Snapdragon 8cx is Qualcomm’s answer to higher-performance for Windows PCs

Subject: Mobile | December 6, 2018 - 08:38 PM |
Tagged: snapdragon x24, snapdragon, qualcomm, NVMe, kryo 495, adreno 680, 8cx

While yesterday was all about Snapdragon 855, and the enhancements it will bring to mobile devices, Qualcomm’s focus today at their Snapdragon Tech Summit was all about the “Always on, Always connected” (AOAC) PC.

Announced almost exactly a year ago, AOAC is the term that Qualcomm uses to brand Snapdragon devices featuring the Windows operating system.

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In the past year, Qualcomm has shipped PCs based on both the Snapdragon 835 and well as the PC-only Snapdragon 850 SoCs.

Today, Qualcomm is taking the wraps off of their higher-performance Snapdragon option for PCs, Snapdragon 8cx.

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From the start, Qualcomm assures us that Snapdragon 8cx won’t be completely replacing Snapdragon 850 in the marketplace, pointing to it being a more upmarket solution.

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Kryo 495

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Unlike the Prime Core design on the Snapdragon 855, the 8cx platform is sticking with a more traditional BIG.little design with four performance and four efficiency cores. However, we do see larger cache sizes than previous Snapdragons, with a total of 10MB system cache.

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Qualcomm did make a few performance claims against Intel's notebook parts, but they are a bit confusing.

While they did compare the Snapdragon 8cx to Intel's mainstream 15W U-series quad-core mobile CPUs, the performance numbers Qualcomm showed were for both CPUs running at 7W. 

Qualcomm says this is because of the thermal constraints of a fanless design, of which all the Snapdragon PCs are, but looking at the thermal performance of real-world fanless PCs with Intel U-series processors like the Surface Pro 6 with a Core-i5, 7W seems to be a lower power level than that PC ever actually sees.

As always, only time and independent performance analysis will tell the true competitive nature of these CPUs.

Adreno 680

Also all-new for Snapdragon 8cx is the Adreno 680 GPU, what Qualcomm is touting as their fastest GPU ever with a 2x performance improvement and 60% greater power efficiency over Snapdragon 850.

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On the connectivity side, Adreno 680 will provide desktop-level outputs, including support for up to two simultaneous 4K HDR displays.

Despite the significant performance increases on the GPU side, Qualcomm is claiming that the Adreno 680 GPU in Snapdragon 8cx is 60% more efficient than the Adreno GPU in their current lead PC platform, Snapdragon 850.

Snapdragon X24

Snapdragon 8cx will sport the same X24 modem we saw announced alongside the Snapdragon 855 yesterday.

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This new modem will enable both LTE connections up to 2Gbps as we saw with Snapdragon 855, but judging from the specification sheet that was provided, 8cx seems to lack the ability for Wifi-6 (802.11ax) and 802.11ay.

In addition, Qualcomm also teased that 5G-enabled 8cx devices (likely with the Snapdragon x50 modem) will also be coming in 2019.

Connectivity

One of the most significant downsides for the current generation of Snapdragon-powered PCs has been the carryover of UFS storage from the mobile phone side. While UFS can provide a sufficient experience on Android devices, it became a significant bottleneck on Windows-based devices.

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Thanks to an available four lanes of PCI Express 3.0 connectivity, the Snapdragon 8cx will provide support for NVMe SSDs. While Qualcomm still hasn’t implemented a native NVMe controller into their SSD like Apple, this will at least enable the option for faster storage coming from OEMs.

However, it remains to be seen how many OEMs adopt NVMe SSDs in their Snapdragon 8cx products, due to the added cost, and potential thermal issues with higher performance, PCIe SSD in a fan-less form factor.

Software

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Another pain point for Snapdragon PCs has been software support. While the initial Windows on Snapdragon releases were able to run native ARM 32bit applications as well as emulate 32bit x86 applications, software support has come a long way for this platform in the past year.

One of the biggest areas of concern has been native browser support. Currently, the only native ARM browser on Windows is Edge. With Microsoft's announced move of Edge to the Chromium rendering system, we will now gain an implementation of the open source engine that power Google Chrome, but not the Chrome browser itself yet.

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Mozilla however, is set to ship a native ARM64 version of Firefox in the coming months, which will be the first high-performance answer to Edge for the Windows on Snapdragon platform.

Microsoft was also on stage today discussing how they are bringing Windows 10 Enterprise to Snapdragon devices, allowing for more wide deployments of these machines in large corporations.

Pricing and Availability

Despite bringing Lenovo on stage at the event to talk about their partnership with Qualcomm, no actual devices or even manufactures of 8cx devices were officially announced today.

Due to that, we have no real information on pricing or availability on Snapdragon 8cx-powered systems besides that they are coming in 2019, at some point.

That being said since Snapdragon 850 is still sticking around as an option in the marketplace, expect Snapdragon 8cx devices to be more expensive than the current crop of Snapdragon-enabled PCs.

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We expect more information to come on Snapdragon 8cx in the coming months at CES and MWC, so stay tuned for more information as it becomes available!

Source: Qualcomm

Qualcomm talks more Snapdragon 855 - Performance, Features, and more!

Subject: Mobile | December 5, 2018 - 09:20 PM |
Tagged: snapdragon 855, qualcomm, kryo 485, Hexagon 690, adreno 640

After yesterday's initial announcement of the Snapdragon 855 name and teasing a few key features, today Qualcomm has gone into more detail about what makes this new SoC tick.

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Starting from the top, we have the new Kryo 485 CPU cores.

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The CPU cores found in Kryo 485 are based on arm's A75 design with some customizations by Qualcomm in regards to data prefetch, and the out-of-order execution window size. Overall, Qualcomm is claiming a 45% performance boost for the Kryo 485 compared to the Kryo cores found in the Snapdragon 845 due to IPC increase generation-to-generation.

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Moving away from the BIG.little design seen in previous Snapdragon implementations, Snapdragon 855 is now utilizing what Qualcomm is referring to as a "Prime Core." Like BIG.little, the Prime Core setup consists of a set of four performance cores and four efficiency cores. The difference comes in the Prime Core itself, which is a part of the performance cores but can achieve an even higher clock speed than the rest of the performance cores (2.84 GHz vs. 2.42GHz).

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Moving onto the GPU, we have some sizable improvements on in the Adreno 640. Qualcomm is claiming a 20% performance increase in graphics rendering when compared to the Adreno 630 GPU found in Snapdragon 835. 

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Another area of focus is sustained performance. Qualcomm claims that the Snapdragon 855 with Adreno 640 graphics provides a much more consistent performance outlook than other competitor's SoCs built on 7nm (likely Apple and Huawei).

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On the AI front, Qualcomm has made some major changes with what they are referring to as their “4th generation AI engine.” The AI engine consists of the Kryo CPU cores, Adreno GPU cores, and the all-new Hexagon 690 DSP.

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The Hexagon 690 DSP has gone through an overhaul, introducing Tensor processing units for the first time as well as performance increases for the scalar and vector cores.

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Developers will be able to target all of the AI engine through the use of integration with Google’s NN API on Android to help simplify picking the right hardware for a given AI task.

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In addition to the AI capabilities found in the AI engine, there have been some major changes to the Spectra Image Signal Processor (ISP) to enable AI workloads on photos and videos with major power savings.

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Touted as the world’s first “Computer Vision” ISP, the Spectra 380 provides some exciting capabilities without having to use the AI engine. For example, Snapdragon 855 thanks to the new Spectra 380 will not only be capable of “Portrait mode” photos as we’ve seen in many smartphones but now will be able to process the same portrait effect real-time for video, up to 4K HDR 60FPS.

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Some other capabilities of the CV-enabled Spectra ISP include object detection, which can be used for things such as real-time background replacement, in which you’ll be able to see the effect rendered in the preview window of your camera app, before even taking the photo.

Also on the Spectra side of things, Qualcomm is looking to make some changes on the image capture front, namely in the file format. While most Android phones currently use JEPG to capture images, Qualcomm with Snapdragon 855 is touting the advantages of the newer High-Efficiency Image File (HEIF) format.

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HEIF not only improves file sizes by using an encoding pattern based on H265, but also enables some exciting new metadata for things like HDR color data, Depth data, and multiple focal points. This new common metadata format should help software adoption of some of these new camera features.

While Apple has been using HEIF for a few years now in iOS, Qualcomm says they are merely using it for the file size savings, and not taking advantage of these new extensions.

Ultimately, this change will still lie in the software and phone vendors, so it remains to be seen if we’ll see large-scale adoption of HEIF as phones start to ship with Snapdragon 855 next year.

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As Qualcomm focused on yesterday, Snapdragon 855 will also be the platform that enables the first 5G capable phones, set to hit the market in the first half of 2019 from vendors such as Samsung. While the Snapdragon 855 will have to be paired with an additional modem in the form of Snapdragon X50 to achieve 5G, the integrated X24 modem still has some new connectivity features up its sleeve.

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The primary upgrade in the Snapdragon X24 modem is the ability to go beyond Gigabyte LTE, with speeds of up to 2Gbps on LTE networks through the use of technologies like 7 Carrier Aggregation and 20 LTE layers. Techniques like these should help bridge the gap between 4G and 5G while 5G networks are being built out and coverage is sparse.

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On the Wi-Fi front, the Snapgradon X24 modem in Snapdragon 855 will be capable of both Wifi-6 (802.11ax) as well as 60GHz 802.11ay (the successor to 802.11ad). However, it will depend on the handset manufacturers as to whether or not these technologies are implemented in the RF and antenna design stages.

Overall, Snapdragon 855 looks to be a promising upgrade over the previous Snapdragon 845 in many areas. Stay tuned for more news from the Snapdragon Tech Summit, including tomorrow's focus of always on always connected PCs featuring Snapdragon SoCs.

Source: Qualcomm

Qualcomm announces Snapdragon 855, enabling 5G connectivity

Subject: Mobile | December 4, 2018 - 04:00 PM |
Tagged: sub-6, snapdragon 855, qualcomm 3d sonic sensor, qualcomm, mmWave, 5g nr

Today during their Day 1 keynote at the Snapdragon Tech Summit, Qualcomm has revealed some initial details of their next-generation Snapdragon 855 mobile platform.

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The biggest focus of Snapdragon 855 lies in the connectivity. Paired with the Snapdragon x50 5G modem, Snapdragon 855 will be the first available product to support even faster LTE networks, but also will enable true 5G NR mmWave and Sub-6 GHz radio technology.

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Combined, sub-6 connectivity for wide area coverage, mmWave technology for very high bandwidth applications, as well as high-speed LTE, represent the full breadth of the 3GPP 5G NR standard for mobile connectivity.

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In addition to the hardware support in Snapdragon 855, Qualcomm also discussed today worldwide carrier rollout plans for 5G technology in 2019, including commitments from all four major US carriers for both Sub-6 and mmWave networks.

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In addition, Samsung has announced they will be shipping their first 5G-enabled smartphone, powered by Snapdragon 855, in the first half of 2019.

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Other exciting aspects of Snapdragon 855 include the new 4th generation AI engine, consisting of the CPU, GPU, and Hexagon DSP, with claims of up to 3x the performance of Snapdragon 845 in certain AI workloads.

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The Image Signal Processing part of the Snapdragon 855 also sees an update. Qualcomm is touting the ISP as able to do advanced Computer Vision techniques directly on the ISP, without having to use traditional CPU or GPU resources. This will bring massive power savings to operations such as object detection and background replacement.

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Also announced today is the Qualcomm 3D Sonic Sensor, what Qualcomm is billing as the world’s first ultrasonic fingerprint sensor for under display applications. As opposed to the optical solutions we see in shipping phones today, this new ultrasonic sensor should bring more speed and accuracy to under display fingerprint sensors.

Things are just getting started here at the Qualcomm Snapdragon Summit, so stay tuned this week for more information on topics such as 5G, Snapdragon 855, and Qualcomm-powered always on always connected PCs!

Source: Qualcomm

PowerVR 9XEP, 9XMP, and 9XTP GPUs Launched

Subject: Graphics Cards, Mobile | December 4, 2018 - 03:00 AM |
Tagged: PowerVR, Imagination Technologies

Imagination Technologies has just launched three new GPUs: the PowerVR 9XEP, the PowerVR 9XMP, and the PowerVR 9XTP. The 9XEP is designed for casual gaming and UI, the 9XMP is designed for mid-level mobile gaming, and the 9XTP is for high-end mobile-and-up.

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The press release notes that, with the release of Fortnite and PUBG on mobile platforms, gaming is pushing devices toward larger GPUs. As a result, they have worked on gaming-centric features like anisotropic filtering to improve performance an image quality. They specifically mention a 2x performance boost in anisotropic filtering and a 4x increase in shadow sample performance on the  9XMP.

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There’s a lot of segments that these designs cover; check out Imagination’s slides above.

All three of these designs are available now for licensing.

PowerVR Series3NX Neural Network Accelerator Announced

Subject: Graphics Cards, Mobile | December 4, 2018 - 03:00 AM |
Tagged: series3nx-f, series3nx, PowerVR, neural network, Imagination Technologies, imagination

Imagination Technologies has just announced the Series3NX line of Neural Network Accelerator (NNA) architectures. These products are designs that can be licensed by system-on-a-chip (SoC) manufacturers to include in their designs. The previous design, Series2NX, has seen some design wins, which Imagination claims is “predominantly focused in the mobile and automotive markets”.

Actually, there are two announcements today: Series3NX and Series3NX-F.

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The base NNA core is the Series3NX. Their press kit mentions six SKUs: AX3125 with 0.6 trillion operations per second (TOPS), AX3145 with 1.2 TOPS, AX3165 with 2.4 TOPS, AX3185 with 5 TOPS, and AX3195 with 10 TOPs. Multiple of these cores can be integrated at the same time, which allows products with over 160 TOPS of performance. These designs are available now for licensing.

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This brings us to the Series3NX-F. This product combines a Series3NX core with a programmable, floating-point processor (based on the latest PowerVR Rogue architecture) and some RAM. This will be available to license in Q1 2019.

Have a nice relazing soak with Kobo's new Forma

Subject: Mobile | November 26, 2018 - 03:45 PM |
Tagged: kobo, rakuten, ereader

Kobo have just released a brand new e-reader, the 8" Forma.  The E Ink screen offers 300ppi, and behind the screen is a Freescale SoloLite iMx6 1Ghz chip as well as 8GB of RAM.  It has an IPX8 rating, which means it can be submerged in up to a metre of water, so unless your bathtub is truly impressive you should be safe to relax and read, if you so desire.  Ars Technica compares it to the Kindle Oasis which is Amazon's competing e-reader, so follow the link if you are a prolific reader or know someone who is.

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"We tested out the $279 Kobo Forma, one of the company's newest e-readers and its competitor for Amazon's $249 Kindle Oasis. It's decked out with all of Kobo's advanced e-reader features—an 8-inch 300ppi E Ink display, a waterproof design, and zero advertisements, to name a few—and as a whole, the Forma dutifully showcases what Kobo can add to the US e-book market."

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Source: Ars Technica

Production of AMD Vega-Powered SMACH Z Gaming Handheld to Begin in 2019

Subject: Mobile | November 19, 2018 - 05:12 PM |
Tagged: Vega8, Vega, Smach Zero, SMACH Z, handheld, gaming, embedded, crowdfunding, APU, AMD Ryzen

A crowdfunding campaign of lengthy duration (originally known as the SteamBoy in 2014 before the name first changed to the Smach Zero the following year) the handheld gaming device now known as the SMACH Z is finally slated for production early next year as reported by ComputerBase (German language), according to an update for crowdfunding backers posted by the company.

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What makes this handheld relevant to PC gamers? The SMACH Z will now be powered by an embedded AMD Ryzen processor with Vega graphics, rather than the previously announced AMD Jaguar solution, with the description on the Indigogo page offering this:

"We have chosen latest generation of AMD Ryzen Embedded processors, the Ryzen Embedded V1605B SoC with AMD Radeon Vega 8 Graphics. Thanks to their latest technological advances, the dream of playing your PC games on the go is becoming a reality."

What is the V1605B? It combines a 4 core/8 thread CPU clocked at 2.0 - 3.6 GHz with a Vega8 GPU offering 512 shaders and up to a 1.1 GHz core clock. The specifications on the Kickstarter page still list the AMD Merlin Falcon RX-421BD SoC with integrated Radeon R7 GPU, though the Indigogo campaign page has the updated SMACH Z announcement video (from March 2018) which refers to the V1605B instead.

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The unfortunately-named SMACH Z is targeting "AAA" game support, but lower resolutions and detail settings will be required for smooth gameplay on this portable, of course (the company's video showcases Witcher 3 apparently averaging 40 FPS at 720p resolution, for example).

Source: ComputerBase

Dell's new G-series gaming laptops have a few tricks in that sleeve

Subject: Mobile | November 19, 2018 - 01:47 PM |
Tagged: dell, G7 15, gaming laptop

One of Dell's updated gaming laptops is under the microscope over at TechARP, the 15.6" G7 15 with a 1080p IPS display.  They were sent the highest end model, which contains an i7-8750H, 16GB DDR4-2666, a GTX 1060 Max-Q and both a 1TB HDD and 256GB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD all for around $1800.  

The size of the latop allows a full keyboard with number pad though oddly the touchpad is off to the left a bit, centred to the keyboard as if there was no numpad.  The power button is also a fingerprint sensor, an interesting idea for those who log into Windows by giving it the finger. 

The battery also knows a few tricks, TechARP hit two hours of gameplay on the battery but it came at a cost; on mains power the G7 scores 9,916 on the 3DMark FireStrike test while on battery it scores only 2,822.  Check out the full review here.

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"Earlier this year, Dell revamped their gaming line-up, rebranding it it as the new G-series. But is that all they really did? We find out in our in-depth review of the Dell G7 15 (7588) gaming laptop!"

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Source: TechARP

The Yoga Book gets a squirt from the electronic octopus

Subject: Mobile | November 8, 2018 - 02:44 PM |
Tagged: Lenovo, yoga book 2018, e ink

Lenovo chose to use more traditional hardware for the keyboard on the new Yoga Book, E Ink instead of their previous Halo design.  This update means that screen will accept touch and pen input without needing extra steps, making it much easier to draw directly on the screen after a second or two for it to refresh to the new interface.  The lack of physical keys may be a drawback for some, Ars Technica had some issues when trying to compose lengthy texts though those used to touchscreens may never notice.  Sadly Lenovo has not included the ability to read anything but PDFs on the E Ink screen, hopefully that will change soon.

Check out the review in full here.

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"Lenovo's quirky Yoga Book is back with some significant updates for 2018. The original Yoga Book was a unique hybrid of a tablet sporting a "halo" keyboard panel with no actual keys and a real paper drawing pad. Part netbook and part convertible, this year's edition remains quirky but seems more practical and less cumbersome than the original."

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Source: Ars Technica

OnePlus 6T; cheap, fast and well designed?

Subject: Mobile | November 1, 2018 - 03:41 PM |
Tagged: oneplus 6t, oneplus

The new OnePlus 6T comes with an attractive pricetag, the model with 8GB RAM and 128GB storage can be yours for $579 or double the storage to 256GB for $629.  The main processor is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 with Adreno 630, behind a 6.41", 2340×1080 AMOLED screen.  That screen also has a built in fingerprint reader, the first of it's type for sale on the American market. The 6T is not without a few flaws but overall Ars Technica found the phone to not only be less expensive than other Android devices but also a better product overall.

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"There's a new design with a teardrop camera notch on the front, a bigger display, a new baseline of 128GB of storage, and a bigger 3700mAh battery. Most interestingly, there's now an in-display optical fingerprint reader, which makes the 6T the first US-bound smartphone with this new fingerprint tech."

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Source: Ars Technica