I’ve been rather impressed with the SoCs that Qualcomm has been releasing under the “Snapdragon” brand, and really fell in love with the chips with the S4 line up back in the day. The S4 Pro was the sought after processor for smartphones and tablets – back in 2012. As we all know, technology marches ever onward. Phones and tablets powered by the Snapdragon 800 series took center stage in 2014. Now that 2015 is upon is, there’s a new generation of SoCs on deck, but the Snapdragon 810 is quite a bit different than any Snapdragon you’ve seen before.
From there, chip makers (like Qualcomm) design chips based on ARMs reference platform. In recent years, for Qualcomm, those chips have been developed under the “Krait” name.
The Snapdragon 810 isn’t a Krait-based processor.
Instead of designing its own processor (and calling it “Krait” or coming up with some other name), Qualcomm took ARM’s reference platform and built the Snapdragon 810 around it (specifically, the 64-bit Cortex A57 and A53).
This signifies a major shift for Qualcomm. The question is whether or not it’s a long-term or a short-term shift. Personally, I suspect the latter. Qualcomm brings some pretty hefty improvements with customizations in its chips compared to ARM’s reference platform, but the company may not have been able to implement this type of customization for its new chip – not yet anyway.
Eight’s a Charm
Leveraging ARM’s “big.LITTLE” arrangement, the Snapdragon 810 will feature four “big” cores to do all the heavy lifting and powerful processing. When they’re not needed or when the device is idle, these “big” cores will switch over to four “LITTLE” cores with the goals of saving power, reducing heat, and extending battery life.
Although all eight cores are “technically” capable of being active at the same time, that’s probably not how things will work in practice.
In fact, some of the first 64-bit Androids were mid-rangers, not flagships, and Apple has had 64-bit in its latest generation of phones for some time now.
The writing is on the wall: 64-bit is the future.
The graphics processor in the Snapdragon 810 is still Qualcomm’s Adreno, but it gets a 30% bump in performance, and should chew up around 20% less power compared to the Adreno 420 in the Snapdragon 805. Qualcomm is calling it the Adreno 430.
4K is front-and-center, watching as well as recording.
The 802.11ac flavor of WiFi will still be included in Qualcomm’s new SoC, but we’ll see a capabilities boost on the LTE side with support for Category 9 LTE (which increases the maximum theoretical download speed to 450Mbps).
We’ll also see something called WiGig, or 802.11ad, which will use the 60GHz band (instead of the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands that current WiFi uses). WiGig promises speeds up to – wait for it – 7Gbps! Unfortunately, the Snapdragon 810 won’t quite hit that cap, it will only go up to 4Gbps, which is probably due to considerations concerning antenna size and placement.
Nonetheless, four gigabits per second?! Whoo hoo!
Qualcomm describes its Snapdragon 810 as the “ultimate connected computing processor” that is “designed to enable the most advanced connected mobile user experiences, including streaming 4K Ultra HD video” while delivering “outstanding battery life for premium smartphones and tablets”.
Based on previous processors the company has produced, we have high hopes the Snapdragon 810 will live up to the hype.
Introducing a new chip with as much power as the Snapdragon 810 isn’t without it’s challenges. We’re already hearing rumors of overheating and supply concerns. Whether those are normal production hiccups, or something bigger remains to be seen. In the meantime, we’ll keep our fingers crossed, and anxiously wait for the awesome potential of the Snapdragon 810 to be unleashed.