Chip makers like Qualcomm, Nvidia and Samsung Electronics are working on components that will increase processing power, add more memory and increase screen resolution of next-generation smartphones.
The year has only started and 2014's most exciting smartphones — including successors to Apple's iPhone 5s, the HTC One and the Galaxy S4 — still haven't been announced, but upcoming processors, memory modules and screens hint at what can be expected.
Here are some components that will help improve smartphone performance in 2014:
Qualcomm's Snapdragon 805
The Snapdragon 800 processor dominated the high-end smartphone market last year, and powered products like the Nexus 5 from Google and LG Electronics, LG's own G2, the Galaxy Note 3 from Samsung and Sony's Xperia Z1. There is very little to suggest that the successor, the Snapdragon 805 won't be a popular option this year.
The Snapdragon 805 is based on the Krait 450 quad-core CPU, which runs at speeds of up to 2.5GHz per core, according to Qualcomm. It also features the new Adreno 420 GPU, which has up to 40 percent more graphics processing power than its predecessor. The extra horsepower will allow smartphones and tablets to display 4K video content, either on the device or a TV.
The first devices using the Snapdragon 805 are expected to arrive during the first half of the year. It's already rumored to power the Samsung Galaxy S5, Sony's Xperia Z2 and the Lumia 1820 from Nokia.
Nvidia's Tegra K1
Qualcomm may dominate, but Nvidia seems hell-bent on giving the company a run for its money with its Tegra K1 processor. Nvidia is hard at work on 32-bit and 64-bit versions that look very competitive.
The first version uses a quad-core processor based on the latest version of ARM's Cortex A15 CPU. It has four main processors running at up to 2.3GHz and a fifth power-optimized core to handle low performance tasks and help extend battery life, according to Nvidia. The second version uses a custom, Nvidia-designed 64-bit dual "Super Core" CPU running at up to 2.5GHz. It is based on the ARMv8 architecture, which introduces 64-bit support to the ARM world.
With the K1, Nvidia is putting an emphasis on improved gaming. The processors combined with a GPU based on Nvidia's Kepler architecture can outperform both the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360, according to Nvidia. The company has also implemented CUDA, a parallel computing platform and programming model that enables increased performance by taking better advantage of the GPU.
The 32-bit version is expected in devices in the first half of the year and the 64-bit version during the second half, according to Nvidia.
Samsung's 8GB LPDDR4 Mobile DRAM
While most expensive smartphones today have 2GB of RAM, Samsung's semiconductor unit has announced a new chip that will make it possible for the company and others to build mobile devices with up to 4GB of RAM.
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