For those out there who are still unsure of the power contained within the internals of the new Moto X, your fears may be put to rest after hearing the latest info straight from Google. Iqbal Arshad, Motorola's senior vice president of engineering had a great deal to say about the custom X8 architecture found in the new Moto X (and the Verizon Droid series). First, before we share the juicy gossip, we have a more extensive breakdown of the internals to share. This one came from a Taylor Wimberly update from about a week ago that we overlooked. It fits nicely with this discussion so we decided to include it here:
"A mobile computing system powers the new Motorola devices, as opposed to a standard application processor chip found in every smartphone. This involves eight tightly integrated processors, special algorithms, and sensors. No one except Motorola could create this system. The result is a consumer experience like no other. Below is what it entails and see the next section for what it enables:
- Four powerful graphics processors each running at 400 MHz delivering 3.2 million pixel fill rate,16 shader units, 512kb dedicated cached memory and running the Egypt performance benchmark at a blazing 155 frames per second (FPS). Fully compliant with Android Project Butter.
- Two ultra fast application processors each running at 1.7 GHz, 28nm low-*power technology, high‐speed dual-*channel DDR RAM running at 533 MHz.
- One local natural language processor (L‐NLP). Motorola proprietary low‐power specialized processor with audio sensors, noise estimators, noise cancellation, and speech recognition technology to enable always-on voice based user interaction without sacrificing battery life.
- One contextual computing processor (CCP). Motorola proprietary low-power specialized processor that computes contextual data from sensors enabling intelligent mobile computing and always-on display mode.
- Our main chipset has two CPUs and quad GPUs. We have added two additional low*‐power processors (Contextual Processor, Natural Language Processor) in our system design. So we are not saying we have an octa-*core chip, but we have an octa-*core Mobile Computing System. Silicon vendors only like to talk about dual versus quad core main CPUs because that is how they are priced. We have to brand and market our system as opposed to a chip.
Our approach is completely different. We have built a custom system around the application processor. For example, the new Motorola devices do not use the battery hungry application processor to do always on audio or display. We have custom designed our system to deliver great experiences without killing the battery. We have built the first true mobile computing system.”
Now that you have a more technical look at the internals, let's see what Mr. Arshad had to say about this new technology in a PC Mag article,
That's a great deal to take in, but it seems quite worth digesting. Over the past year it's been easy to become jaded with how things are evolving with smartphone technology and start to assume there is no room left for innovation. It seems that Motorola and Google are intent on proving that wrong. This just makes us all the more excited to "dive in" to the final launch tonight!"If you look at the X8 mobile computing system, it has a cluster of processors and then some separate elements of the system," said Iqbal Arshad, Motorola's senior vice president of engineering. The goal was to move away from a primarily CPU-based architecture to save power and do "intelligent, probabilistic computing," he said.
But still, let's start with the CPU; it's the easiest part to understand. The X8's CPU is, basically, a 28nm Qualcomm S4 Pro running at 1.7GHz. Motorola has customized the chip's firmware, though.
"We've done additional optimizations on top of that such as optimizing the entire Linux user space to move it to an ARM instruction set, cache optimization, Dalvik just-in-time optimization, and we've changed the file system," Arshad said. "It's full hardware-software integration to deliver best-in-class performance."
Here's where things get a little more mysterious. Associated with the S4 Pro, but not on the same chip, are a "contextual computing processor" and a "natural language processor." Arshad said that neither of those were ARM cores and declined to say where Motorola got them from, or who manufactured them.
"It's done by Motorola, a lot of design in the entire system," he said. "The actual silicon is specified by us but we don't go ahead and design and fab it. It's not an ARM processor, it's a very low-power separate processor," he said.
The contextual computing processor handles the sensors, display and touch interaction, but it also appears to function as the primary processor when the phone is in standby mode, including showing status and notification information on the display. The natural language processor deals with audio, noise estimation and noise cancellation; Motorola isn't using noise-cancellation technology from Audience or any outside vendor, Arshad said.
"We invented mobile. We have  years of DSP expertise, That is all Motorola's unique technology," he said.
Separating the custom logic from the CPU will allow Motorola to build X8s based on other CPUs, Arshad said.
"We can work with any Qualcomm processor. We can work with anybody's CPU. That's the beauty of it; all of our technology and experiences are decoupled from the legacy CPU processor," he said.
The combination of processors and custom firmware extends battery life and improves performance, Arshad said.
"If we did not have the contextual computing processor and our natural language processor in place, we would need two additional batteries," he said. The X8 also performs 50 percent better than "our competition" on gaming battery rundown benchmarks and can push higher graphics frame rates, he said.
Motorola also manages to do all of this without altering stock Android, he said. Here, I have to be precise: the version of Android on the Droids isn't exactly stock Android, but the Moto X is anticipated to be so.
"The Active Display system uses the exact same notification logic that's in stock Android, so we're not modifying that," he said.
Stay tuned for that news, as we will be staying up late to cover it right here!