Still, there can be only one clear winner and 2012 goes to Qualcomm, or its Krait chips to be more precise. The custom core MSM8260 and APQ8064 made short work of vanilla A9 cores and in some respects they are still competitive in the A15 world. Impressive to say the least, and let’s not forget on board LTE support for our US readers.
Apple’s A6 easily ranks second and if it weren’t a proprietary chip found only in Apple gear, it would share the top spot with Krait chips. Once again we are dealing with a custom A9 core, capable of holding its own against some A9-based quads. The A6X is equally impressive, but so far it’s only limited to the iPad 4.
So, two custom cores are in the lead, but Samsung and Nvidia managed to generate quite a bit of noise with run of the mill A9 quad-cores. Samsung’s Exynos 4412 is somewhat faster than the venerable Tegra 3, but then again you can only get it in a handful of phones, while Tegra 3 powers quite a few interesting tablets, including the Nexus 7, Surface RT and Asus Transformer TF700. We think both deserve the bronze.
Samsung’s Exynos 5250, the world’s first A15 SoC, is also worth mentioning, but it arrived a bit too late to make its presence felt in 2012.
So what was the worst ARM SoC of the year? This is a rather tricky question, and frankly speaking we can’t think of one. Sure, there are some horrible SoCs made by smaller outfits, but practically none of them filtered through to the mainstream market and they’re just not worth talking about. Unless you are getting a Chinese white box tablet, chances are you will end up with a decent SoC.
Mobile SoC performance is increasing at a mind boggling rate, reminding us of the good old days, i.e. the peak of the Intel – AMD x86 rivalry. Just a few weeks from now we will see a few brand new A15-based cores and let’s not write Intel off just yet. Chipzilla is gearing up to take on the ARM alliance in 2013 and 2014, but is it too little too late?