Samsung’s Secret Weapon Will Chip Away at Qualcomm

There’s a new chip in town that could post some serious competition for chip makers Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM), Nvidia (NASDAQ:NVDA), and Texas Instruments (NYSE:TXN), all of which produce chips used in popular smartphones and tablets. Samsung revealed the Exynos 4 Quad on Thursday, its next generation mobile chip that is said to function at faster speeds while consuming less power than its predecessors and competitors.

Samsung will debut its Galaxy S III smartphone next week, which will be the company’s first handset to run on the Exynos 4 Quad chip. Samsung claims that its new chip boasts twice the performance of its Exynos 4 Dual, which has two processing cores and is based on the ARM¬†Holdings (NASDAQ:ARMH) Cortex-A9 architecture, along with a 20 percent reduction in power use. To clarify, this will not necessarily equate to a straight 20 percent boost in run time on a device armed with the chip, since power consumption depends on smartphone and tablet displays. But the improvement will allow devices to perform tasks faster and allow users to get more done in the same amount of time.

The new chip is able to take advantage of power savings by using two technologies to boost performance. The Exynos 4 Quad uses a 32 nanometer production process and is the first quad-core mobile chip to use a High-k Metal Gate process. Essentially, the technology prevents power leakage, similar to a process used by Intel (NASDAQ:INTL) on traditional computer chips. When only one or two processing cores are needed, the chip can dynamically scale the clock speed and put some cores in idle mode, according to Samsung.

Chip-makers have been racing with their chips to find their way into high-end smartphones and tablets before rivals. Nvidia’s Tegra 3 chip is powering the Asus Transformer Prime tablet that runs Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android operating system and the HTC One X smartphone.

Samsung plans to use its Exynos 4 Quad in its own devices, in addition to providing samples to other handset makers. The chip race is not for the weak of heart. Next year, ARM Holdings is promising a faster, more capable chip: the A15.