Rockchip Android 4.0

Chinese chip maker Rockchip is starting to show off tablets with Rockchip processors running Google Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Google released the source code for the latest version of Android recently, and it looks like Rockchip plans to offer the software for some tablets running its 1.2 GHz RK2918 processor during the first week of December.

Rockchip’s inexpensive processors have proven popular with Chinese tablet makers, and they show up in many of the cheap Android tablets we’ve seen to date. But Google only made the source code for Android 3.x Honeycomb available to select partners, so most of the companies that released tablets with cheap Rockchip or Telechips processors were stuck using Android 2.x up until now.

Android 2.x was designed for use on phones rather than tablets, but Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich is optimized for small and large screens alike. It has a keyboard that scales well to larger displays, on-screen buttons for home, back, and recent apps functions that move when you rotate the display, and support for multi-panel applications.

While Rockchip is one of the first companies to show off Android 4.0 running on its hardware, I suspect we’ll start to see a number of inexpensive tablets with the new operating system soon, helping to level the playing field between low-end and high-end tablets.

NVIDIA, Texas Instruments, Qualcomm, and other chip makers are still trying to keep their edge by offering higher-performance chips which offer better graphics performance and longer battery life. But the video released by Rockchip shows Android 4.0 running very smoothly on a tablet with an RK2918 chip, suggesting that the budget processor might be good enough for basic tablet computing.

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4 replies on “Android 4.0 is coming to Rockchip tablets – video”

  1. The rk2918 has been pretty well supported and stable.  Unfortunately, it looks like Android 4.0 is even worse than 2.3 was in terms of wasting RAM and CPU resources (which isn’t a surprise if you’re somebody who got his hands on any 3.x dev code).  People who whine about the prospect of putting a “full operating system” on tablets but then clamor for Android obviously don’t realize that Android is one of the least efficient operating systems available today and is probably the least efficient of all embedded OSes.

    In a sane world, you shouldn’t have to upgrade your hardware to upgrade your software, and the rk2918 represents one of those “should be good enough” types of hardware platforms that you can ride out for a long time.  If it turns out that there’s something that newer harder can do that you’re older hardware can’t, then, instead of upgrading, just be thankful, put down your device, and go out and live a non-digital life in the non-digital world.

    In the meantime, it’s too bad that Rockchip doesn’t make the comparatively tiny effort to make the rk2918 well supported and hardware compatible with a standard base distribution of GNU/Linux like Debian or at least one of its less open derivatives.

    1. There are different kinds of efficiency aftermath.  Mobile OS are designed to be optimized for power efficiency and that’s a key difference when considering the main concern for most mobile devices is maximizing the run time.

      Desktop OS are simply not designed for maxing power efficiency, and despite any performance advantage desktop OS generally require more resources than mobile OS requires as well.

      While ARM in general provides a very fragmented hardware platform, which any OS would have difficulty running efficiently on all available devices equally or at peak performance.  Processing with software instead of hardware will slow any OS after all.

      Other mobile OS like iOS simply skip dealing with the hardware fragmentation by only providing a single unified hardware platform for their developers to deal with compared to the wide range of devices Android gets used with, and that limits how you can fairly compare efficiency.

      Claims of ICS being worse than Gingerbread is also misleading.  Since ICS provides better support for hardware acceleration, more proper support for multiple cores, ICS supports the full range of ARM devices (Gingerbread doesn’t), and offers a better overall user experience than previous Android releases.  Never mind ICS is still new and like previous releases is likely to be improved upon in the coming months.

      They’re just also making the OS more powerful and unless fully optimized for the hardware then that will tend to use more resources.  Especially when many of those enhancements are graphical.  Things like higher res icons, etc will all start to use more resources, especially with the increasing use of high resolution displays in even small Smart Phones.

      Desktop OS also require that the GPU be capable of handling desktop equivalents of DX, OpenCL, etc. and a desktop OS optimized for touch UI will also be much more reliant on graphical performance.

      So there are reasons why a mobile OS is preferred for mobile devices.  The industry is just finally reaching the point of providing devices that can start running both but because of the different advantages and disadvantages of both Mobile and Desktop OS’s it’s more likely we’ll be seeing dual OS solutions instead of a clean break from mobile OS for these mobile devices.

  2. Wonderful I’ve always said that theaction is on the low end. Dirt cheap tablets with the polish of ICS and near disposabe price will be very interesting

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