Qualcomm debuts chips with 75 percent better performance

CEO Paul Jacobs talks up the company's new chips, partnership with Microsoft, and other features during gave his CES preshow keynote address.

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Shara Tibken was a managing editor at CNET News, overseeing a team covering tech policy, EU tech, mobile and the digital divide. She previously covered mobile as a senior reporter at CNET and also wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. Shara is a native Midwesterner who still prefers "pop" over "soda."
Shara Tibken
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Paul Jacobs unveiled new processors at CES. James Martin/CNET
LAS VEGAS--Qualcomm, the company that supplies processors for the majority of the world's cell phones, on Monday unveiled two new families of mobile chips with performance up to 75 percent better than their predecessors.

The Snapdragon 600 and 800 series processors are geared at premium mobile and computing devices. Importantly, the highest-end chips, the 800 series, include Qualcomm's newest 4G LTE technology that offers speeds up to 150 Mbps. That's a sharp increase from the prior-generation's data rate of up to 35 Mbps.

Both new processor lines also include the newest generation of mobile Wi-Fi connectivity, 802.11ac.

Such advancements will allow consumers to surf the Web and download content much more quickly than is currently possible.

"All of that put together ... is a dramatic step up in terms of performance." Qualcomm Chief Marketing Officer Anand Chandrasekher told CNET. "All of that is done without any compromise on battery life."

Qualcomm Chief Executive Paul Jacobs announced the processors during a keynote speech today at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Jacobs took over the speaking slot normally held by Microsoft, which declared 2012 to be its last show. His selection as a keynote presenter showed the increasing importance of mobility to the consumer electronics industry.

Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer, who used to give the keynote, stopped by the keynote to talk about the company's partnership.

Qualcomm provides applications processors that serve as the brains of electronics, and it leads the market for providing chips that allow mobile devices to connect to wireless networks. Its 4G LTE processors in particular have been gaining strong traction of late and are used in gadgets like the iPhone 5. However, competition in 4G LTE is expected to increase as rival products hit the market.

Chandrasekher noted that Qualcomm already is introducing its third generation of 4G LTE chips while many rivals haven't yet shipped their first products.

Qualcomm, meanwhile, also has started to push into more traditional PCs following the launch of Windows RT. The operating system is the first to work on chips based on ARM architecture, like those from Qualcomm, instead of the x86 chips from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices. So far, Windows RT devices have had some hiccups (see CNET's in-depth report on the development of Windows RT tablets).

Overall, the 800 processors deliver performance up to 75 percent better than the company's current top offering that's used in products like the LG Optimus G. The 600 processors, meanwhile, have performance up to 40 percent better than the older chips.

Both processors, like their predecessors, are quad core, and they are the first to feature Qualcomm's new CPU codenamed Krait.

The Snapdragon 800 processors are currently being sampled by customers and should be available in commercial devices by mid-year. The 600 processors should be in gadgets by the second quarter of this year.

Qualcomm already has more than 50 design wins for its 600 and 800 processors, the company said.