Qualcomm is making one thing abundantly clear about its forthcoming Snapdragon 805 processor: it's all about 4K.
"Our belief is that 4K will be driven by mobile," said Tim McDonough, Qualcomm's vice president of marketing, at a preview session exploring the company's new chipset in San Francisco.
"The Snapdragon 805 is the first end-to-end full 4K mobile experience". Much of which comes down to the geeky details: the latest H.265 video compression, the HEVC standard for 4K streaming as adopted by Netflix and more, is decoded via its own hardware block on the 805 chip.
That simply isn't possible with the existing 800 and 801 variants. So for streaming, the 805 is a proper step-up.
"4K is something we believe that will happen across all screens in your life," continues McDonough, "[but] mobile is an industry where design cycles are not in years".
With the 805 due before the end of 2014, it more than hints that you could well have a portable 4K device before the year is out. Qualcomm was previewing a 9.7-inch 4K (3840 x 2160px) tablet to show off its potential. It's not a consumer model just yet, but we're sure the Sonys and Samsungs of this world will be working on their hardware.
But we're not talking about 4K smartphone screen resolution just yet. At present we're still waiting on a "Quad HD" display (2560 x 1440px) to make it to market, with the LG G3 expected to be the first smartphone to deliver that.
It's not all resolution and streaming though. Gaming is another area that will see a boost thanks to the Snapdragon 805's built-in Adreno 420 GPU, meaning much more data can be handled. That means 60fps playback beyond 1080p and better multi-tasking elsewhere. It's no longer about advancing clock speeds to deliver a better chipset performance.
Add in the latest 9x35 Gobi LTE Cat 6 modem, which can handle twice as much data as a Cat 4, and once carriers catch up, streaming 4K on the move won't be a thing of the future, it'll be in the here and now.
Qualcomm has laid out its spread, but what will the competition offer? We're already aware of MediaTek's Cortex-A17 - the first octa-core processor with 4K support - and undoubtedly there will be others to come.
It looks like the 4K resolution is just around the corner, and sooner than many had anticipated. "Quad HD" could be over before it started: roll on 4K tablets we say.
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