NovaThor: Is It a Worthy Competitor to Tegra, Exynos and Snapdragon?

So another SoC (System on Chip) is slowly but surely making its way into the market and is aiming to become the top dog that mobile manufacturers would turn to. It is none other than the ‘NovaThor‘ SoC. So, is it a force that established SoCs like ‘Tegra’, ‘Exynos‘ and ‘Snapdragon‘ have to reckon with? Let’s find out!

Introduction

NovaThor‘ is a product of ‘ST-Ericsson’, a joint venture of ‘ST Microelectronics’ and ‘Ericsson’. The joint venture company has lined up many variants out of which 4 have come into focus. They are ‘U8500’, ‘U9500’, ‘L8540’ and ‘L9540’.

The Insides: CPU and GPU

There is a reason why the ‘NovaThor‘ SoC has got such popularity and it has partially got to do with the components of the SoC: the CPU and the GPU. All the 4 ‘NovaThor‘ SoCs outlined above have CPUs manufactured on the basis of the designs licensed from ARM. These are dual-core cortex A9 microprocessors that have gained popularity over the past year and have now become the standard in most of the high end mobiles that are being manufactured by companies such as ‘Samsung’. Now here ends the commonality among the 4 variants. The differences are what make each of them unique:

  • While the ‘U8500’ and the ‘U9500’ have the A9s clocked at a frequency of around 1 Ghz, the ‘L8540’ and the ‘L9540’ will have the A9s clocked at a frequency of around 1.85 Ghz. This implies that the ‘L Series’ SoCs will be more powerful
  • While the ‘U8500’ and the ‘U9500’ have GPUs from ‘ARM’ (‘ARM Mali 400’), the ‘L8540’ and the ‘L9540’ have GPUs from ‘Imagination Technologies’ (‘Power VR SGX 544’). This implies that the ‘L Series’ SoCs will perform much better as far as graphics are concerned as we have already seen from the innumerous fights between the above mentioned GPUs where ‘Power VR SGX 544’ comfortably trumped ‘Mali 400’ in this department
  • While the ‘L9540’ and ‘L8540’ provide 4G capabilities (LTE), the ‘U9500’ and ‘U8500’ will work to provide 3G capabilities. This implies that the ‘L Series’ SoCs will provide better download and upload speeds
  • While the ‘U9500’ and ‘U8500’ are manufactured using 45 nm semiconductor technology, the ‘L9540’ and ‘L8540’ are manufactured using 28 nm semiconductor technology. This implies that the ‘L Series’ SoCs will be power efficient as compared to the ‘U Series’ SoCs
  • The ‘U9500’ will have an edge over ‘U8500’ as far as download and upload speeds are concerned
  • Similarly, the ‘L9540’ will have an edge over ‘L8540’

Mobile Manufacturers: What do they think?

While the ‘NovaThor U8500‘ has already found its way into mobiles being manufactured by companies like ‘HTC’ (‘Sensation’), ‘Samsung’ (‘Galaxy S Advance’, ‘Galaxy Ace 2’, ‘Galaxy Beam’) and ‘Sony’ (‘Xperia U’ and ‘Xperia P’), the rest of the three (‘U9500’, ‘L8540’, ‘L9540’) are not far behind. Another major player like ‘Nokia’ is also looking at integrating this SoC into its models. This will be the first time that ‘Nokia’ is looking at partnering with another chip manufacturer since all of its ‘Windows Phones’ released until now are based on ‘Qualcomm’s’ SoC (‘Snapdragon’).

The Competition: ‘Tegra’, ‘Exynos’ and ‘Snapdragon’

If you are an avid reader and follower of tech news, you would probably have noticed that some of the specifications of the ‘NovaThor‘ SoC match another SoC very closely. Yes, as you would have probably guessed by now, it is the ‘Exynos‘. The ‘Exynos‘ SoC, used in ‘Samsung Galaxy SII’ and ‘Samsung Galaxy Note’, contains exactly the same components that the ‘NovaThor U8500‘ SoC does: a ‘Dual-Core Cortex A9’ CPU and ‘Mali 400’ GPU. The only difference is that while the ‘Dual Cortex A9s’ in ‘Samsung Galaxy SII’ ‘Exynos‘ SoC are clocked at 1.2 Ghz, they are clocked at 1.4 Ghz in ‘Samsung Galaxy Note’ ‘Exynos‘ SoC and at around 1 Ghz in ‘NovaThor U8500‘ SoC. Though the ‘U8500’ appears to have a disadvantage here, the rest of the capabilities like 1080p HD Video recording, HSPA capabilities, Extensive video format support are what put it in competition. In fact, the LTE equipped ‘NovaThor L9540‘ and ‘NovaThor L8540‘ are definitely going to be stars in their own rights and will guaranteed, match what other SoCs like ‘Tegra‘ and ‘Snapdragon‘ are offering.

Something is amiss….??: Yes, Quad-Core!!

Yes, ‘ST-Ericsson’ hasn’t outlined the Quad-Core roadmap for its ‘NovaThor‘ SoC. The scene in the market is rapidly changing and the roadmap gains all the more significance as ‘Nvidia’ and ‘Samsung’ are already out with their Quad-Core offerings in the form of ‘Tegra 3‘ and ‘Exynos 4 Quad‘ respectively. ‘Qualcomm’ is also going to be out with its Quad-Core ‘Snapdragon‘ offering very soon. So, ‘ST-Ericsson’ has a lot of work to do. It has to first impress the customers with the first 4 variants and then it has to manufacture and market its Quad-Core offering very rapidly to take advantage of the growing smartphone and tablet market.

The Bottom Line: Yes, ‘This means War’!!

The mobiles in which the ‘NovaThor U8500‘ is fitted have already gained attention in the market. While the ‘Galaxy Beam’ is Samsung’s first offering which is coming out with an integrated projector inside it, ‘Sony’ is hoping to return to profitability with offerings such as ‘Xperia P’ and the ‘Xperia U’ and hence it is investing heavily on marketing the ‘Xperia’ models. If people accept the above phones, then ST-Ericsson can challenge market leaders like ‘Nvidia’, ‘Samsung’ and ‘Qualcomm’.

Stay Tuned..!!



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