Inside the Motorola Droid X

Texas Instruments discusses what's under the hood of Motorola's Droid X, which was unveiled earlier this week.

The Motorola Droid X, which debuted this week to mostly a chorus of accolades , gets its zip from silicon provided by Texas Instruments.

Droid X uses a fast 1GHz Texas Instruments processor
Droid X uses a fast 1GHz Texas Instruments processor. Motorola

Inside the rival to the Apple iPhone 4 is a new TI OMAP 3630 chip, a big upgrade from the 3430 silicon used in the current Motorola Droid. TI got almost a two-fold speed spike from the new OMAP 3630 chip via design modifications and by moving to an advanced 45-nanometer manufacturing process, according to Brian Carlson, OMAP product line manager at Texas Instruments.

"We increased both the graphics and processor performance by over 80 percent," Carlson said in a phone interview, adding that the new process along with chip design tweaks allowed TI to also lower power consumption between 30 percent and 50 percent, depending on what the user is doing.

"The first thing you'll notice is that the Droid X is much snappier, much faster. Web browsing is one of the key areas. Running a (graphics intensive) Web page, comparing the Droid to the Droid X, it goes from about eight seconds down to below five seconds," he said.

Carlson also explained that other factors come into play beyond reaching the 1GHz milestone. "It's not just about the gigahertz. It's about your memory subsystem. Our memory bandwidth and how we feed these (processing) engines make an incredible difference," he said.

Droid X main features:

  • Processor: 1GHz Texas Instruments OMAP3630 processor (45-nanometer)
  • Memory: 512MB
  • Graphics chip: Imagination Technologies PowerVR SGX530
  • Mobile Wi-Fi hot spot: TI Mobile Wireless LAN: WiLink 6.0
  • Band/Modes: CDMA 800/1900, EV-DO Rev. A
  • Storage: 8GB onboard, 16GB microSD preinstalled, total memory expandable up to 40 GB
  • Operating system: Android 2.1
  • Display: 4.3-inch WVGA (854 x 480), WVGA display houses 400,000 pixels
  • Camera: 8.0 megapixel, Auto Focus, Dual LED Flash
  • Browser: Webkit HTML5-based browser; Adobe Flash 10.1 after update, pinch-to-zoom
  • Video: 720p HD Capture, HD Playback via HDMI or DLNA, H.263, H.264, MPEG4, WMA v10
  • Playback: 30 frames per second encode and decode
  • Talk and standby time (specified): Talk time 480 minutes, standby time 220 hours
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth Version 2.1+EDR, USB 2.0 HS, OTA, HDMI, DLNA
  • Location services: aGPS (assisted), sGPS (stand-alone), Google Maps
  • Battery: 1540 mAh
  • Dimensions:: 65.50 (x) 127.50(y) 9.90(z) mm, 2.6 (x) x 5.0 (y) x 0.4 (z) inches
  • Price, availability: $199 after a $100 rebate; on sale July 15

TI also supplies the silicon that enables the built-in Wi-Fi hot spot, which allows the Droid X to connect up to five devices, much like the portable credit-card-size Verizon MiFi access point. This is a "killer" feature also found in a few newer high-end phones such as the HTC EVO 4G and obviates the need for a separate device like the Verizon MiFi.

Motorola Droid X CBS Interactive

Another marquee feature TI includes in its silicon is support for DLNA, or Digital Living Network Alliance, which enables the Droid X to stream video to a home consumer electronics device, such as a TV. "With a high-definition video recorder, HDMI output, and with wireless (DNLA) streaming directly from the device, this is going to change how these devices are used," Carlson said.

And what's coming down the pike from TI? A dual-core OMAP 4430 chip will begin shipping in the fourth quarter, Carlson said. This should make its way into phones in the first half of 2011.

All smartphones are currently powered by single-core central processing units, or CPUs, which limits the number of tasks users can do simultaneously. When smartphones finally move to dual-core designs next year, a lot will change, according to Carlson.

"What you have to do is look at the workload. These aren't just phones anymore. You have a lot of different services and social networking going on behind the scenes. If you have one processor, it thrashes [slows down] a lot because you have to keep refilling the cache [memory]. With two processors [each with their own cache], you alleviate that. You actually see a boost in performance, a boost in page load times. We're seeing page load times of two seconds," Carlson said.

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

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