Thursday, August 12, 2010

HTC Glacier and my friends over at

A couple weeks back, I was checking on a comment posted in response to my Android Benchmark blog post regarding some interesting performance values for the Droid X on

GLBenchmark has been a useful tool for me in the past; specifically I used iPhone 3GS performance values to estimate graphics performance in my Hummingbird vs Snapdragon article. I replied to the comment and noticed something strange, a new contender named "HTC Glacier" sitting on GLBenchmark's results list above the Galaxy S phones which were reigning supreme at the time.

It made me raise my eyebrows... an HTC phone of that power could only contain a new Snapdragon of some sort. I started to dig into the specs a bit... and then I was pulled away from my computer by the joys of fatherhood. HTC Glacier was forgotten as I scraped up food flung all over the place by my misbehaving daughter. I remember being tired that night, heading to bed soon after I managed to get my temperamental child down for the night.

Fortunately, someone else was paying better attention; my good friend MrK over at who has hosted my article and several of my blog posts, and with whom I communicate regularly. He spotted the HTC Glacier as well, and wasted no time in doing some sleuthing, finding that the person who posted the HTC Glacier was a T-Mobile Design Manager... quickly answering the question of which carrier Glacier will end up on. He also theorized that the Glacier contains the 1.5 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon QSD8672, and it wasn't long before his article was being linked on tech blogs across the web.

I hedged a little on this guess of MrK's... The QSD8672 is a 3rd generation Snapdragon, and one I'd heard was going to debut on the flagship Windows Phone 7 device this fall. Given that the market still hasn't seen the 2nd-generation 1.3 GHz Snapdragon QSD8650A, I theorized that this would be the chip in Glacier. In the comments of MrK's article, it was hotly disputed why the performance in the Glacier's CPU was so much higher than the performance of a regular Snapdragon. I theorized at first that the GPU was somehow contributing to the test (I've heard that OpenGL rendering must be done by the GPU, not the CPU) as the Hummingbird has very good CPU skinning tests as well despite the CPU itself only being a marginally better performer than the first-gen Snapdragon at number-crunching. Not pleased with my own answer, I went on to propose that it could also have to do with greatly increased memory bandwidth in the next-gen Snapdragon allowing the the CPU to handle the large textures involved in the CPU skinning test.

Then MrK contacted me again last night with more information, GPU specifications, to be specific. We talked for a while and came to the agreement that the CPU in Glacier definitely contained a next-generation Adreno GPU, likely an Adreno 210 or 220; ATI's former Imageon Z460 that Qualcomm had obtained when they purchased the mobile graphics division in 2008. This ruled out my theory of the QSD8650A, as it's known to contain an Adreno 205, which is essentially the Adreno 200 within the current Snapdragon with a few minor improvements.

It was a late night and I began to suggest that Qualcomm was using one of their new MSM8x60 chips which they had announced on June 1st as having been shipped to developers. After sleeping on it, I realized how unlikely it would be to see one of those chips already in an HTC Glacier if they'd only been shipped out a couple months ago. I doubt HTC works that fast.

So that leaves the QSD8672 that MrK had originally theorized was in HTC Glacier, and I certainly can't prove otherwise. The question remains: what happened to the second-generation Snapdragons? If BGR’s reports of a 1.3 GHz “Droid Pro”coming in November is true, it could be that Qualcomm is simply doing whatever it takes to remain competitive. I wonder if the Droid Pro is going to be sporting an OMAP 3640 Cortex-A8 or an OMAP 4430/40 Cortex-A9. If Cortex-A9s make it onto the market in 2010 (which would be a quarter or two sooner than expected) then Qualcomm and Samsung are going to have to pick up the pace to remain competitive. Doubtless both of them are working on chips based on Cortex-A9, but companies like TI that generally make minimal modifications to ARM's design will likely be the first to the market.

So will we see the 1.5 GHz 3rd-gen Snapdragon QSD8672 in the HTC Glacier this fall? Maybe. Qualcomm may be looking for the opportunity to place themselves back on top, even if it does end up being short-lived. 2nd-gen chips like the QSD8650A may yet find their way into mid-end smartphones while Cortex-A9 makes its debut. One thing is certain... it's going to be an exciting holiday season for the mobile phone industry!


  1. Compare glBenchmark scores for HTC Legend (QC 7x27 based device) and HTC Desire (8x50 based device):

    Notice how 7x27 in Legend scores over twice that of 8x50 in Desire. Both contain Adreno 200. Pay extra attention to the fact that 7x27 has 600MHz ARM11 compared to 1GHz Scorpion of 8x50.

    Doesn't this pretty much refute the CPU argument?

    Now compare Legend and Glacier. Glacier scores less than twice that of Legend.

    Wouldn't it be more logical that the extra shader performance, and likely increased clock frequency of Adreno 205 in 2nd gen chips is enough to explain the performance difference?

  2. Very good observations, but I suspect the Legend is running Android 2.2 in order to achieve those scores. Otherwise there's no way to explain the performance of that ARM11 chip.

    You do make a good point about clock frequency in the 205. I've heard it's clocked at 200 MHz instead of the 133 in the 200. But the scores should still not be anywhere near that of the graphics scores in the Hummingbird, pointing again to the likelihood of a next-gen Adreno.

    Of course, there's always that possibility that HTC Glacier isn't anything special, and that it's just running Android 2.2...

    ...but that's just not as fun to believe.

  3. Good point on the possible OS difference.

    Part of the performance difference is likely explained by Adreno200 having higher clock frequency on 7x27 than on 8x50. This is clearly visible from the fillrate tests.

    Palm Pixi uses the same chip and Google found this (see page 6):
    The slides claim that the Adreno 200 is running 192MHz.

    I still think you're underestimating the shader performance improvements they put to Adreno 205 (AMD Z460). Especially GPU skinning is very vertex shader intensive.

    I would be more excited if the chip in Glacier is not 3rd gen, since otherwise Qualcomm is one gen behind everyone else (after all Glacier is not *that* fast). If you're excited about Glacier performance and it turns out to be 2nd gen, think what 3rd gen is going to bring :)

  4. Interesting, I wasn't aware that manufacturers adjusted the clock speed of the Adreno 200 so drastically.

    That said, I'm pretty sure the 205 is still considered a Z430 (like the 200), and that the Z460 is the 210/220.

    Maybe you're right about shader performance, and I would hope that it is an Adreno 205 because as you say, Qualcomm's 3rd-gen offspring will be that much more impressive. And it would allow me to go back to my original theory that the Glacier contains a QSD8650A.

  5. Perhaps you're right, but based on some discussion from Beyond3D forums, I though Z460 was just a 4 shader pipe version of Z430 with equal triangle and fillrate (when clocked equally).

    Here it's mentioned that Adreno 205 is package of separate 2D core (AMD Z180?) and 3D core with 4 ALUs (AMD Z460?):

  6. Damn, now I'm gonna have to do some research when I get home from work. :-p

    If the Zerg take over the galaxy, it's all your fault.

  7. I guess we got our answer. Compare HTC Desire HD results to Glacier result:

    HTC Desire HD has 8255:

    8255 is a 45nm chip with Scoprion CPU running 1GHz, and uses the new Adreno 205 (aka AMD Z460) GPU.

  8. This is my first reply to my blog from my new Epic 4G :-)
    But anyhow, you make a very good observation... good catch!