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New Qualcomm Snapdragons target wearables and more

Feb 11, 2016 — by Eric Brown 1,578 views

Qualcomm unveiled a Snapdragon Wear 2100 chip for wearables, plus a 14nm octacore Snapdragon 625, and 28nm Snapdragon 435 and 425 SoCs.

Only a few years ago, announcements of new Qualcomm Snapdragon announcements were somewhat tangential to embedded Linux and Android developers. Increasingly, however, Snapdragons are appearing on embedded SBCs and COMs and finding their way to devices beyond smartphones.

The new quad-core, Cortex-A7 based “Snapdragon Wear 2100,” which promises 25 percent longer battery life than the Snapdragon 400, is aimed primarily at Android Wear watches. The other new Snapdragons are 64-bit with Cortex-A53 cores: the 14nm fabricated octa-core Snapdragon 625, and its 28nm siblings, the octa-core 435 and quad-core 425.


The new Snapdragons may be directed primarily at Android smartphones due in late 2016, but with their much lower power consumption and improved imaging, they are also likely to end up in embedded gear as well. No OS support was listed for the smartphone chips, but we feel confident Linux will be supported along with Android and other platforms.

First we’ll take a look at the Snapdragon Wear 2100, followed by the three new, 64-bit smartphone Snapdragons. Qualcomm also announced a high-end, gigabit-class X16 LTE chip that can handle download speeds of up to 1Gbps, according to the company. The 14nm modem chip, which is not available on any the new Snapdragon SoCs, should arrive later in 2016.

Snapdragon Wear 2100 

As the name suggests, the Snapdragon Wear 2100 is the next-generation processor for Android Wear watches. No fab process was listed for the quad-core, Cortex-A7 SoC, which can be clocked from 800MHz to 1.2GHz.

Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear smartwatch concept
(click image to enlarge)

The Snapdragon 2100 is claimed to be 30 percent smaller (10 x 10mm ePoP) and use 25 percent less power than “previous-generation wearable processors.” This presumably refers to the dual-core, 1.2GHz Snapdragon 400. Unlike the 400, the 2100 is specifically designed for wearables, and offers optional, low-power LTE built in. In addition to watches, it supports devices such as kid and elder trackers, sports watches, connected headsets, and smart eyewear.

The processor will enable sleeker wearables with longer battery life and smarter sensors, claims Qualcomm. When smartwatches start appearing in late 2016, users will be able to “stream music, answer calls, send messages, and much, much more, all directly via their wearable,” says Qualcomm.

The Snapdragon 2100 is available in both tethered and connected versions. The tethered version offers 2.4GHz, 802.11n WiFi and Bluetooth 4.1/BLE, while the connected version adds either a 3G or an X5 LTE 4G modem.

4G LTE was only recently fully supported by Android Wear, appearing first in the recent LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition LTE smartwatch. According to VentureBeat, LG will be one of the first vendors to try out the new chip. The story also notes a Qualcomm claim that its processors are used in “65 wearables in 30 countries, with 50 more expected to launch later this year.”

The Snapdragon 2100 supports displays with 640 x 480 pixels @ 60fps. This is far beyond the highest existing Android Wear displays, which top out at 400 x 400 for the 1.4-inch Huawei Watch, and more typically have 360 or 320 pixels.

The processor is further equipped with an Adreno 304 GPU with OpenGL 3.0, plus Fluence audio and an integrated DSP with modem, GNSS, sensor, keyword, and audio processing. The DSP drives a low power sensor hub said to use 80 percent less power than the Snapdragon 400. Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0 and IZat Gen8C location technology are also available.

Qualcomm’s new wearables SoC supports 400MHz LPDDR3 RAM, eMMC 4.5 flash, USB 2.0, and NFC. Snapdragon Voice+ and Voice Activation firmware is included, and Android is supported in addition to Android Wear. The chip is part of the Snapdragon Wear family of hardware and software.

Snapdragon 625, 435, and 425

Like Qualcomm’s high-end Snapdragon 820, the Snapdragon 625 was fabricated at 14nm, essentially the same process used by the latest Intel 6th Gen Core (“Skylake”) and Atom x5/x7 (“Cherry Trail”) chips. While the 820 is a quad-core SoC, but uses faster Cortex-A72-like home grown Kyro cores, the 625 moves to eight Cortex-A53 cores clocked to 2.0GHz+. It also offers the latest, power-efficient Qualcomm X9 LTE modem, with Category 7 maximums of 300Mbps down and 150Mbps up.

Snapdragon 425/430/625 function diagram
(click image to enlarge)

The Snapdragon 625 is claimed to offer 35 percent lower power consumption than the Snapdragon 617. Announced in September, the octa-core, Cortex-A53 Snapdragon 617, like the earlier quad-core 616, are heirs to the Snapdragon 600.

Higher-end Snapdragon 600 family SoCs include the Snapdragon 650, with dual Cortex-A72 and four Cortex-A53 cores, and the similar, octacore Snapdragon 652, which adds two more A72 cores. Unlike the 625, all of these 600-family SoCs are 28nm.

The new Snapdragon 625 is software-, but not pin-compatible with the new 435 and 425 models. The Snapdragon 435 is essentially the same as the Snapdragon 430, which was announced in September with the Snapdragon 617, but with the LTE modem upgraded from X6 to a Category 7 level X8. As seen in the specs below, however, this X8 has a download that tops out at 100Mbps instead of 150Mbps for the X9 modem on the Snapdragon 625.

Like the Snapdragon 435 and 430 models, the new Snapdragon 425 is a 28nm SoC. The 425 is the new entry level model for the 400 line. Compared to the Snapdragon 410 and 412, it supplies a faster X6 LTE modem, and improved, dual-ISP imaging. It also offers “longer battery life by adding a dedicated Hexagon DSP for both multimedia and sensor processing,” claims Qualcomm.

Common features on the Snapdragon 625, 435, and 425 include:

  • Hexagon DSP
  • 802.11ac with MU-MIMO, Bluetooth 4.1/BLE
  • Qualcomm RF360 front-end
  • IZat Gen8C location
  • Fluence HD audio
  • Qualcomm Haven security
  • Support for eMMC 5.1 and NFC

Snapdragon 625, 435, and 425 features that differ include:

  • Snapdragon 625:
    • 14nm fab, 8x 2.0+GHz Cortex-A53
    • Adreno 506 GPU (OpenGL ES 3.1+)
    • 2x 24mp ISPs, 4K capture
    • X9 LTE (Cat. 7, up to 300/150Mbps)
    • Quick Charge 3.0
    • Support for LPDDR3 933MHz, SD 3.0 SDCC, and USB 3.0
  • Snapdragon 435:
    • 28nm fab, 8x up to 1.4GHz Cortex-A53
    • Adreno 505 GPU (OpenGL ES 3.1+)
    • 2x 21mp ISPs, HD capture
    • X8 LTE (Cat. 7, up to 300/100Mbps)
    • Quick Charge 3.0
    • Support for LPDDR3 800MHz, SD 3.0 UHS-I, and USB 2.0
  • Snapdragon 425:
    • 28nm fab, 4x up to 1.4GHz Cortex-A53
    • Adreno 308 GPU (OpenGL ES 3.0)
    • 2x 16mp ISPs, HD capture
    • X6 LTE (Cat. 4, up to 150/75Mbps)
    • Quick Charge 2.0
    • Support for LPDDR3 667MHz and USB 2.0

Further information

All four new Snapdragon chips are expected to ship in products in the second half of 2016. More information on the Snapdragon Wear 2100 may be found here, and more on the Snapdragon 625, 435, and 425 may be found here.

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