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Thursday, 13 August 2015 15:03

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820 runs at ‘ludicrous speed’ and uses less power


Just when flagship model smartphones are using Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 808 and 810 systems on a chip comes an announcement that the next version 820 runs 40% faster and uses less power. Damn you Moore's Law.

Qualcomm says its driving force is to allow smartphones to do more using less. Better cameras (digital signal processing); 4K or higher displays; security; cognitive technology; contextual awareness; computer vision (image signal processing), machine learning; and cloud connectivity take increasing amounts of horsepower – the need to redefine the future of mobile.

These are the same forces that drive Samsung with its Exynos and Apple with its A series processors - how fast and how long it will last.

Codenamed Kryo this is going to be exclusive to Snapdragon chips – no other of the many ARM foundries will be able to product an 820 like chip. This may lead to a fork for Android – those using Qualcomm and those not. For example, Kryo has Zeroth – a new cognitive computing platform.

This could enable Qualcomm to capture the entire premium end of the smartphone market (excluding Apple) and show that not all ARM processors are the same.

The new 820 will have an Adreno 530 graphic processor unit – allegedly delivering 40% more power than the 810 and ‘heaps’ faster than Samsung’s Exynos SOC found in the Galaxy S6. Of course, by the time the 820 reaches commercial production in early 2016 Samsung may have something up its sleeve.

It also includes the 14-bit Spectra image signal processor (ISP) – DSLR quality that will be able to support 3 simultaneous cameras at up to 25MP and at 30fps with no shutter lag as well as stereoscopic depth maps (using two cameras) and VR.

Power saving probably comes from the move from 20nm to 14nm dies and the advent of new 3D stacked Flash memory that offers twice the capacity in a smaller, lower power consumption chip.

What is good is that all this technology finds its way down into mid-range smartphones via Qualcomm's 4XX and 6XX series range refreshes. The future looks good - until the 830 comes along and blows the 820 out of the water!

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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