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64-bit Snapdragon 810 sets high bar for mobile SoCs

Apr 7, 2014  |  Eric Brown
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Qualcomm revealed 20nm, 64-bit Snapdragon SoCs featuring Cortex-A57 and –A53 CPU cores, 4K video encoding, LTE Advanced, DDR4 RAM, and more.

The fact that the new Snapdragon 810 and Snapdragon 808 system-on-chips won’t ship in products until the first half of 2015 only slightly diminishes their inspiring lineup of features. Qualcomm’s first 20nm-fabricated SoCs are also ARMv8, 64-bit processors, following in the footsteps of the 64-bit, 28nm Snapdragon 615 and Snapdragon 610, which were announced in February and are slated for release by the year’s end. The only other mobile ARM SoC to go 64-bit is Apple’s already shipping A7, although on the x86 side, Intel’s 64-bit, 22nm Atom Z34xx (“Merrifield”) should ship in smartphones this summer.

All of Qualcomm’s 64-bit SoCs, which also include the quad-core -A53 based Snapdragon 410 announced late last year, should be able to run the upcoming 64-bit version of Android, which could arrive by the end of the year. Both the Snapdragon 810 and 808 start sampling in the fourth quarter.



Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 SoC features
(click image to enlarge)

Much can happen in a year, but for now, the Snapdragon 810 is not only the first mobile-oriented SoC with 20nm fabrication and Cortex-A57 cores, but also the first with Qualcomm’s new Adreno 430 GPU. The Snapdragon 810 combines four ARM Cortex-A57 cores with four Cortex-A53 cores in a Big.Little combination similar to today’s Cortex-A15/A7 hybrids like the Exynos 5 Octa.

The Cortex-A53 is billed primarily as a power-efficient mobile SoC while the A57 is more of a server and high-end networking platform, but there appears to be quite a bit of overlap. A number of -A53 based SoCs have been announced, but this is the first -A57 based SoC to squarely address the mobile market.

The Snapdragon 810′s Adreno 430 GPU delivers up to 30 percent faster graphics performance and 100 percent faster GPGPU compute performance than the Adreno 420, with up to 20 percent less power consumption, claims Qualcomm. It remains to be seen whether the Adreno 430 can compete with the 192-core Kepler GPU on the Nvidia Tegra K1, which will ship this quarter in a 32-bit version, and in a 64-bit “Project Denver” version in 2015. In just about every other category, however, the Snapdragon 810 appears to beat the current 32-bit Tegra K1.

The Snapdragon 810 is also the first mobile SoC to support the faster, more power-efficient DDR4 RAM. DDR4 is also supported on two server-oriented SoCs: the Cortex-A53 based Altera Stratix 10 SX and -A7 based Freescale QorIQ LS1.

The hexa-core Snapdragon 808 offers only two -A57 cores combined with four -A53 cores. The Snapdragon 808 is also is limited to DDR3 RAM, as well as a new Adreno 418 GPU, which although not as powerful as the 810′s Adreno 430, is claimed to be 20 percent faster than the earlier Adreno 330. Like the Adreno 430, the Adreno 418 adds security features for premium content.



Qualcomm Snapdragon 8xx highlights
(click image to enlarge)

The Snapdragon 808 has 12-bit image co-processors instead of 14-bit with the 810. Displays are limited to a still impressive 2560 x 1600 pixels. The 808 features the same integrated 802.11ac WiFi and Qualcomm’s new Cat 6 LTE Advanced multimode modem.

The previously announced Snapdragon 615 and 610 are limited to Cortex-A53 cores — eight for the 615 and four for the 610 — making the 615 the first homogenous ARM-based octa-core SoC aimed at the mobile market. They offer lowlier Adreno 405 GPUs, and like the Snapdragon 808, lack the 810′s H.265 (4K) video encoding. All the 64-bit Snapdragons provide H.265 decoding except for the Snapdragon 410.

Highlights of the Snapdragon 810 include:

  • Cortex-A57 — The Snapdragon 810 features four Cortex-A57 cores and four Cortex-A53 cores in a Big.Little configuration with Global Task Scheduling (GTS).
  • 4K Encoding — The native 4K Ultra HD interface and video, along with an upgraded camera suite using gyro-stabilization and 3D noise reduction, produces 4K video at 30 frames per second and 1080p video at 120fps. Frame buffer compression and external 4K display is available via HDMI 1.4. HEVC/H.265 encoding and decoding for dual 4Kx2K decoded displays at 60Hz and 30Hz, respectively are supported.
  • 55-megapixels — 14-bit dual Image Signal Processors (ISPs) are capable of supporting 1.2-gigapixel per second throughput and 55-megapixel still images, with camera features including enhanced exposure, white balance, and fast low light focus, says Qualcomm.
  • Adreno 430 — The Qualcomm Adreno 430 GPU supports OpenGL ES 3.1, OpenCL 1.2, hardware tessellation, geometry shaders, and programmable blending, and features GPU security for secure composition and management of premium video and multimedia.
  • Voice and gesture — Multimedia coprocessors support voice activation, gesture input, and ultrasound pen functionality.
  • DDR4 — High speed LPDDR4 memory is said to be faster, power-efficient, and offers greater compatibility with 3D graphics.
  • Triple carrier LTE — The SoC offers Qualcomm’s 4th Generation Cat 6 LTE Advanced multimode modem, with support for the Qualcomm RF360 Front End Solution and 3x20MHz Carrier Aggregation, enabling speeds of up to 300Mbps “in the broadest set of spectrum deployment configurations to date,” says the company.
  • 802.11ac — The Qualcomm VIVE 2-stream 802.11ac radio features multi-user MIMO for maximizing performance of local connectivity.
  • IZat GPS — The Snapdragon 810 features the latest Qualcomm IZat location core for ubiquitous and highly accurate location services, with support for GPS, GLONASS, Beidou, and Galileo.
  • Other — The SoC also features Bluetooth 4.1, USB 3.0, NFC, a Hexagon DSP and sensor engine.

 
Further information

The Snapdragon 810 and 808 processors are expected to begin sampling in the second half of 2014 and become available in commercial devices by the first half of 2015. More information may be found at Qualcomm’s Snapdragon product page. More in-depth coverage of the SoC, as well as a chart comparing all five of Qualcomm’s 64-bit Snapdragons may be found at AnandTech.
 

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