Last month Intrinsyc Software started shipping a new Mobile Development Platform Tablet (MDP/T) based on the Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 805 processor. This tablet was designed to help developers develop, test, optimize and showcase their apps. We recently sat down with Rick Schwartz, a senior product manager at Qualcomm Technologies, to walk us through all of its bells and whistles.
Hi Rick. Before we get into all the fun developer stuff, what do you like most about the 805 MDP?
It’s hard to pick just one thing, but I was surprised to learn the processor in this device has capabilities that even the newest gaming consoles do not have—including hardware tessellation and geometry shaders. This is exciting because once these features are supported by Android; we should see games with much more detailed graphics.
Do you think game developers might pick up an 805 MDP tablet and start experimenting?
Over one hundred top developers are already using this platform. Game developers are already seeing how their games run on the new Adreno™ 420 GPU; others are planning to support the other new capabilities of this processor.
What other unique features does this tablet have?
Not only can this tablet play 4K H.264 video. It can also play a newer, more efficient type of video called HEVC H.265. Soon Netflix is expected to start streaming “House of Cards” and “Breaking Bad” in 4K using this technology. This tablet can not only decode this type of video, it can do so in hardware as opposed to software, which uses much less power. That means you can watch more of your favorite shows without having to charge your battery.
Another unique capability in this MDP is dual 3D gesture-sensing cameras, which are similar to the technology you’ll find in Microsoft’s Kinect. This type of technology could bring a new level of gesture control to tablets in the future.
Anything of note in terms of photography?
The Snapdragon 805 processor is capable of advanced image signal processing for both photos and video. Back at CES we demonstrated Hollywood Quality Video™ (HQV) processing on this tablet. HQV adds sharpening, very high-quality upsampling, and denoising on-the-fly. In the past, this level of real-time video processing required expensive hardware, but these same capabilities are now built into Snapdragon 805. High-quality upsampling will become more important as we move into a 4K world, because the majority of content will not be Ultra HD initially. It’s going to be high-definition video that needs to be upscaled to play on 4K screens.
Besides Hollywood Quality Video, is there anything new that Snapdragon’s bringing to the table?
Every Snapdragon processor has a Hexagon digital signal processor (DSP). We’re encouraging developers to take advantage of this capability for applications like audio tunneling, image processing and sensor core-related applications. By offloading from the CPU or GPU to the DSP, you can save a lot of power.
Do MDPs have any special power monitoring capabilities?
Yes. These tablets have something no commercial mobile device has. They include EPM power monitoring circuitry and a special version of Trepn™ Profiler, which can display the amount of power consumed on different rails. This shows a developer exactly how much power the CPU, GPU, LCD Backlight, Camera, SD Card, Internal Memory, WLAN/Bluetooth and Digital Core are consuming at a given time. This is helpful because you can see where your power is going. Developers can even put markers in their code that appear in Trepn. This makes it easier to track down the location and causes of power spikes.
These power efficiencies derived from developing on an 805 MDP, will those same benefits extend to every device out there?
Studies have shown that battery life is the number one concern of consumers. Apps that consume too much power often get bad reviews Trepn helps identify common causes of excess power consumption – like keeping the processor awake, not using the cellular radio efficiently, or performing too many GPS fixes. Addressing these problems will result in longer battery life and more positive reviews.
How would you compare the transition from HD to 4K?
I believe it’s a big difference. I first noticed the benefits of Ultra HD video on mobile when I started recording 4K video on my Snapdragon-powered Galaxy Note 3. 4K video looks much better – even when you play it on a device with a 1080p display. The colors are more vibrant and you can see much more detail. You also have the ability to zoom in up to 200% and things still look good, because it has four times the resolution of Full HD.
What kind of display is the 805 MDP using?
This 805 MDP tablet has a 2K panel. Which is important because it’s an area where some tablets have been lagging. It takes a 2K panel to get Retina-quality display on a 10-inch tablet. Can you really see the difference? That depends on what you’re viewing. Some web sites look sharper on 2K displays, as well as small fonts and some high-resolution images. For example, a photo of a Tokyo skyline with a large number of skyscrapers looks very clean and sharp on a 2K display; whereas on a lower-resolution tablet the windows on the skyscrapers look distorted.
It’s also worth mentioning the Snapdragon the 805 is one of the first mobile processors that can drive a 4K panel. To demonstrate this, we manufactured several 805 MDP tablets with 4K screens and brought them to Mobile World Congress in February. Many of us can’t spend $3,000 or more on an Ultra HD TV right now, but we might be able to afford a 4K tablet powered by a Snapdragon 805 processor.
When you buy it and take it out of the box, does it already come loaded with Android 4.4?
Yes, of course. MDPs run the newest Android OS. We also allow some of our developers to get a much lower-level of access than they get to on commercial devices. This exposes new capabilities in terms of what they can do. Things like kernel-level access and access to some source code. These are things you cannot do with rooted commercial devices.
So the bottom line is MDPs powered by Snapdragon processors provide developers with early access to the newest Snapdragon processors before they appear in commercial devices. That way developers can make sure their apps perform well and take advantage of the new capabilities of these processors.