Subject: Mobile | December 18, 2015 - 07:06 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: snapdragon, qualcomm
The mobile processors that were previously known as the Snapdragon 618 and the Snapdragon 620 are now known as Snapdragon 650 and Snapdragon 652, respectively. This is not how we typically see products rebranded. Normally, such as the desktop GPU market, individual products are carried between generations, and their model number is incremented to reflect that. This case is the exact opposite: Qualcomm feels that the new products are numbered too similar to existing models, so they're widening the gap between them.
An SoC is only useful if it is installed in a compelling device, though. While I would hope that these sorts of branding changes influence consumers more than device manufacturers, there exists a part of me that wonders how much this rebranding will affect their amount of design wins. You would think that bumping a model number up a few digits wouldn't affect experimentation at Samsung, LG, or other phone companies. Yet, it might, and that would be interesting to see. Either way, it should affect the semi-enthusiast phone users who buy based on breakdowns of tech specs.
Introduction and CPU Performance
We had a chance this week to go hands-on with the Snapdragon 820, the latest flagship SoC from Qualcomm, in a hardware session featuring prototype handsets powered by this new silicon. How did it perform? Read on to find out!
As you would expect from an all-new flagship part, the Snapdragon 820 offers improvements in virtually every category compared to their previous products. And with the 820 Qualcomm is emphasizing not only performance, but lower power consumption with claims of anywhere from 20% to 10x better efficiency across the components that make up this new SoC. And part of these power savings will undoubtedly come as the result of Qualcomm’s decision to move to a quad-core design with the 820, rather than the 8-core design of the 810.
So what exactly does comprise a high-end SoC like the Snapdragon 820? Ryan covered the launch in detail back in November (and we introduced aspects of the new SoC in a series of articles leading up to the launch). In brief, the Snapdragon 820 includes a custom quad-core CPU (Kryo), the Andreno 530 GPU, a new DSP (Hexagon 680), new ISP (Spectra), and a new LTE modem (X12). The previous flagship Snapdragon 810 used stock ARM cores (Cortex-A57, Cortex-A53) in a big.LITTLE configuration, but for various reasons Qualcomm has chosen not to introduce another 8-core SoC with this new product.
The four Kryo CPU cores found in the Snapdragon 820 can operate at speeds of up to 2.2 GHz, and since is half the number of the octo-core Snapdragon 810, the IPC (instructions per clock) of this new part will help determine how competitive the SD820's performance will be; but there’s a lot more to the story. This SoC design placed equal emphasis on all components therein, and the strategy with the SD820 seems to be leveraging the capability of the advanced signal processing (Hexagon 680) which should help offload the work to allow the CPU to work with greater efficiency, and at lower power.
Cat 12 Modem, Wi-Fi Adaptive Calling
If you have been following PC Perspective over the last several months it would be hard to miss news about the upcoming release of Qualcomm's latest flagship SoC for smartphones and tablets, the Snapdragon 820. Beginning in early August with discussion of the Adreno 5xx GPU architecture, followed by information covering the Hexagon 680 DSP (digital signal processor) and then details on the LTE modem in the SoC (the X12), and ending with information on the Kryo CPU cores, the release of the Snapdragon 820 processor has been drawn out if nothing else.
The emphasis on distribution of data was likely at attempt to rebuild trust with the enthusiast consumer, media and even the OEMs, as the launch of the Snapdragon 810 was troubled by overheating concerns and second revisions. Several high impact flagship smartphone used the SoC,
including the LG G4 (correction: G4 shipped with the Snapdragon 808, while the HTC One M9, OnePlus 2, Sony Xperia Z5 and others use the 810) but with Samsung moving away from Qualcomm parts to its own designs, the processor didn't see nearly the ubiquitous adoption that we had expected and witnessed in previous generations.
Qualcomm invited some media and analysts out to New York this week to take the cover off of the Snapdragon 820 completely, at least as far as features are concerned. We still were not able to get to the meat of the details surrounding the CPU / Kryo implementation or architectural improvements, but we are promised those would be coming closer to product availability in 2016. Instead, Qualcomm wanted to show off the consumer benefits that phones and tablets based on Snapdragon 820 could feature (based on OEM implementation); that means lots of demos, lots of time with product and feature managers.
A third primary processor
As the Hot Chips conference begins in Cupertino this week, Qualcomm is set to divulge another set of information about the upcoming Snapdragon 820 processor. Earlier this month the company revealed details about the Adreno 5xx GPU architecture, showcasing improved performance and power efficiency while also adding a new Spectra 14-bit image processor. Today we shift to what Qualcomm calls the “third pillar in the triumvirate of programmable processors” that make up the Snapdragon SoC. The Hexagon DSP (digital signal processor), introduced initially by Qualcomm in 2004, has gone through a massive architecture shift and even programmability shift over the last 10 years.
Qualcomm believes that building a balanced SoC for mobile applications is all about heterogeneous computing with no one processor carrying the entire load. The majority of the work that any modern Snapdragon processor must handle goes through the primary CPU cores, the GPU or the DSP. We learned about upgrades to the Adreno 5xx series for the Snapdragon 820 and we are promised information about Kryo CPU architecture soon as well. But the Hexagon 600-series of DSPs actually deals with some of the most important functionality for smartphones and tablets: audio, voice, imaging and video.
Interestingly, Qualcomm opened up the DSP to programmability just four years ago, giving developers the ability to write custom code and software to take advantages of the specific performance capabilities that the DSP offers. Custom photography, videography and sound applications could benefit greatly in terms of performance and power efficiency if utilizing the QC DSP rather than the primary system CPU or GPU. As of this writing, Qualcomm claims there are “hundreds” of developers actively writing code targeting its family of Hexagon processors.
The Hexagon DSP in Snapdragon 820 consists of three primary partitions. The main compute DSP works in conjunction with the GPU and CPU cores and will do much of the heavy lifting for encompassed workloads. The modem DSP aids the cellular modem in communication throughput. The new guy here is the lower power DSP in the Low Power Island (LPI) that shifts how always-on sensors can communicate with the operating system.
Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors, Mobile | August 12, 2015 - 07:30 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: snapdragon 820, snapdragon, siggraph 2015, Siggraph, qualcomm, adreno 530, adreno
Despite the success of the Snapdragon 805 and even the 808, Qualcomm’s flagship Snapdragon 810 SoC had a tumultuous lifespan. Rumors and stories about the chip and an inability to run in phone form factors without overheating and/or draining battery life were rampant, despite the company’s insistence that the problem was fixed with a very quick second revision of the part. There are very few devices that used the 810 and instead we saw more of the flagship smartphones uses the slightly cut back SD 808 or the SD 805.
Today at Siggraph Qualcomm starts the reveal of a new flagship SoC, Snapdragon 820. As the event coinciding with launch is a graphics-specific show, QC is focusing on a high level overview of the graphics portion of the Snapdragon 820, the updated Adreno 5xx architecture and associated designs and a new camera image signal processor (ISP) aiming to improve quality of photos and recording on our mobile devices.
A modern SoC from Qualcomm features many different processors working in tandem to impact the user experience on the device. While the only details we are getting today focus around the Adreno 530 GPU and Spectra ISP, other segments like connectivity (wireless), DSP, video processing and digital signal processing are important parts of the computing story. And we are well aware that Qualcomm is readying its own 64-bit processor architecture for the Kryo CPU rather than implementing the off-the-shelf cores from ARM used in the 810.
We also know that Qualcomm is targeting a “leading edge” FinFET process technology for SD 820 and though we haven’t been able to confirm anything, it looks very like that this chip will be built on the Samsung 14nm line that also built the Exynos 7420.
But over half of the processing on the upcoming Snapdragon 820 fill focus on visual processing, from graphics to gaming to UI animations to image capture and video output, this chip’s die will be dominated by high performance visuals.
Qualcomm’s lists of target goals for SD 820 visuals reads as you would expect: wanting perfection in every area. Wouldn’t we all love a phone or tablet that takes perfect photos each time, always focusing on the right things (or everything) with exceptional low light performance? Though a lesser known problem for consumers, having accurate color reproduction from capture, through processing and to the display would be a big advantage. And of course, we all want graphics performance that impresses and a user interface that is smooth and reliable while enabling NEW experience that we haven’t even thought of in the mobile form factor. Qualcomm thinks that Snapdragon 820 will be able to deliver on all of that.
Subject: General Tech | February 19, 2015 - 02:22 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: x99a gaming 9 ack, video, venue 8 7000, usb 3.1, snapdragon, silicon motion, qualcomm, podcast, nvidia, Intel, dell, CS850M, crucial bx100, corsair, bx 100, amd, 810
PC Perspective Podcast #337 - 02/19/2015
Join us this week as we discuss our Snapdragon 810 Preview, USB 3.1, Dell Venue 8 Tablet and more!
The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!
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Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Sebastian Peak
Program length: 1:36:05
New Features and Specifications
It is increasingly obvious that in the high end smartphone and tablet market, much like we saw occur over the last several years in the PC space, consumers are becoming more concerned with features and experiences than just raw specifications. There is still plenty to drool over when looking at and talking about 4K screens in the palm of your hand, octa-core processors and mobile SoC GPUs measuring performance in hundreds of GFLOPS, but at the end of the day the vast majority of consumers want something that does something to “wow” them.
As a result, device manufacturers and SoC vendors are shifting priorities for performance, features and how those are presented both the public and to the media. Take this week’s Qualcomm event in San Diego where a team of VPs, PR personnel and engineers walked me through the new Snapdragon 810 processor. Rather than showing slide after slide of comparative performance numbers to the competition, I was shown room after room of demos. Wi-Fi, LTE, 4K capture and playback, gaming capability, thermals, antennae modifications, etc. The goal is showcase the experience of the entire platform – something that Qualcomm has been providing for longer than just about anyone in this business, while educating consumers on the need for balance too.
As a 15-year veteran of the hardware space my first reaction here couldn’t have been scripted any more precisely: a company that doesn’t show performance numbers has something to hide. But I was given time with a reference platform featuring the Snapdragon 810 processor in a tablet form-factor and the results show impressive increases over the 801 and 805 processors from the previous family. Rumors of the chips heat issues seem overblown, but that part will be hard to prove for sure until we get retail hardware in our hands to confirm.
Today’s story will outline the primary feature changes of the Snapdragon 810 SoC, though there was so much detail presented at the event with such a short window of time for writing that I definitely won’t be able to get to it all. I will follow up the gory specification details with performance results compared to a wide array of other tablets and smartphones to provide some context to where 810 stands in the market.
Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | September 11, 2014 - 06:27 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: qualcomm, snapdragon 210, snapdragon, LTE, cheap tablet
The Snapdragon 210 was recently announced by Qualcomm to be an SoC for cheap, sub-$100 tablets and mobile phones. With it, the company aims to bring LTE connectivity to that market segment, including Dual SIM support. It will be manufactured on the 28nm process, with up to four ARM CPU cores and a Qualcomm Adreno 304 GPU.
According to Qualcomm, the SoC can decode 1080p video. It will also be able to manage cameras with up to 8 megapixels of resolution, including HDR, autofocus, auto white balance, and auto exposure. Let's be honest, you will not really get much more than that for a sub-$100 device.
The Snapdragon 210 has been given Quick Charge 2.0, normally reserved for the 400-line and up, refill the battery quickly when connected to a Quick Charge 2.0-supporting charger (ex: the Motorola Turbo Charger). Quick Charge 1.0 worked by optimizing how energy was delivered to the battery through a specification. Quick Charge 2.0 does the same, just with 60 watts of power (!!). For reference, the USB standard defines 2.5W, which is 5V at 0.5A, although the specification is regularly extended to 5 or 10 watts.
Devices featuring the Snapdragon 210 are expected for the first half of 2015.
Subject: Mobile | September 6, 2014 - 12:11 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: snapdragon, smartphone, qualcomm, Lenovo, ifa 2014
In addition to new traditional PCs, Lenovo unveiled two new smartphones under its Vibe series. The Vibe Z2 and Vibe X2 are 64-bit mobiles ready for Android L. Both models will be available in China and select regions later this month.
First up is the Lenovo Vibe X2 which is the successor to the Vibe X. Lenovo's new flagship smartphone is 7.27mm thick and uses a layered design that uses a three color gradient evident when looking at the outside edges of the phone. The Vibe X2 features a large 5-inch 1920 x 1080 IPS display, 5MP webcam, and 13MP rear camera with flash.
The Vibe X2 is powered by a MediaTek MT6595M SoC, 2GB RAM, 32GB internal storage (no MicroSD expansion), and a 2,300mAh battery. The phone will come in dual and single SIM variants depending on the country. The MediaTek MT6595M "True8Core" processor features eight ARM cores in a big.LITTLE configuration with a maximum clockspeed of 2GHz on the four Cortex A17 cores and 1.5GHz on the four low power Cortex A7 cores. The SoC also features a 16MP image signal processor, video encoding hardware (for recording up to 1080p60), and a PowerVR G6200 GPU clocked at 450MHz.
In all, the Vibe X2 should perform noticeably better than last year's Vibe X thanks to the updated SoC with faster GPU. Moving to the big.LITTLE setup should also net users better battery life, which is always a good thing. For even more battery life though, Lenovo is offering up clip-on attachments – called Lenovo Xtensions – that include an extra battery and a version with a larger speaker.
While the hardware is ready to run Android L, the phone will ship with Android 4.4 KitKat along with Lenovo's Vibe UI 2.0.
The flagship Vibe X2 will be available later this month in China starting at $399 USD.
Lenovo is also releasing the Vibe Z2 which is a stylish metal unibody design with a brushed metal finish. The phone is 7.8mm thick and weighs 155 grams. The front of the Vibe Z2 is dominated by a 5.5-inch 1920x1080 display. An 8MP front camera sits above the display and uses an optional guesture-based shutter that can be triggered by smiling, blinking, or making a "V" sign with your hands. According to Lenovo, the Vibe Z has "mastered the art of the selfie." On the backside of the smartphone sits a 13MP camera with a Sony Exmor BSI (backside illumination) sensor and optical image stabilization which is nice to see on a smartphone.
Inside the Vibe Z2, Lenovo is using a Qualcomm Snapdragon 401 SoC, 2GB RAM, 32GB internal storage, and a 3,000mAh battery. The phone supports Dual SIM cards as well as LTE, HSPA+, WiFi, and Bluetooth networks. The Snapdragon 401 is a recent Qualcomm chip that can be clocked up to 1.2GHz with a Adreno 305 GPU clocked at up to 450MHz (Lenovo did not give specific clockspeeds, but those are the speeds that the 401 is rated at).
The Vibe Z2 will be available in China and other regions where Lenovo has a smartphone presence later this month starting at $429 USD.
Subject: Processors, Mobile | June 23, 2014 - 01:08 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: snapdragon, qualcomm, gaming, Android, adreno
Today Qualcomm has published a 22-page white paper that keys in on the company's focus around Android gaming and the benefits that Qualcomm SoCs offer. As the dominant SoC vendor in the Android ecosystem of smartphones, tablets and handhelds (shipping more than 32% in Q2 of 2013) QC is able to offer a unique combination of solutions to both developers and gamers that push Android gaming into higher fidelity with more robust game play.
According to the white paper, Android gaming is the fastest growing segment of the gaming market with a 30% compound annual growth rate from 2013 to 2015, as projected by Gartner. Experiences for mobile games have drastically improved since Android was released in 2008 with developers like Epic Games and the Unreal Engine pushing visuals to near-console and near-PC qualities.
Qualcomm is taking a heterogeneous approach to address the requirements of gaming that include AI execution, physics simulation, animation, low latency input and high speed network connectivity in addition to high quality graphics and 3D rendering. Though not directly a part of the HSA standards still in development, the many specialized engines that Qualcomm has developed for its Snapdragon SoC processors including traditional CPUs, GPUs, DSPs, security and connectivity allow the company to create a solution that is built for Android gaming dominance.
In the white paper Qualcomm dives into the advantages that the Krait CPU architecture offers for CPU-based tasks as well as the power of the Adreno 4x series of GPUs that offer both raw performance and the flexibility to support current and future gaming APIs. All of this is done with single-digit wattage draw and a passive, fanless design and points to the huge undertaking that mobile gaming requires from an engineering and implementation perspective.
For developers, the ability to target Snapdragon architectures with a single code path that can address a scalable product stack allows for the least amount of development time and the most return on investment possible. Qualcomm continues to support the development community with tools and assistance to bring out the peak performance of Krait and Adreno to get games running on lower power parts as well as the latest and upcoming generations of SoCs in flagship devices.
It is great to see Qualcomm focus on this aspect of the mobile market and the challenges presented by it require strong dedication from these engineering teams. Being able to create compelling gaming experiences with high quality imagery while maintaining the required power envelope is a task that many other company's have struggled with.
Check out the new landing page over at Qualcomm if you are interested in more technical information as well as direct access to the white paper detailing the work Qualcomm is putting into its Snapdragon line of SoC for gamers.