditionally , still we use win-32 bit more than 64 bit …are we changing with CPU???????????
  • R1V4L - Tuesday, April 3, 2012 - link

    How can You compare these video cards when the hardware is running different versions of software ?
    Let me tell you that I've tested my Samsung Galaxy S2 running official Android 4.0.3 with Vsync on and on Egypt test I got 60fps !!! - evidently this result is influenced by the framelimit imposed by Samsung drivers.
    So these benchmarks You did are not showing us the truth. Sorry to raise this problem - but I dare You to do these tests again :)))
  • R1V4L - Tuesday, April 3, 2012 - link

    Galaxy S2 - official android 4.0.3 : 45.67 FPS
    Funny, huh ?!
    Redo the tests, please - otherwise we will think this is a commercial crappy presentation for new products - not a professional benchmark.

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