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GDC 2013 Interview: Qualcomm spills its guts about Windows Phones' guts

Our recent trip to the Game Developers Conference focused mostly on games, as you might expect. But the hardware behind the software is fairly important too. For Windows Phone, Nokia is certainly the device manufacturer doing the most to grow the platform. But regardless of the handset maker, one hardware manufacturer provides the chipsets for all Windows Phone devices: Qualcomm.

We sat down and interviewed Michelle Leyden-Li, the Senior Director of Marketing at Qualcomm about the hardware that drives Windows Phone and Windows RT devices. Check out the video after the break!

Stepping up to the Qualcomm GDC Booth

Windows Phone and RT were fairly well represented at Qualcomm’s GDC booth this year. At the central counter, users could interact with a couple of HTC Windows Phone 8 handsets as well as the Dell XPS 10 tablet. The phones rocked Asphalt 7 and Amazing Spider-Man, two of the most graphically intense Windows Phone 8 games to date.

Dell XPS 10 Windows RT tablet at GDC 2013

Since our readers are probably already familiar with HTC’s lineup of phones, let’s briefly touch on the XPS 10, which runs Windows RT. The screen is 10.1 inches and the processor is a dual-core Snapdragon S4 running at 1.5 GHz. You might recognize that as pretty much the same System on a Chip found in the Lumia 820 and 920. It comes in 32 GB and 64 GB models and Dell also sells a mobile keyboard dock that adds a trackpad and extends the tablet’s battery life.

The 32 GB model costs $449.99 and the 64 GB is only slightly more at $499.99. The keyboard will set you back an additional $149.99. Pricing aside, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want one.

Windows Phone emerges

Qualcomm’s booth promoted a variety of hardware, including their new top-of-the-line Snapdragon 800 which is capable of outputting visuals at the burgeoning 4K resolution. Sadly, Microsoft has yet to announce any Windows Phone or RT devices that use the quad-core Snapdragon 800 – but surely the chipset will find its way into Windows devices before too long.

That minor disappointment aside, Qualcomm did show a little more Windows Phone love nearby. A display devoted to emerging markets revealed a handset that I couldn’t quite recognize. Turns out it was the TCL S606. The device contains a single-core Snapdragon processor at its heart, pumping low-cost awesomeness through its electric veins. The S606 is a low-cost device that will launch in China at an undisclosed point in the near future.

7.1 Surround on the go

The final highlight of Qualcomm’s booth occurred in a private theater setup off in the corner. There the company demonstrated the new Headphone: X 7.1 surround sound headset technology they have co-developed with DTS. I’ve never checked out a surround sound headset before, but I found the surround effect in the headset at the show to be totally convincing.

The Snapdragon 800 SoC performs the surround processing, so we won’t be experiencing 7.1 on our Windows Phones anytime soon. But once the next generation of Windows Phone handsets finally starts rolling out with Snapdragon 800s inside, 4K video and 7.1 audio output should come along with them.

Paul Acevedo is the Games Editor at Windows Central. A lifelong gamer, he has written about videogames for over 15 years and reviewed over 350 games for our site. Follow him on Twitter @PaulRAcevedo. Don’t hate. Appreciate!

  • Not the best, but it's workable..
  • That's what she said? :P
  • LMAO!
  • Ouch
  • Yup. Your mom did say that... :P
  • It would be awesome if the next spec added The 800 for windows phone high end models and moved the current hardware as the entry level alternative. Skipping the 600 seems like the right move for a bit of future proofing into next year.
  • Better yet.  I've come to learn that there will be a surprise announcment from Intel and Microsoft that Intel has a new secret line of super low voltage Haswell Core i3/5/7 mobile processors that will only work with W8 and WP.  Nokia will release the first such device, an i7 model, in June.  Since its x86 your Steam games will work on it and yes, it will be able to play Crysis.  Dell, HP, Acer, and the other OEM's will have devices ready a few months later.
    (Just wanted to add my own pipe dream and April Fools)
  • Not funny!
  • LOL! :)
  • Did you get excited? :-P
  • You nearly gave me a heartattack from excitement...
  • LMAO!
  • +1
  • Not reading anything else today, due to Aaron almost causing me and heart attack from too much excitement!
  • You actually got me there..
  • Snapdragon 800? Oh, man, will that help WP8!
  • 64 GB not MB
  • ^this...
  • Fixed! *me thinking I'm Paul*
  • Ha ha, you make a good assistant. :)
  • The Galaxy S IV ships with the Snapdragon 600. This is the next move for the Blue phones IMHO. Adreno 320, HD, and Quad Core.
     The 800?" Maybe November 2014 with the 64-bit chips due for Fall 2015.
  • And make the phones Win8RT and merge the stores.
  • Snapdragon 800 series uses Adreno 330 !
  • Is it me or is Microsoft always a step or two behind when it comes to there Windows phone lineup? Other companies seem to always be ahead of them and I just don't understand why. Sucks!!!!
  • @WilliamC1972: Actually it makes sense.When new technology comes out there will always be kinks in the systems, but as the chipsets mature with driver and firmware updates, they become very reliable and less costly. That's why Microsoft waits while developing around the architecture.
  • Except that that doesn't happen, ever. Have you ever seen a new chipset being used an Android smartphone that wasn't up to task but a firmware update fixed it? I've never heard any such story. And Windows Phone isn't just behind by a little bit, it's a full two generations behind. S4 > S4 Pro > 600/800 series.
  • The S4 and S4 Pro are from the same generation: The S4 processor family
  • And an original Focus is still smoother than Androids coming out now...your point? Microsoft is right in placing user experience over specs.
  • You're clueless. The S4Pro and the S4 Plus, or any other S4 for that matter, all belong to the same generation of SoC! It's just a different product line within that generation. Just as the 800 is the same generation as the 600. So no, WP8 is behind by a single generation, and that has been so for barely a few weeks. Finally, it's no coincidence that not many smartphones use the S4Pro or the 800... because they are targeted at tablets due to their higher TDP... using them in smartphones only works by either under clocking them or deactivating cores... that does squat for performance, but it's great for selling stuff to ignorant geeks.
  • i'll tell you why, the latest socs are more expensive than the previous generation ones. So unless the software really needs it why bother? Have you noticed any lag on windows phone? Nope
  • Yep my HTC 8x lags all day long! It may just be an HTC thing but it does lag..
  • @Montpbm No lag on my Lumia 920.
  • My 8x does not lag either
  • No lags on my Nokia 810.
  • You sure that is not an Android running WP8 launcher?
  • @Imperial You are exactly correct. WPs can run with less cores then Android because of the much better structured OS. Android is a resource hog! Not saying that as sensors and features are added that better hardware wouldn't be needed but if the phone works smooth and fast on 2 cores then why waste the battery on more.
  • Well that's like saying my Core i3 runs Windows 8 just fine so why do I need a dedicated GPU to play Crysis 3 at max settings? The OS isn't the end of the world. AAA game titles need all the power they can get. A game optimized for the A6 chipset or the Snapdragon 600 will be infinitely better than the one optimized for S4
  • I completely agree. More power is always better for games and other CPU-intensive apps.
  • I don't disagree with what you guys are saying but with our phones we still need to consider battery life. I still need it to last me all day between work and play. There needs to be a balance for me personally. Plus, I've not had any problems playing the high res games on my 920. I just can't play very long before I need a charger.
  • umm didn;t she say its Call Multi- Core not Quad core cos it handle more than just quad Core for S800
  • Snapdragon 800 series only comes in Quad-Core MSM8974 Adreno 330. WP8
    MSM8960+ Adreno 225
    MSM8974 Adreno 330
  • If they only made a HTC Surround 2 with a bigger screen. That would make me switch from Nokia.
  • A HTC Surround 2 would be awesome!!!!
  • I love my Samsung ATIV S!
    Can't wait to see Samsung ATIV S2! :)