Qualcomm's new portable chipsets promise performance and battery improvements

Qualcomm Wear 4100 Plus header image

You may not have noticed, but smartwatches are finally becoming commonplace. The question being asked has shifted from & # 39; Should I buy a smartwatch? & # 39; to "Which smartwatch should I buy?". Devices like the Apple Watch have turned a portable computer into a luxury item, and luxury watch companies are now turning into portable computers. It has even become difficult to find a watch company that not make a smartwatch now.

However, the problem that persists is that, with the exception of a few companies, smartwatches are still a bit slow and have less than great battery life. Google's Wear operating system just hasn't got the R&D resources it deserves, and Apple is one of the few companies to make annual improvements to the watch processor, so there hasn't been much incentive to make smartwatches that much better . Qualcomm improved performance with the Snapdragon Wear 3100 in 2018, but the battery life on most watches has been below par.

Also read: The best Wear OS smartwatches you can buy

But this year, Qualcomm aims to address many of the issues smartwatches face with the new Wear 4100 and Wear 4100 chips. This is what's new.

A large small die shrinks

Qualcomm Wear 4100 series improves the speed boostQualcomm Wear 4100 series improves the speed boost

The umbrella that includes most of the improvements in the Wear 4100 series is a huge process shrink. While the Wear 3100 series was based on a 28nm process, the 4100 series transitions directly to a 12nm process. This results in multiple improvements, including a large speed bump and longer battery life.

The Wear 4100's CPU has been moved from the Cortex A7 to the Cortex A53. While still quad-core, the clock speed has vastly improved, to 1.7 GHz from 1.1 GHz. Qualcomm says this results in 85% better performance, which should make watches feel much faster. RAM on the chip also gets a speed boost of 85%, now running at 750 MHz, up from 400 MHz on the Wear 3100. Finally, the GPU has been upgraded to the Adreno A504 from the Adreno 304, providing a performance improvement of 2.5x offers.

Qualcomm has also added a second image signal processor (ISP) to the Wear 4100, allowing smartwatches to have two cameras, one on the Wear 3100.

A better co-processor

Improvements in the Qualcomm Wear 4100 seriesImprovements in the Qualcomm Wear 4100 series

The co-processor is one of the most important features. Qualcomm says smartwatches spend 95% of their lives in ambient mode, with only 5% for active processing. Therefore, the co-processor must be effective in environmentally friendly display of information in an energy-efficient state.

Qualcomm has moved many lower power activities, such as step count, alarms and haptics, to the QCC1110 coprocessor, which will consume more power than the primary processor. Since many of the interactions we have with smartwatches are based on these features, the chip can save a lot of power.

Many low power functions go to the coprocessor.

This is important for people who use their smartwatches to track sleep. If you need to charge your watch every night, you cannot use it for these functions. Since many functions are moved to the coprocessor to operate in an energy-efficient state, this should allow sufficient battery life to use functions such as sleep tracking.

Qualcomm Wear 4100 Co Processor FeaturesQualcomm Wear 4100 Co Processor Features

The co-processor has been enhanced in other ways, such as an improved 16-bit color gamut, which can now display up to 64,000 unique tones from just 16 on the Wear 3100 series. This allows the ambient mode to display more expressive features. An environmental battery indicator also helps you know when to charge your watch.

Wear 4100 vs 4100 Plus: what's the difference?

Qualcomm Wear 4100 versus PlusQualcomm Wear 4100 versus Plus

The main difference between the 4100 and 4100 Plus platforms is the presence of the co-processor. Customers who opt for the 4100 will still see the performance benefits of the die shrinkage and component improvements, but the lack of a co-processor won't make ambient mode ideal.

The 4100 is likely to be quite a bit lower than the 4100 Plus, but given the improvements the co-processor brings, most ODMs are likely to reach the 4100 Plus more often than not. Qualcomm says that customers can choose the 4100 over the 4100 Plus if they make simpler watches for children or seniors or if they want to use their own co-processor.

When do we start seeing devices?

Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 stock imageMobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 stock image

So far, two ODM & # 39; s have committed to use Qualcomm's new platform. Mobvoi will use it for a new TicWatch, the TicWatch Pro 3, and Xiaotiancai, a BBK brand, will use the platform for a new children's smartwatch that uses the new second ISP to offer two cameras . The new TicWatch will be launched late this year and the Xiaotiancai Z6 will be released within 30 days.

Given the massive leap in performance and improved battery life, we hope to see some new devices with the new platform soon.

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