Upcoming 32-bit SoCs
All four companies already sell powerful SoCs. But the market doesn’t stand still, and some of them are preparing to release revolutionary processors by the end of 2014, while others continue improving on already-successful formulas.
Qualcomm Snapdragon 805
As mentioned, Qualcomm was surprisingly slow to respond to Apple’s ARMv8-based A7. The 64-bit SoCs it already announced for 2014 are lower-end, while the high-end ones won’t arrive until next year. Even then, they're off-the-shelf reference cores from ARM.
That’s a little strange, to say the least, from the company that assumed its leadership position by pushing the envelope and taking full advantage of ARM’s latest instruction sets, and by shipping new designs even before reference ARM-based solutions started emerging. That gave it the early adopter advantage that made Snapdragon so successful. But for some reason, not only did Apple’s Cyclone announcement catch Qualcomm by surprise, but a year later there's still no proprietary architecture based on the ARMv8 ISA.
For 2014, it prepared a slight improvement of Snapdragon 801, apparent from the Snapdragon 805 designator. The CPU is based on the Krait 450 design now operating at up to 2.7 GHz.
The GPU gets a bigger boost with Adreno 420 graphics, though it's likely nowhere near as powerful as Nvidia’s Kepler-based solution, given a purported 40-percent speed-up compared to Adreno 330. Tegra K1 should be at least twice as fast as Adreno 330 (166 GFLOPS versus 365).
Qualcomm’s offerings for this year don’t seem as compelling or competitive as I’d like them to be, but the company profits from being a long-term and trusted partner to many OEMs, so it continues raking in the design wins.
Samsung Exynos 5433
Not a lot is known about the Exynos 5433, but it’s rumored to arrive later this year in Samsung's Galaxy Note 4, which would make it Samsung's highest-end SoC for 2014. Leaked benchmarks put it ahead of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 805 in AnTuTu, though still below Nvidia’s Denver-based Tegra K1 (expected to surface in the fall).
What we might expect from the 5433 is another eight-core chip, probably built using a cluster of four Cortex-A7s and another cluster of four Cortex-A15s, perhaps manufactured at 20 nm. So, it should offer higher performance and better efficiency than the previous generation Exynos SoC.
Although an ARMv8-based Exynos has been rumored since late last year, it’s unlikely we'll see it in 2014. That processor will purportedly benefit from 14 nm lithography, and Samsung probably won't have that ready for mass production in the next few months. At best, we may hear more in early 2015, just in time for a Galaxy S6 (which could also make the Exynos 6 Octa name more appropriate, if that’s what it ends up being called).