Google Launches High End Pixel Smartphones

Subject: General Tech | October 4, 2016 - 11:47 PM |
Tagged: usb-c, Snapdragon 821, pixel, Kryo, google, android assistant, adreno 530, 802.11ac

Google introduced its own premium smartphone today in the form of the Pixel and Pixel XL. Running Android Nougat 7.1, the Pixel smartphones will not only run the latest operating system but will be the new premium experience with the best Android features including Google Assistant and Smart Storage with unlimited cloud storage of photos and videos.

Google Pixel Smartphone.jpg

Google is definitely taking a greater interest in promoting Pixel than they have with even their Nexus devices. It will be interesting to see how other Android manufacturers react to this news but I would imagine that they are not all that pleased and Google will be in a similar position to Microsoft with its Surface products and Nvidia with it's Founder's Edition graphics cards. 

Google's Pixel lineup includes the Pixel (5.6 x 2.7 x 0.2-0.3") and the Pixel XL (6 x 2.9 x 0.2-0.34") that wrap their respective 5-inch 1080p (441 PPI) and 5.5-inch 1440p (534 PPI) displays in a full aluminum and glass unibody design that will come in one of three colors: Very Black, Quite Silver and Really Blue. The smartphones feature curved corners and rounded edges with Corning Gorilla Glass 4 on the front and half of the back. Google has put a fingerprint sensor on the back of the phone and power, volume, three microphones, a USB-C port, and, yes, a 3.5mm audio jack. 

There are both front and rear cameras and Google is claiming that the rear camera in particular is the best smartphone camera yet (with a DxOMark score of 89 points). The rear camera (which sits flush with the back of the phone) is rated at 12.3 MP with a f/2.0 aperture, and 1.55µm pixels. The camera further features an IMX378 sensor. electronic image stabilization, and both phase detection and laser auto focus. The Pixel can take HDR+ photos and videos at up to 4K30, 1080p120, or 720p240. Users can adjust white balance and use automatic exposure or auto focus locking. The front camera is less impressive at 8MP with fixed focus lens and f/2.4.

Internally, Google has opted to use the Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 (MSM8996) which is a 2+2 design that pairs two Kryo cores at 2.15 GHz with two Kryo cores at 1.6 GHz along with an Adreno 530 GPU, an impressive 4GB of LPDDR4 memory, and either 32GB or 128GB of internal storage which is regrettably non-expandable. The smartphones can tap into up to Category 11 LTE (Cat 9 in the US), 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, and NFC. Sensors include GPS, proximity, accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, barometer, and hall sensors.

The Pixel features a 2,770 mAh battery and the Pixel Xl uses a slightly larger 3,450 mAh battery. In either case, Google rates the Pixel and Pixel XL at 13 hours and 14 hours of internet browsing and video playback respectively. Further, the batteries are able to be quick charged enough for up to "seven hours of use" after just 15 minutes of charging time using the included 18W USB-C charger.

Pricing works out to $649 for the 32GB Pixel, $749 for the 128GB Pixel, $769 for the 32GB Pixel XL, and $869 for the 128GB Pixel XL. In the US Google has partnered with Verizon for brick-and-mortar availability in addition to it being available on the Google store and other online retailers.

Google is banking a lot on these devices and asking a very premium price tag for the unlocked phones. It is certainly a gamble whether users will find the unique features enough to go with the Pixel over other flagships. What do you think about Google's increased interest in the smartphone space with the launch of its own hardware? How well will Pixel fit into the existing environment – will Pixel lead Android hardware and the OS to success or simply fragment it more?

I do like the look of the Pixel (especially the blue one) and the feature lists sounds good enough that maybe I could live without a removable battery and non-expandable storage (I'll be holding onto my old T-Mobile unlimited plan for as long as possible! heh). Pricing is a bit steep though and I think that will trip a lot of people up when searching for their next device.

Source: Google

Qualcomm Announces the Snapdragon 821 SoC

Subject: Processors, Mobile | July 11, 2016 - 11:44 AM |
Tagged: SoC, Snapdragon 821, snapdragon, qualcomm, adreno 530

Announced today, the Snapdragon 821 offers a modest CPU frequency increase over the Snapdragon 820, with clock speeds of up to 2.4 GHz compared to 2.2 GHz with the Snapdragon 820. The new SoC is still implementing Qualcomm's custom quad-core "Kryo" design, which is made up of two pairs of dual-core CPU clusters.

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Quoting Anandtech, who also reported on the Snapdragon 821 today:

"What isn’t in this announcement is that the power cluster will likely be above 2 GHz and GPU clocks look to be around 650 MHz but without knowing whether there are some changes other than clock relative to Adreno 530 we can’t really estimate the performance of this part."

Specifics on the Adreno GPU were not mentioned in the official announcement. The 650 MHz GPU clock reported by Anandtech would offer a modest improvement over the SD820's 624 MHz Adreno 530 GPU. Additionally, the "power cluster" will reportedly move from 1.6 GHz with the SD820 to 2.0 GHz with the SD821.

No telling when this updated SoC will find its way into consumer devices, with the Snapdragon 820 currently available in the Samsung Galaxy S7/S7 Edge, LG G5, OnePlus 3, and a few others.

Source: Qualcomm

MWC 2016: Qualcomm Announces Vulkan API Support for Snapdragon 820, other SoCs

Subject: Mobile | February 21, 2016 - 12:18 PM |
Tagged: MWC, MWC 2016, qualcomm, vulkan, snapdragon, snapdragon 820, adreno 530

As we prepare for the onslaught of new mobile devices and technologies being announced at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the low-level Vulkan API begins its campaign to take hold in the PC and mobile spaces, superceding the OpenGL standard that exists today in hopes of providing a more efficient use of compute resources across the industry.

Vulkan_500px_Mar15.jpg

Qualcomm announced official support for the Vulkan API on its Adreno 530 GPU and the Snapdragon 820 processor. Vulkan API support will be coming for upcoming other unannounced Adreno 5xx series GPUs and currently shipping Adreno 4xx GPUs, allowing us to wonder if Vulkan support will find its way into currently shipping handsets.

As Qualcomm points out in its press release on the news, the Vulkan API will bring some important and groundbreaking changes to the mobile space.

  • Explicit control over GPU operation, with minimized driver overhead for improved performance;
     
  • Multi-threading-friendly architecture to increase overall system performance;
     
  • Optimal API design that can be used in a wide variety of devices including mobile, desktop, consoles, and embedded platforms;
     
  • Use of Khronos’ new SPIR-V intermediate representation for shading language flexibility and more predictable implementation behavior;
     
  • Extensible layered architecture that enables innovative tools without impacting production performance while validating, debugging, and profiling;
     
  • Simple drivers for low-overhead efficiency and cross vendor portability.

Vulkan API support is being added to Qualcomm's development tools suite this week as well.

“We are pleased to have contributed to the definition of Khronos’ new Vulkan API. Qualcomm Technologies will be among the first to ship conformant Vulkan drivers, starting with Snapdragon 820’s embedded Adreno 530 GPU, and subsequently with our Adreno 4xx series GPUs. Vulkan enables the next generation of graphics performance by adding multi-threaded command buffer generation and explicit control of advanced graphics capabilities within Adreno GPUs,” said Micah Knapp, director of product management, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. “In the coming days, we anticipate supporting Vulkan in the Snapdragon developer tools including Snapdragon Profiler and the Adreno SDK, to help application developers take advantage of this outstanding new API when creating graphics and compute applications for smartphones, tablets, VR HMDs and a variety of other types of devices that use Snapdragon processors.”

sd820_img_3.jpg

A quick look at the Khronos page listing companies with Vulkan conformant drivers shows Qualcomm on the short list, meaning it has provided the standards body with a driver that has passed its first level of certification. With its emphasis on efficiency, the Vulkan API and Qualcomm's early integration could be the most important place that the API ends up. In a technology field where battery life and performance must balance unlike anywhere else, getting this new implementation of graphics and compute could push mobile devices forward quickly.

Source: Qualcomm
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Qualcomm

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!

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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.

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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.

Continue reading our performance preview of the new Snapdragon 820 SoC!!

Qualcomm Introduces Adreno 5xx Architecture for Snapdragon 820

Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors, Mobile | August 12, 2015 - 07:30 AM |
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.

sd820-1.jpg

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.

Continue reading about the new Adreno 5xx architecture!!

Source: Qualcomm