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Android 7 dev board unlocks 10nm octa-core Snapdragon 835

Jun 5, 2017 — by Eric Brown — 2,827 views
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Intrinsyc’s “Open-Q 835” dev board showcases the octa-core Snapdragon 835 SoC, which is also headed for Android phones, and eventually, Windows laptops.

Intrinsyc has launched the first development board based on Qualcomm’s 10nm-fabricated Snapdragon 835 SoC, which combines four Cortex-A73-like cores clocked at up to 2.3GHz and four lower powered ARM cores clocked to 1.9GHz. The sandwich-style Open-Q 835 Hardware Development Kit, which runs Android 7 “Nougat,” with a note to “contact sales for Windows 10,” is on sale in an early adopter version that sells for $1,149. The kit supports “premium-tier consumer and enterprise devices, including smartphones, VR/AR head-mounted displays, IP cameras, tablets, and mobile PCs, says Intrinsyc.



Open-Q 835
(click images to enlarge)

Qualcomm unveiled the Snapdragon 835 earlier this year, and at last week’s Computex show announced the first products based on the high-powered SoC, including Android phones such as the HTC U11 and the Essential Phone from Essential, a startup founded by Android inventor Andy Rubin.

The Essential Phone, which has a somewhat modular design and an edge-to-edge display that also folds over the top of the phone, received a lot of media attention. Yet, another Qualcomm design win announcement is even more significant: The chipmaker announced that Asus, HP, and Lenovo would build laptops based on the Snapdragon 835 running Microsoft’s new ARM version of Windows 10. No deadlines or products were announced, however.

The laptops will be promoted for their much longer battery life compared to x86 chips, due in large part to the Snapdragon 835’s 10nm FinFET fabrication. The tiny Snapdragon 835 SoC also offers a new Adreno 540 GPU, enhanced co-processors, and an X16 LTE modem (see farther below for more on the Snapdragon 835).

Also at Computex, Qualcomm announced a Qualcomm Mesh Networking Reference Design for voice controlled smart home devices. The platform appears to be based on its Linux-driven, quad Cortex-A7-based IPQ40x8 (PDF) networking SoC. There were few details, however.

 
Open-Q 835

Intrinsyc’s Open-Q 835 follows many other Open-Q-branded COMs and development boards that showcase new Qualcomm SoCs, including the Snapdragon 820-based Open-Q 820 and Open-Q 820 µSOM modules and Snapdragon 600 based Open-Q 600 development SBC. The Open-Q 835 is a sandwich-style development board with a Mini-ITX (170 x 170mm) carrier and an integrated COM-like “processor board” that houses the Snapdragon 835. Intrinsyc did not indicate whether the 70 x 60mm module would be separately available.



Open-Q 835, front and back
(click images to enlarge)

The module part of the boardset integrates the Snadragon 835, 4GB LPDDR4x RAM, and 128GB UFS2.1 Gear3 2 lane flash. The module also supplies the Bluetooth 5.0 + BLE, 2.4/5Ghz 2×2 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, and the latest WiGig60 802.11ad radios with on-board antenna. The Snapdragon 835 SoC itself offers built-in support for all these radios.

Location services are provided via a GNSS daughter card with GPS, GLONASS, Beidou, and Galileo. The daughter card is available with PCB antenna and SMA connector options.

The Open-Q 835 board is further equipped with an HDMI 2.0 output for 4K Ultra HD H.264/H.265 (60fps) and a 4-lane MIPI-DSI connector. The latter connects to an optional AMOLED LCD panel with WQHD (1440 x 2560) resolution.

There are three 4-lane MIPI-CSI interfaces that exploit the Snapdragon 835’s dual Spectra 180 ISPs to support 4K Ultra HD H.264/H.265 capture at 30fps. The interfaces support a single 32-megapixel camera or dual 16-megapixel models. Optional camera software includes Qualcomm Clear Sight, hybrid autofocus, optical zoom, and face detection. An optional camera test board provides dual rear cameras and a single front camera.

The board also provides an ANC audio headset jack and audio I/O headers that tap Qualcomm’s WCD9341 codec. Optional audio features include Qualcomm Fluence HD with Noise Cancellation and 24-bit/192kHz Dolby 5.1 support.

The Open-Q 835 is further equipped with a microSD 3.0 UHS-1 slot and USB 3.1 Type-C and micro-USB UART ports, There are also I2S, SPI, GPIO, and sensor headers. A 12V/3A input, wall adapter, and PMIC are standard, and a 3200mAh Li-Ion battery is optional.

 
Snapdragon 835

The Snapdragon 835 (APQ8098) SoC is built on 10nm FinFET technology, which helps it to reduce its package size by up to 35 percent over the Snapdragon 820 and reduce power usage by up to 25 percent, according to Qualcomm. The size reduction can further improve battery life in smartphones by giving manufacturers more room for larger, more powerful batteries.



Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 simplified block diagram (left) and Snapdragon 835-based Essential Phone
(click images to enlarge)

The 64-bit, ARMv8 SoC comprises two quad-core banks of Kryo CPU cores. The higher-end cores can operate at up to 2.45GHz, according to Qualcomm, and up to 2.3GHz on the Open-Q 835 when run alone, and they operate at up to 2.2GHz when working with the other cores. There are also four 1.9GHz low-power Kryo cores.

According to a Mar. 22 analysis from ArsTechnica, based on some early benchmarks it ran at Qualcomm’s headquarters, the cores actually have relatively little in common with the Kryo cores found on the Snapdragon 820, which were home-grown designs like its earlier Krait cores. Instead, the new 10nm Kryo cores are Cortex-A73 variants developed by ARM according to Qualcomm’s specifications. This “Built on ARM Cortex Technology” licensing enables relately limited customization, said ArsTechnica. The arrangement differs from that used with the Snapdragon 810 and 808, in which Qualcomm directly licensed stock ARM Cortex-A57 and -A53 cores.

ArsTechnica’s benchmarks showed surprisingly mixed results compared to the Snapdragon 820, with much strong integer performance, but 23 percent lower floating point results. In general, the benchmarks showed regressions in image processing performance. The story pointed out, however, that the benchmarks did not reflect the performance of the improved co-processors. Nor did they measure the greatly improved power efficiency.

The Snapdragon 835 integrates a new Adreno 540 GPU, which Qualcomm claims delivers up to 25 percent faster graphics rendering compared to the Adreno 530. The GPU supports 360-degree immersive cameras, one of which is offered as an option on the Essential Phone.

Other new features include an improved Hexagon 682 DSP, dual 14-bit Spectra 180 ISPs, and a Qualcomm Aqstic audio codec. The SoC offers built-in support for WiFi-ac and -ad, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, and high-end, Cat 16 uplink enabled X16 LTE.

Next up for Qualcomm is a Snapdragon 845 due 1Q 2018. The SoC is expected to combine four Cortex-A53 cores with a pair of cores that use the newly announced Cortex-A75 design. The 10nm-fabricated Snapdragon 845 is also rumored to include an Adreno 630 GPU and Snapdragon X20 LTE modem.

 
Further information

The early-adopter version of the Open-Q 835 board is available for $1,149. More information can be found on Intrinsyc’s Open-Q 835 product page.
 

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