TI loosens the leash a little

August 27, 2009
Posted by: gruso


We’re used to speed bumps on this road; we’re not so used to spec bumps. Code guru Exophase has discovered some interesting revisions to the OMAP3530 data sheet, which seems to be giving us a little more head room in terms of clock speed than we had before. The Cortex-A8, known to us as a “600Mhz+” processor, is now being listed as “Up to 720MHz”. Also getting an on-paper boost is the DSP core, which has jumped from 430Mhz to 520Mhz. MWeston speculates:

The truth is that the chips all seem to do 720MHz for sure but TI only lists speeds they have tested so maybe they have finally qualified it at 720/520 now.

Or to re-phrase, the 700Mhz mark could now be considered “normal operating range”, rather than being a cheeky 100Mhz overclock. It’s like eating a guilt free hamburger, even though you would have eaten it anyway. The 520Mhz DSP figure is more interesting though, as it may push us further into HD decoding territory.

The hardware itself hasn’t changed, it should be said. The team doesn’t have to run out and replace their stock of 3530s (gasp!) or anything crazy like that. All this means is that we can squeeze more fun out of the existing hardware, without feeling too naughty. Hit the source link if you’re up for some scarily in-depth discussion.




  1. First comment.

    Sounds good that we can officially run it higher than thought without it being “overclocked”.

  2. Speaking of hardware and more specifically – the CPU/GPU… The OMAP 3530 was a very suitable SoC in the beginning – and still is. Since then, a _lot_ of time has gone without a Pandora release. Yes, this will be a very nice unit for a long time. I can’t help but think why the SoC wasn’t delayed (until very late in production) since a faster “drop-in replacement” wouldn’t bee too big of an issue. With the OMAPs’ now reaching the GHz barrier, I can’t help but think what could be done with the additional horse power, or underclocking a faster processor to get more battery time…

  3. “existing hardware”? like, two months form now?

  4. Existing hardware as in, the stockpile of OMAP3530’s they already have ready to go.

  5. meh. I guess I should be excited. But… nah. I just want my Pandora…. NOW!

  6. mmmmmhhh…perhaps decent DC emulation is a little step closer?

  7. Yeah Pandora gets more power without hardware upgrade… Amazing ! That’s the first time I ever heard something like that !!!!

  8. @Swongle

    I wasn’t aware that anything newer than the OMAP 3530 had gone in to mass production.

  9. Sammi,

    I think that Swongle is referring to the 1Ghz snapdragon, who has the same power as the Omap3430, but runs… on 1Ghz standard speed, using the same Cortex A8 implementation ( with some tweaks ).

    Also, the Omap3630 is also not that far from mass production anymore ( and its just a smaller die size ), resulting in higher cpu/dsp/gpu speed.

    Now, i do question the information above, as the Omap3630 was first slated to be running at 720Mhz. So, if they are talking about the Omap3430/3530, that means that the Omap3630 will be faster then 720Mhz?


    Its not a surprise. People already knew that the Omap3430 was able to do 800+ Mhz. This change in the document just tells people, that the manufacturing process is so mature, that they are going to sell them at 720Mhz.

    It might also be a reaction to close the gap between the 600Mhz TI, and 1Ghz Snapdragon… Until the next generation is in production.

    But then we will see a 1.5Ghz Snapdragon with a Cortex A8 😉

  10. That’s good news. I can’t wait to see how this affects software development.

  11. So much has changed since I’d heard of the P April 08! I better have one before Christmas, OP team =\

  12. hehe… MWeston has already updated his page with the “new” specs.

  13. The Nokia N900 news is really making me wonder which if not both I should get. The Pandora is an amazing achievment, just look at the battery size and life, a larger screen, better keyboard – it’s really astonishing that a small group of developers and a dedicated community is so close to making a product that matches and beats a major company’s offering.

  14. Don’t start making comparisons before the products become publicly available. Neither the N900 nor the Pandora are, at the moment.

    Also the overall design isn’t really that complicated or amazing. The devil is in the details and there have been many, many problems with those for the Pandora over the years. We have yet to see how good the screen and keyboard actually are.

  15. @Jon Pritchard – not really surprising, there are already similar products out there, and at least a dozen OMAP3450 devices are in production and will be hitting the streets soon. The difference between a big company and this however, is that the big companies will whack 2-3 fold markup. We are essentially funding the development, so we get it cheaper.

    Although I’m not aware of anything that is so geared towards gaming as the pandy.

  16. Hey gruso, what does this mean?: ” their stock of 3530s (gasp!) ”

    Do they only have 3530 pre-orders for the pandora or are they gonna get more?
    It would be great news for me if they only have 3530 preorders, that means that ill have mine earlier… 🙄

  17. i believe he was talking about the OMAP 3530 Model, not that they hold 3530 nowadays.

    anyway it would be good to have it before christmas, the release date seems to be pushed n pushed n … when i made my preorder, the shipping date was set at the end of september, now they shoved it more down to october 9 (:s)

    wish i didnt get a painfull credit card account exchange rate (Pounds 2 USD 2 COP) while paying and not receiving nothing.

    anyway positive thinking pp, without it Open source stuff would never work.

  18. Hell! So just how far can we overclock now before it melts?

    We’re going to need a bigger battery! 🙂

  19. XD it all depends on how much liquid nitrogen you want to use.

    but the idea is that technically 720 Mhz wont be “overclocking” anymore

  20. The N900 is also slated to be around $700 or so in unsubsidized form. That’s a lot to pay for basically a Pandora minus gaming control, SD-slots (N900 has a single microSD) and probably a worse keyboard; plus GPS, phone, camera, and smaller size.

  21. hmm, yeah i miss the fact that Pandora doesnt have nor even a 0.3MPx webcam, but hey, i believe nor a single console has a fully functional USB Port. you can attach anything isnt it? it gives it an even more “Modular” Idea.

    Hope it really get to all that compatible or it could end up as useless as the USB Ports of the PS2

  22. Does this mean the pandora team might release a software update
    that makes all this default. I know it should be easy to OC but still.

  23. The fact, that the PS2 USB Ports are useless is because the closed source firmware and that it lacks the ability to add new drivers easily. The Pandora can technically use every driver that is written for ARM or open source and avaiable for Linux.

  24. Cool… but this is only theoretical until we have a Pandora in hands. For the moment it’s just gossip to me.
    Can you believe we all waiting for this since 2 years now ??
    So many things change in 2 years… my interest in Pandora too I must admit.

  25. Very nice!! Can’t wait to get my Pandora, it’s only two months away! 😉

  26. Hey, have you noticed how big that chip is? It takes up that guys whole hand.

    How do they get it in the Pandora?


  27. So now we are waiting for September 10th to arrive? Isn’t there anything that can be done in the meantime? Fix Wifi? Finish video-out cable?

  28. My comment was a compliment to everyone involved, at least that is how it was meant. The only thing perhaps that the N900 might have over the Pandora at the beginning (not saying they’re the same) is the UI but what’s not to say you can’t run Maemo’s UI on the Pandora with such similar hardware or indeed make your own Clutter powered UI and Desktop Manager.

    Seriously the battery in the Pandora is half the reason I’ll buy it, 4000Mah!

    The price factor is a huge difference, the Pandora will cost me around half the price of the N900 for as good if not better specs and a completely different experience.

    What I was saying is that, it’s hard to choose, one wants both!

  29. Excellent – to havce a higher standard clock rate means not having to overclock (and feel naughty) to get better DOSBox/Quake III performance 😀

    Very nice!

  30. :(, every one should check the forums again since the official did a kick back to the 600Mhz info (openpandora.ca), it seems it was due to a small diference on the standard OMAP and the 72 suffix version.

    anyway what it means is that it could be overclocked up to there 720Mhz, but TI only recomends it on checked units (720 units).

    this happens usually on the Chip creation companies.
    since it is imposibble to fix a chip on the fly, and the cookie (i call it cookie the chip base silicon piece) usually gets some produced better and some busted. thats why companies like TI or intel sell diferent versions.

    this is due to a threshold test hod on the units. the ones that get heated less gets top ranks and get called with special names (like 72 suffix ones) and those slow slugs of the class that get lower ranks usually get sold underclocked.

    the same goes for Intel and their 1.99Ghz, 2.0Ghz and 2.2 Ghz (most of the times its like that, some times there is a diferent version of the chip so dont blame me if someone OC it and has to buy a new one :P.

  31. hmmm… overclock plus dosbox

    I don’t know why I am so anxious to get this thing, once I do, I’ll have no life.

    Prob end up getting a divorce

  32. > the cookie (i call it cookie the chip base silicon piece)

    You mean the wafer?

  33. >> the cookie (i call it cookie the chip base silicon piece)

    >You mean the wafer?
    The biscuit?

  34. It’s called the wafer.

  35. 720mhz? Im spinning 2 full 360° cartwheels at the news 😀

  36. Sadly no – 600MHz. The “Guaranteed 720MHz” ones aren’t the ones we are getting.

    Having said which, there was always a chance that any given Pandora MIGHT make that speed – or even higher! That chance remains.

  37. @Monk

    Huh? What are you talking about? Can you give us a link or two so that we can check that for ourselves?

  38. No matter what kind of OMAPs Texas Instruments where talking about, exophase said that
    “Of course, all Pandora boards I’ve known of could do 720MHz on the Cortex-A8”. So he’s explicitly talking about the Pandora boards here.

  39. @Egreziel it’s in the thread that is the source for this news item, and has been referenced by DroneB above too. But here’s some relevant links and quotes:

    MWeston: Oh, and upon further inspection, the 720MHz specified chips have to be ordered as a separate part number. They have the suffix 72 at the end of the part and they cost a lot more!


    Exophase: Sigh, unfortunately MWeston is right – they buried this information down quite deep and didn’t bring it up in the clocking section in the datasheet either.

    I’m concerned that this will mean that the 600MHz ones are going to be the bin losers that won’t even clock at 720MHz at all, putting us in a worse situation than where we started.


    But you really are better off actually following the thread that this news item refers too, as all the data (well, as much as we have) is there.

  40. I skimmed the thread, and in the end wasn’t it said that probably the OMAPs of the first batch were sold to the OP-Team way before TI started “binning” and that for the second batch, these “new” 72ers could be bought and used since they are essentially the same model of chip?

  41. MWeston seems to have said they won’t pay the premium for 72ers but would rather pay less for 60ers. Which is within spec for Pandoras. (check the thread for exact phrasing)

  42. But still, at least the first batch will get 720+ ones, right?

  43. OMG

    i might not be an official one to say this but NO.

    the OP team seems to have already bought 600Mhz Standard Ones Period.

    BUT its been tested that they MIGHT be able to OC up to 900Mhz but it is NOT GUARANTEE by TI(Texas Instrument).

    TI ONLY guarantee 720Mhz on 72 Suffix ones that are somehow more expensive.

    this is because 2 simple situations.
    *TI wants to sell less for more.
    *they are the same Silicon model, but due to production variations checked via Heat/Speed Tests.

    those that pass the test under a temperature thresold can be in fact run faster for sure.

    those that dont pass the threshold are sold as a Standandard Version.

    and as for the ones that dont even pass the basic testing either are re-ejected or sold underclocked.

  44. ^ This is pretty much it.

    What does it mean for Pandora owners? First batch owners may be able to overclock higher than second batch owners. Or maybe not. At the end of the day, no matter which batch you buy from, you’ll get a Pandora with CPU rated at 600mhz, as advertised. Any overclocking ability you get is a bonus.

  45. But haven’t 100 or so of the first batch chips already been tested on their overclocking ability and at least most of them passed the 720 mark?

    Damn, why are there so many people saying so many different things in that thread anyway?

  46. The 100 you refer to are the first ones to be installed on mass production Pandora PCBs, which are undergoing tests at the TI factory. They’re not testing for overclocking ability though (that I know of), they’re testing the overall manufactured product. This is so they don’t just run off the entire first batch, and then discover there’s something wrong with their manufacturing process.

    These 100 chips are part of the first batch of 4,000, procured long before TI started adjusting the numbers. As Craig said, all the ones they have tested themselves (on dev boards) have been capable of clocking well past 720mhz.

    Bottom line: This has probably turned out to be a bit of a non-story. We don’t know exactly why TI has made this change, but it’s not going to have any real effect on the performance of our Pandoras. There’s a lot of speculation in that thread, and I think trying to find answers in it will only be more confusing. The truth is we don’t really have an answer – but it doesn’t really matter anyway.

  47. Yeah, what gruso said. There’s a lot of speculation in the thread made more confusing (IMH) by disagreements. We do NOT know very much at all, except that TI are trying to charge more to guarantee 720 (or higher) performance. From that you can speculate a lot in various different directions, but the bottom line is that the Pandora is advertised as being a 600MHz product – and that remains unchanged.

  48. the deal that pushed the confussion even further is that on
    openpandora.ca did actually change Speed up to 720Mhz for about 1 whole day

    i also thought that was official until it was changed back to 600 Mhz again.

  49. Yeah, I think Exophase “broke” the news but missed a point, and his (quite understandable) interpretation was initially taken on faith even by MWeston. I know I did so, based on this (unofficial) news article alone! But then MWeston read some of the small print, and all our hearts sank 😦

    The good news is that the official “600MHz” Pandora spec hasn’t diminished – that’s still where we were two months ago. And it passed some time while waiting for Pandora – which is now just two months away!

    Hey Gruso, they’re gonna get you for all those kittens eventually 😉

  50. Your kitten was eaten by a grue.

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