Always On, Always Connected
At Computex this week, Qualcomm unveiled its second generation of processor platform for Windows PCs, the Snapdragon 850 Mobile Compute Platform. Along with the new branding that attempts to separate the solutions provided for mobile phones from PCs, the chip gets some interesting and necessary upgrades from the currently shipping Snapdragon 835.
Qualcomm has been building and defining the segment and role of the Always On, Always Connected PC since it first started talking up its move into Windows 10 territory in 2017. The company still believes that longer battery life, an always connected device that is instant on, and a fast and constant wireless LTE connection are ingredients for a solution that consumers want and that is not being addressed by Intel or AMD today. I tend to agree with them, though it is a fair belief that the first generation devices still lack in the performance department; enough to warrant some negative reviews from media.
In favor of Qualcomm’s direction, the PC users demand for cellular data connections and extremely high battery life appear to be growing. As Intel struggles with its processor and process technology development, Qualcomm is able to iterate and improve on its performance and efficiency with its partners Arm and TSMC helping along the way. Qualcomm’s own research shows that awareness and “willingness to pay” for these features has increased year-on-year.
Technically, the Snapdragon 850 uses the same core IP as SD 845 SoC for smartphones. That includes the Kryo 385 CPU, Adreno 630 GPU, Spectra 280 ISP, Hexagon 685 DSP/vector processor (a new naming shift), and the Snapdragon X20 LTE modem. The difference in naming is mostly to separate the chip options for mobile PCs from mobile phones and tablets, though there are modest performance changes because of higher clock speeds on the Kryo CPU. (2.8 GHz on the SD 845, 2.95 GHz on the SD 850.)
Compared to the currently shipping Snapdragon 835, the new 850 will offer 30% better performance, 20% better battery life, and even 20% faster peak Gigabit LTE speeds, up to 1.2 Gbps. Both the CPU and GPU integrations definitely faster with the SD 850 compared to the older 835, each seeing architectural changes as well as clock speed increases. That 30% performance increase estimate is evenly weighted across the two primary processing blocks, 30% each.
Efficiency is also improved on each sub-core, giving Qualcomm the ability to lower idle and active power draw, increasing the battery life estimates of the total platform. Considering this is one of the areas where Qualcomm already had a lead over the best Intel options on the market, this is noteworthy, and something that likely concerns Intel.
Subject: Mobile | May 9, 2018 - 02:21 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: snapdragon, sd636, sd 845, sd 660, qualcomm, android p
It's no secret that one of the easiest to point out critiques of Android is the lack of major software updates for the majority of handsets. While this has gotten slightly better over the years, new Android releases still take a substantial amount of time to roll out to existing phones, if they do at all.
However, with Android 8.0 (Oreo), Google began to address some of the core technical issues preventing phone manufacturers from quickly releasing software updates through an initiative they call Project Treble.
Essentially, Project Treble decouples the Android Operating System from the proprietary software bits such as drivers needed to provide support for a given SoC. Instead, Android 8.0 and up moves the SoC support to a separate software layer, which a vendor like Qualcomm can universally implement for their SoCs and pass to a handset maker, instead of needing to be implemented into software updates for each specific model of phone.
Qualcomm announced earlier this week that they have been working with Google ahead of the Android P developer preview release to "pre-integrate" support for the next version of the operating system with Qualcomm Snapdragon-powered devices, specifically devices with Snapdragon 845, 660 and 636.
We are already starting to see some of this work pay off, with an expanded list of devices that are already compatible with the Android P developer preview, as compared to previous Android betas.
In addition to the standard Google development devices, the Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, and Pixel 2 XL, other various other phone makers are rolling out options to enroll in the Android P developer preview program, including:
- Essential Phone (Snapdragon 835)
- Nokia 7 Plus (Snapdragon 660)
- Oppo R15 Pro (Snapdragon 660)
- Sony Xperia XZ2 (Snapdragon 845)
- Vivo X21 & X21UD (Snapdragon 660)
- Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S (Snapdragon 845)
Despite Qualcomm's work with Google on Android P "pre-integration", the ball remains in the court of OEMs like Samsung, and carriers to push these updates through to consumers.
Not Just a Better Camera
Samsung’s updated Galaxy phones are available now, and while the external designs - while beautiful - look the same as last year, the Galaxy S9 and S9+ feature faster internals and an improved camera system. Is it worth an upgrade over the Galaxy S8? How does this new flagship from Samsung compare to Apple’s more expensive iPhone X? Read on to find out!
During the Galaxy S9 at Samsung’s “Unpacked” event unveiling the new phones, much was made about the GS9’s camera - and particularly its video recording capability, which features an ultra slow-motion mode. While camera is a vital part of the experience, and can make or break a handset for many people, it is the application processor that constitutes a bigger upgrade from last year’s Galaxy S8 phones.
In the USA, Samsung is using Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 845, while many of the international versions of the phone use Samsung’s own Exynos SoC. We took an early look at performance with the Snapdragon 845 during Qualcomm’s recent media day, and now with shipping hardware and far more time for benchmarking we can really put this new mobile platform to the test. You can take or leave synthetic benchmark results, of course; I can offer my own subjective impressions of overall responsiveness, which is as much a test of software optimization as hardware.
|Samsung Galaxy S9+ Specifications (US Version)|
|Display||6.2-inch 1440x2960 AMOLED|
|SoC||Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 (SDM845)|
|CPU Cores||8x Kryo 385 up to 2.8 GHz|
|GPU Cores||Adreno 630|
|RAM||6 GB LPDDR4X|
|Storage||64 / 128 / 256 GB|
|Network||Snapdragon X20 LTE|
Bluetooth 5.0; A2DP, aptX
USB 3.1 (Type-C)
|Battery||3500 mAh Li-Ion|
|Dimensions||158.1 x 73.8 x 8.5 mm, 189 g|
Samsung has opted to bring back the same industrial design introduced with last year’s Galaxy S8/S8+, but this was already a class-leading design so that is not a bad thing.
Subject: Mobile | February 27, 2018 - 04:46 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: snapdragon 700, snapdragon, qualcomm
During the Qualcomm keynote at Mobile World Congress today, company President Cristiano Amon announced the Snapdragon 700 family of mobile processors targeted at a tier, expectedly, between the flagship 800-series and the mid-range 600-series.
Qualcomm was more than a little light on specifics of this new chipset, what technology it is going to differentiate with as it squeezes in the middle of the two opposing chip families, and what performance levels we should expect. What we do know is that Qualcomm wants to bridge the gap between the 600 and 800 SoC with additional “features and performance” for the 700-series. Qualcomm tells us that we should expect advances over the 600-series to include “on-device AI supported by the Qualcomm Artificial Intelligence (AI) Engine, and improvements to camera, device performance and power, supported by the heterogeneous compute power of premium features including the Qualcomm Spectra ISP, Qualcomm Kryo CPU, Qualcomm Hexagon Vector Processor and Qualcomm Adreno Visual Processing subsystem.”
Well, that…kind of covers most everything that makes up the feature set of the Snapdragon 845. What we are going to be looking for now as more information is revealed is what degree the advancements in those areas reach when compared to the already announced Snapdragon 600 parts.
Qualcomm does confirm in its press release that the 700-series of mobile platforms will utilize a Kryo CPU design, as opposed to a completely off-the-shelf Arm Cortex processor. In fact, Qualcomm states that it “will debut new architectures across the mobile platform, including Qualcomm Spectra ISP, Kryo CPU and Adreno Visual Processing subsystem,” leading me to believe we will see some slightly cut back, slightly slower version of what already exists in the Snapdragon 845 today.
This division makes sense if we assume Qualcomm is going to move this direction rather than having a significant gap in Snapdragon 600-series parts, as it it has done previously. The current lineup in the 600-family has a model that uses Kryo and another that uses standard Arm cores. Rebranding that higher end 600-series part as the 700-family makes it more relatable to the technology changes inside.
No specifics on the LTE modem that is integrated were given.
The primary target for this new chipset family is the Chinese smartphone market, where they demand flagship-level features but have less of an appetite to absorb flagship-level pricing. Qualcomm is probably going to use the 700-series to nearly match the performance and capabilities of the 800-series in those regions, choosing to earn additional market share (and revenue) over pushing for raw profits with customers that might choose to ignore the 800-series due to pricing.
Sampling of the Snapdragon 700 Series Mobile Platform will start sometime in the first half of this year, and hopefully we will learn more on the specifications of these products before summer.
Subject: Mobile | February 21, 2018 - 11:10 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: snapdragon, qualcomm, microsoft, always connected pc
With availability scheduled to begin next month, Qualcomm is prepping for its final push to prepare the market for what it believes is a revolutionary product category for the PC market. Just before the mobile media and analysts focus attention on Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next week, Qualcomm hopes it has completed the final step in the launch of its “Windows 10 on Snapdragon” line. Partners like Amazon, the Microsoft Stores, Verizon, and AT&T will provide the cellular LTE connections to maintain an always-connected state and the retail and online locations to purchase them.
By combining Windows 10 and the company’s Snapdragon mobile platform with efficiency and connectivity advantages other PC chip vendors can’t match, Qualcomm is hoping that its creation of this new sub-category of PC that focuses on being always connected through a smartphone-like cellular connection will pay dividends. Compared to Intel processors that target similar form factors of notebook PCs including 2-in-1s and detachable tablets, the Qualcomm chips differentiate by including the capability for LTE connectivity on every design, without having to pay an upgrade cost.
The ability for a Qualcomm-powered Windows 10 PC to have an “instant on” button to turn on the screen without a boot or wake-from-sleep process, again in the same way your smartphone works today, is another touted feature. Battery life is the other tent pole, with Qualcomm often citing disingenuous battery life estimates on Intel-powered systems but “beyond all day” battery life for its own.
Getting these Qualcomm-chip Windows notebooks into the market might seem like a trivial task but inserting a new totally new product category into retail and e-tail takes careful management. Qualcomm will have to educate consumers on how its platform is different and what advantages it can offer over other laptops. Retailers will have to undertake most of that education process, as the customer will need guidance to avoid costly returns and support calls.
The added complexity of a cellular connection will mean that some kind of registration process will have to occur before the PC is truly “always connected.” It will need to be added to a data plan on an existing carrier agreement (think adding a new phone to your cell account) or through a pre-paid arrangement.
A touchier subject surrounds the retail channel and how PCs are sold in today’s market. Despite the years of legal disputes and resolutions, most in the industry still view Intel as wielding incredible power in the retail and online e-tail sales channels. Through practices like rebates, education programs, and sales clerk discounts, it can be hard for a new player to battle the incumbent without a similar amount of marketing muscle and dollars behind them. Even AMD, with years of practice selling its own processors and systems, struggles at time to get the attention and retail shelf space its products deserve.
In the US market, Microsoft will be taking the helm at the retail channel, stocking and selling the three first Qualcomm Snapdragon Windows 10 PCs from HP, Lenovo, and ASUS. Though the quantity of Microsoft stores is limited, placement here is a big win for Qualcomm and its partners. The Microsoft Stores are generally considered the presentation point for the flagship Windows devices, indicating that Microsoft itself puts a lot of weight behind the category that Qualcomm is creating.
For the online markets, Amazon will be the primary location in the US for sales. In talks with Qualcomm executives, it appears that the online giant will be handling a lot of that education and cellular activation. While I am certain that Qualcomm would love to have had a nationwide brick-and-mortar retailer like Best Buy in the mix, the Minneapolis-based company did not buy in.
Qualcomm has other retailers lined up across the globe, including in Australia, Italy, France, and the UK. China will have sales through JD.com, one of the largest online retailers in the world with more than 266M active users. Qualcomm still has many regions to address with availability and wider distribution as the second wave of PCs comes to market in the holiday of 2018, but it believes it has a solid start under its belt.
Graphic Source: TechSpot
Operator support is just as crucial for Qualcomm’s new PC category as retail availability. If a consumer buys a device but isn’t offered service from a mobile telecommunications provider along with it, much of the appeal of the device is lost. Carriers in the UK, Italy, China, France, Germany, Ireland, Spain, Switzerland, and US (including all four major players Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile), will begin offering plans for the Windows 10 on Snapdragon PCs. Details of what the specific costs will be aren’t being shared and will vary for each carrier.
Affordability of these plans will be critical to the mass market success of the Always Connected PC. Consumers will not pay exorbitant amounts of money to add a device to their existing cell phone plan but providers may be hesitant to offer discounts for a platform that inherently will have potential for greater data consumption. Users on smartphones often get lower resolution video or web pages because of the smaller screen size. But these full capability PCs will likely stream full resolution content and could create additional strain on the networks.
The SDM845 Reference Platform and CPU Results
The Snapdragon 845 is Qualcomm’s latest flagship mobile platform, officially announced on December 6 and known officially as the SDM845 (moving from the MSMxxxx nomenclature of previous iterations). At a recent media event we had a chance to go hands-on with a development platform device for a preview of this new Snapdragon's performance, the results of which we can now share. Will the Snapdragon 845 be Qualcomm's Android antidote to Apple's A11? Read on to find out!
The SDM845 QRD (Qualcomm Reference Design) Device
While this article will focus on CPU and GPU performance with a few known benchmarks, the Snapdragon 845 is of course a full mobile platform which combines 8-core Kryo 385 CPU, Adreno 630 graphics, Hexagon 685 DSP (which includes the Snapdragon Neural Processing Engine), Spectra 280 image processor, X20 LTE modem, etc. The reference device was packaged like a typical 5.5-inch Android smartphone, which can only help to provide a real-world application of thermal management during benchmarking.
Qualcomm Reference Design Specifications:
- Baseband Chipset: SDM845
- Memory: 6 GB LPDDR4X (PoP)
- Display: 5.5-inch 1440x2560
- Front: IMX320 12 MP Sensor
- Rear: IMX386 12 MP Sensor
- No 3.5 mm headset jack (Analog over USB-C)
- 4 Digital Microphones
- Connector: USB 3.1 Type-C
- DisplayPort over USB-C
At the heart of the Snapdragon 845 is the octa-core Kryo 385 CPU, configured with 4x performance cores and 4x efficiency cores, and offering clock speeds of up to 2.8 GHz. In comparison the Snapdragon 835 had a similar 8x CPU configuration (Kryo 280) clocked up to 2.45 GHz. The SDM845 is produced on 10 nm LPP process technology, while the SD835 (MSM8998) was the first to be manufactured at 10 nm (LPE). It is not surprising that Qualcomm is getting higher clock speeds from this new chip at the same process node, and increases in efficiency (the new 10nm LPP FinFET process) should theoretically result in similar - or possibly even lower - power draw from these higher clocks.
Subject: Mobile | February 8, 2018 - 11:01 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: qualcomm, 5G, 5g nr, x50, snapdragon, apple, Samsung
This story originally appeared on ShroutResearch.com.
With significant pressure to show the value and growth opportunities for the company with a looming hostile takeover bid from Broadcom, mobile chip design house Qualcomm is hoping that its position in the market of next-generation cellular radio technology will be a foundation of its future. The company revealed today partnerships with 18 global OEMs that will be launching 5G-ready devices in 2019 and 18 worldwide cellular carriers will be completing tests of Qualcomm 5G radios in 2018.
5G is the follow up iteration to the current 4G cellular technology in the majority of the world’s smartphones. It will improve speed of connectivity, lower latency, and transform numerous markets from self-driving cars to industrial automation. And it can do all of this while lowering the load on carrier networks, giving all users a noticeable increase in performance and usability.
Qualcomm has been leaning on this 4G-to-5G transition as a portion of its long-term plan and strategy for many years. As a part of the company’s recent call to action for shareholders to resist the hostile takeover from Broadcom, the San Diego-based company believes that it has a 12-24 month lead over competing connectivity providers, namely Intel. This position will allow Qualcomm to capitalize on what many believe could be the most disruptive and market shifting wireless transition in history.
To maintain the leadership role, despite mass-market availability being limited to 2019 products, Qualcomm has announced partnerships with 18 different OEMs that will build those products using the Snapdragon X50 modem. This modem was the first announced to support the finalized specification of 5G radios. OEMs like LG, HTC, Sony, ASUS, and vivo are committed to using the X50 modem in devices ranging from next-generation smartphones to Windows-based PCs.
There has been talk that 5G products would not be available until 2020, but Qualcomm believes that 5G will have an impact on revenue a year earlier than that. This collection of phone and device providers puts Qualcomm well ahead of Intel in terms of integration and support in the market, something Qualcomm has believed would be the case but is only now finally confirmed. Commercialization of 5G and collaborations with the leading device manufacturers will push Intel further back in the race, with time running out for it to catch up.
Two big OEMs are missing from the list in Qualcomm’s announcement: Samsung and Apple. While it makes sense that Apple would not want to be included in the public statements from Qualcomm considering the continuing legal dispute between the two companies, there is a legitimate question as to whether Apple will be an early-adopter of 5G technology at all. It has shown in the past that it is more than willing to let others experiment and drive wireless technology shifts on the networks, with both the iPhone 3G and first iPhone with LTE (iPhone 5) lagging behind other smartphones by several quarters. If Apple choses to not integrate the Qualcomm modem, it will depend on Intel to provide a solution instead, and could miss out on 5G technology for all of 2019.
Not seeing Samsung as a part of this announcement from Qualcomm is more surprising, but likely an omission of politics than of technology. I recently wrote about the extension and expansion of the licensing agreement between Samsung and Qualcomm and it is unlikely that this contract would not have included the X50 modem for 5G. I expect the 2019 models of Samsung’s Galaxy devices to include the Qualcomm chip as well.
The second part to this story is that 18 different global cellular carriers, including Verizon and AT&T in the US, China Mobile, and SK Telecom, will be testing 5G with Qualcomm devices and infrastructure in 2018. These validation tests are used to demonstrate the capabilities of new wireless technology and finalize the implementation methods for the hardware in the field.
These two announcements put Qualcomm in the driver’s seat for 5G adoption and integration. 5G will offer consumers speeds 4-5x faster than today’s top offerings, lower latency for more responsive web browsing and new capabilities like streaming virtual reality. It will make Wi-Fi less necessary. The cellular carriers will take advantage of 5G for its ability to run more data through existing infrastructure, opening capacity for more users, devices, and upgradable services.
Subject: Mobile | January 8, 2018 - 08:00 PM | Jim Tanous
Tagged: WOA, windows on arm, snapdragon 835, snapdragon, qualcomm, Lenovo, laptop, convertible, CES 2017, arm, 2-in-1
Lenovo today unveiled the Miix 630, a 12-inch Windows 10 S device powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 processor. With the Miix 630, Lenovo joins HP, ASUS, and other manufacturers in the new Windows on ARM product category of ultraportable, always connected PCs and tablets.
The Miix 630 is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 with integrated Adreno 540 graphics. It features a 12.3-inch 1920x1280 touchscreen display which, when paired with the included Lenovo pen, offers up to 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity for drawing and writing. Other features include a 5MP front facing infrared camera with Windows Hello support, 13MP rear camera, detachable backlit keyboard with touchpad, and integrated LTE for the "always on" feature that distinguishes these devices from those with traditional mobile connectivity options.
Despite its "always on" capabilities, the Miix 630 joins other Windows on ARM devices in touting lengthy battery life, with negligible battery draw while in standby mode and actual usage time of 20 hours for tasks such as continuous video playback.
The Miix 630's complete specs:
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 835|
|Speakers||2 x 1 watt|
|Memory||4GB / 8GB|
|Storage||64GB / 128GB / 256GB|
WUXGA+ (1920 x 1280)
Corning Glass Screen
|Ports||1 x USB Type-C
1 x 3.5mm Audio In/Out
1 x SD Card
1 x Nano SIM Card
|Connectivity||2x2 Wi-Fi 802.11ac
|Dimensions||(D) 210mm x (W) 293mm x (H) 15.6mm|
|Weight||2.93 lbs (1.33 kg)|
Complete pricing for the higher-end configurations is not yet available, but Lenovo states that the Miix 630's base configuration will start at $799. It's expected to launch in the second quarter of this year.
Subject: Mobile | January 8, 2018 - 03:01 AM | Jim Tanous
Tagged: windows on arm, snapdragon, qualcomm, Intel, hp, envy x2, CES 2018
Featuring Intel's 7th generation Y-series processors, the Intel version of the ENVY x2 has the same ports and basic design as its ARM-based counterpart, but adds 1mm of thickness and advertises about 20 percent shorter battery life. The Intel model also ships with Windows 10 Home compared to Windows 10 S, although both are optionally upgradeable to Windows 10 Pro.
Another notable difference is a slight change to how the ENVY x2's detachable keyboard connects while in landscape typing mode. The keyboard on the Snapdragon-based ENVY x2 folds down at the top of its magnetic connection, providing a slightly angled typing surface, while the Intel version folds around the back of the device and lays flat.
Like other manufacturers of new Windows on ARM devices, HP is focusing on productivity versus mobility to differentiate the two ENVY x2 models. The Snapdragon version offers longer battery life, always-on connectivity via integrated LTE, and, if you elect to stick with Windows 10 S, improved security and reliability. The Intel version offers comparatively shorter battery life and traditional connectivity options (although built-in LTE without the "always on" capability is available), but can run all x86 software and drivers natively.
Further enhancing the productivity benefits of the Intel-based ENVY x2, HP is boosting the TDP of the system's Y-series processors from their default 4.5 watts to 6 watts, a move that the company claims results in up to 20 percent better performance.
Complete specifications and upgrade options for the Intel-based ENVY x2 are not yet available, but here are the specs HP has unveiled thus far:
- 7th generation Intel Core processors
- Up to 15 hours of battery life
- HP Fast Charge technology (90% charge in 90 minutes)
- 12.3-inch 1920x1280 IPS display
- Up to 256GB PCIe flash storage
- IR camera with support for Windows Hello
- 7.9mm thick
- HP Digital Pen and keyboard included
Like the complete specs, pricing information has not yet been revealed, but HP says that the Intel ENVY x2 will begin shipping in "Spring 2018."
Subject: Mobile | December 5, 2017 - 02:30 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: snapdragon x16, snapdragon tech summit, snapdragon 835, snapdragon, qualcomm, NovaGo, LTE, hp, envy x2, asus
Today at its Snapdragon Tech Summit, Qualcomm has announced the first round of Snapdragon-enabled devices running Windows from partners HP and ASUS.
The HP ENVY x2 is a detachable 2-in-1 device reminiscent of the Microsoft Surface products or the Huawei Matebook-E that we recently took a look at. The 12.3-in screen is the same size as the current Surface Pro, but the HP option will have a more traditional 16:9 screen aspect ratio.
Built upon the Snapdragon 835 SoC, the Envy x2 will be available in configurations featuring up to 8GB of RAM, and up to 256GB of storage. The Envy x2 will also support an active stylus that is Windows Ink certified for activities such as note-taking and illustration.
For connectivity, the Envy x2 has a single USB-C port which will serve for both charging the tablet as well as connecting external devices.
The ASUS NovaGo, however, features a more traditional thin-and-light notebook design with a 360-degree hinge. This means that users can take full advantage of the 13.3-in 1920x1080 screen in all sorts of different scenarios from traditional notebook mode to tablet mode.
Similar to the HP offering, the ASUS NovaGo will be available in configurations ranging up to 8GB of RAM and 256GB of Storage. However, connectivity on the NovaGo includes 2x USB 3.1 Type-A ports, as well as an HDMI Port and Micro-SD card slot for memory expansion allowing for more options than the HP Envy x2.
Utilizing the Snapdragon 835 SoC, both of these devices will also feature cellular connectivity from the Snapdragon X16 LTE modem. This is a huge advantage for mobile users, who can simply add these devices to their cellular accounts and receive internet connectivity anywhere in the world, allowing them to simply turn on their device and start working instead of hunting for Wi-Fi hotspots.
Both of these devices will come preinstalled with Windows 10 S but will allow for a one-time upgrade to a full Windows 10 license which will allow users to install non-Windows store applications.
(For those asking in the comments, yes, this is the emaulation layer we have mentioned previously at work. Snapdragon-based Windows machines will be able to run MOST x86 (not x64) Windows applications, with some exceptions. Exceptions tend to stem from things like kernel-mode drivers that some software wants to install that won't work. Dropbox is an unfortunately example of this.)
Availability of both systems is expected just before the end of the year and pricing for both will range from $600-800 depending on the specific configuration.
It's just the beginning here at the Snapdragon Tech Summit, so stay tuned for more announcements from Qualcomm as the week progresses!