The 'superphone' CPU in the Palm Pre 2
When did smartphones become superphones? To be precise, the term superphone was unofficially coined only this year with the launch of Google’s Nexus One back in January of 2010. While one can argue whether or not a term like superphone vs. smartphone is warranted, what isn’t up for debate is that 2010 saw the release of a succession of groundbreaking devices sporting amazing hardware. While the term began with the Nexus One it continued into the year with other well known “superphones” like the EVO 4G, iPhone 4, Galaxy S line and Droid X, to name only a few. Palm and HP webOS devices, as we know all too well, were not only left behind but were literally left totally out of the mix during the year of the superphone. Though various form factors and features made for a less than definitive case for what exactly constituted a superphone, one thing all of these devices had in common was this, a 1GHz CPU.
By this standard alone did Palm finally enter into the superphone arena with the late 2010 release of the Pre 2? Obviously yes, as the Pre 2 does in fact feature a 1GHz processor in the Texas Instruments OMAP 3630. So should it have a shot to be considered in the same class as those other phones? Read on.
While we are not particularly fond of the term superphone let us make one thing clear. The Pre 2 with the TI OMAP 3630 processor enters an elite group of smartphones with regard to sheer processing prowess. Currently only a few flagship devices have this CPU. A good illustration of this is the recent release of Motorola’s latest flagship device the Droid X. Like the Pre 2, the Droid X shares the very same TI OMAP 3630 processor. Another example is the iPhone 4. While technically not the same CPU, the iPhone 4 and Pre 2 share the very same GPU and reference Cortex A8 chip. And finally in a kind of parting-shot perspective, hit devices like the EVO 4G and its 1GHz Snapdragon processor are widely considered less capable the the Pre 2's OMAP 3630, especially in gaming benchmarks. This is due in large part to the OMAP 3630’s GPU (Imagination Technologies PowerVR SGX 530).
We should note that new and improved devices are always on the horizon and such is the case with smartphone processors. The new TI OMAP 4 chips and Qualcomm 1.2GHz Snapdragon are among several announced mobile processors that will natively break into the 1+GHz and 1.2GHz realm respectively. Both will be released in early 2011.
If 2010 was the year of the superphone, 2011 may well be the year of the super CPU with not only Texas Instruments and Qualcomm, but also NVidia and Intel all working on even faster mobile processors for the latter part of 2011 breaking speeds of 1.5GHz and up as well as supporting full 1080i HD on multiple screens. But for the here and now, the TI OMAP 3630 processor found in the Pre 2 currently has no CPU rival.
Kudos to Palm for choosing the TI OMAP 3630 1GHz processor for the Pre 2. There may be no faster or better smartphone chip and GPU combination available available to consumers this holiday season. Combine the OMAP 3630 with the coding and design improvements of webOS 2.0 and you get a device that doesn't get as much credit as it deserves when compared to those other high-end smartphones.