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Android 6.0 development kits tap new Snapdragon 820

Dec 15, 2015 — by Eric Brown 5,704 views

Intrinsyc has launched three Android 6.0 dev kits — phone, tablet, and board — for Qualcomm’s 14nm Snapdragon 820, with four Cortex-A72-like cores.

Qualcomm announced its Snapdragon 820 system-on-chip in November with a promise that more than 60 phones and tablets will ship with it in 2016. This quad-core, Cortex-A72 like design with cutting edge 14nm fabrication process will also be available for high-end embedded devices ranging from automotive computers to robots to computer vision devices. Just as it did last year with its development kits for the Snapdraqon 810, Intrinsyc Technologies is offering Mobile Development Platforms (MDP) for Qualcomm’s latest SoC in tablet and smartphone form factors, as well as a board-level kit called the Open-Q 820.

Open-Q 820 Development Kit with optional touchscreen
(click image to enlarge)

All three kits ship with the latest Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) distribution announced in October. The Open-Q 820 kit is built around an 82 x 42mm, SODIMM-style computer-on-module (shown below), which integrates the Snapdragon 820 SoC (see farther below), along with RAM, flash, microSD socket, wireless radios, and various other core components.

The Open-Q 820 kit’s SODIMM-style computer-on-module
(click image to enlarge)

The kit is currently available only in limited supplies for qualified customers, but we imagine that will open up in the coming weeks and months. Presumably, the kit’s Snapdragon 820-based COM will be offered as an OEM component for incorporation into various mobile and embedded applications, as is the case with the same-sized, Snapdragon 810-based Open-Q 8094 SOM.

Inside the Snapdragon 820


With the Snapdragon 820, Qualcomm is hoping to rebound from the somewhat troubled Snapdragon 810. The 810 suffered from overheating, forcing phone manufacturers to throttle down the speed. Qualcomm released a revision that reduced the problem, but many vendors had already moved on.

While the Snapdragon 810 is an octa-core SoC, with four Cortex-A57 and four Cortex-A53 cores, the Snapdragon 820 is a quad-core SoC. It’s a much faster, more power efficient architecture, however.

Instead of using a licensed ARM CPU design, this one is based on homegrown cores, such as the Qualcomm-designed Krait cores of many previous Snapdragons. In this case, the Kyro cores roughly mimic the 64-bit, ARMv8 Cortex-A72 design, and are fabricated with a cutting-edge 14nm FinFET process, compared to 20nm for the 810.

The Kryo CPU block offers up to twice performance and twice the power efficiency of the Cortex-A57 based Snapdragon 810, claims Qualcomm. Two of the cores are clocked at 2.2GHz, while the other two are clocked to 1.6GHz. Preliminary reports suggest that the 810’s thermal problems have been solved here, possibly in part by settling on a quad- rather than an octa-core design.

AnandTech benchmarks released on Dec. 10 using Intrinsyc’s new smartphone MDP do not show a doubling of performance. However, they do reveal impressive gains, suggesting the 820 trails only the Apple A8 on the iPhone 6S.

The Snapdragon 820 also includes upgrades to Qualcomm’s 624MHz Adreno GPU and other Qualcomm media coprocessors. The new Adreno 530 GPU delivers up to 40 percent improvement in graphics over the previous Adreno 430, claims Qualcomm. (AnandTech found a still impressive 30 percent improvement.)

There’s also an upgraded Hexagon 680 DSP and a new 14-bit Spectra image signal processor (ISP), which can capture images at up to 25 megapixels with zero shutter lag. The Spectra ISP supports “superior DSLR-quality photography and enhanced computer vision,” says Intrinsyc.

The Snapdragon 820 is available with a more advanced Qualcomm X12 LTE chip that supports faster Cat 12/13 speeds of up to 600Mbps down and 150Mbps up. Peak downloads are claimed to be 33 percent faster than the 810’s X10 LTE chip, and peak upload speeds are tripled. The 820 is also claimed to be the first commercial mobile SoC to support LTE-U, enabling access to LTE connections in unlicensed, as well as licensed spectrum. Intrinsyc does not appear to support the X12 in its kits, however.

The Snapdragon 820 supports a faster Qualcomm VIVE 802.11ac WiFi chip with Qualcomm 2×2 MU-MIMO technology. It also supports the even faster, tri-band, multi-gigabit 802.11ad (WiGig). Intrinsyc supports the latter only on the tablet MDP.

Inside the new Intrinsyc kits

Intrinsyc’s smartphone form-factor MDP has a 6.2-inch quad HD display with 490 pixels per inch. The tablet MDP has a 10.1-inch Ultra HD 4K (3840 × 2160) multi-touch display.

The MDPs, as well as the Open-Q 820 Development Kit, feature Qualcomm Atheros products including VIVE 802.11ac with Qualcomm 2×2 MU-MIMO, Bluetooth 4.1, and IZat location services. As noted, the tablet also offers 802.11ad WiFi. All three kits pre-install Android 6.0 along with the Trepn Profiler power and performance profiling software for resolving performance bottlenecks.

Open-Q 820 with optional touchscreen (left), and kit details
(click images to enlarge)

Intrinsyc offers only limited details on the still unavailable phone and tablet MDPs, but provides full specs for the new Open-Q 820 Development Kit. The 12V DC-powered board has Mini-ITX dimensions of 170 x 170mm and, as previously mentioned, integrates a COM that does not yet appear to be available separately.

Optional MDP-820 smartphone (left) and tablet displays
(click images to enlarge)

The Open-Q kit lacks the new LTE chips or 802.11ad WiFi, but offers a number of other cutting edge components. These start with 3GB of LPDDR4 RAM and 32GB of UFS (Universal Flash Storage) 2.0, the faster follow-on to eMMC. Intrinsyc doesn’t say what brand chip it is using, but Samsung’s UFS 2.0 chips are claimed to provide about three times faster random read speed than eMMC 5.1, while consuming 10 percent less energy than eMMC in active mode.

The Open-Q 820 is further equipped with a microSD slot. In our spec list below we do not include the dual SATA connections noted in the announcement, which are missing from the datasheet. (It’s possible that those signals are provided on the currently undocumented COM, but are not supported on the kit’s baseboard.)

Optional Open-Q 820
camera module

For displays, you get an HDMI port and dual MIPI-DSI ports for up to 4K @ 60fps video. A 4.5-inch touchscreen is optional. There’s also an option for a 13.5-megaixel camera module that hooks into one of the three MIPI-CSI interfaces.

In addition to the above noted wireless features, the board provides four USB ports, 8-bit DIO, and PCIe and mini-PCIe expansion. Audio input and output headers are provided along with the 3.5mm ANC audio jack. The audio codec supports 24bit/192kHz FLAC playback and 3D positional audio, among other features.

Specifications listed for the Open-Q 820 Development Kit include:

  • Processor:
    • Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 (4x 64-bit, 14nm Kryo cores with 2x at 2.2GHz, 2x @ 1.6GHz)
    • 624MHz Adreno 530 GPU
    • Hexagon 680 DSP
    • 14-bit Spectra ISP
  • Memory:
    • 3GB LPDDR4 RAM
    • 32GB UFS 2.0 Flash 1-lane, gear 3
    • MicroSD slot
  • Wireless:
    • 802.11n/ac (Qualcomm 2.4GHz/5GHz 2×2 MU-MIMO)
    • Bluetooth 3.0/4.1
    • Qualcomm IZat Gen 8C GNSS (GPS and GLONASS)
  • Display/multimedia:
    • HDMI out
    • 2x MIPI-DSI 4-lane 60fps, at up to 2560 x 1600 (single port), 4096 x 2160 (dual)
    • Optional 4.5-inch FWVGA touchscreen
    • 3x MIPI-CSI, 4-lane, dual ISP, up to 25-megapixels with support for 3D cameras
    • Optional 13.5-megapixel camera module
    • 3.5mm ANC audio jack
    • 20-pin audio input header (3x analog in, 3x digital in)
    • 20-pin audio output header (5x analog out, 1x digital out)
  • Other I/O:
    • Micro-USB 3.0 host
    • 2x USB 2.0 host
    • Micro-USB 2.0 OTG
    • 8x DIO (4-pin port configurable as I2C, SPI, UART, or GPIO)
  • Expansion — PCIe x1 v2.1; mini-PCIe v1.2
  • Power — 12V input
  • Dimension — 170 x 170mm (COM is 82 x 42mm)
  • Operating system – Android 6.0 (Marshmallow)

Further information

The Open-Q 820 Development Kit is available for $599, but for now is available only as special limited early adopter version for qualified customers, with shipments due by Dec. 31. Documentation is limited, and not all features are currently supported, says Intrinsyc. The phone (pricing unavailable) and tablet ($999) MDPs are listed as coming soon. More information may be found at Intrinsyc’s product pages for the Open-Q 820 Development Kit, the Smartphone MDP-820 and Tablet MDP-820.

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