Qualcomm Launches Snapdragon 835 SoC Packing Adreno 540 VR-Ready Muscle And X16 Gigabit LTE

Snapdragon 820 835 penny
When it comes to smartphone SoCs, time doesn’t stand still. Around this time last year, the talk of the town was the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor. Half a year later, Qualcomm launched a slightly higher-clocked successor, the Snapdragon 821. Today, Qualcomm is dishing out a plethora of details on its next generation Snapdragon 835 SoC which will likely power a broad range of 2017 flagship Android smartphones.

Qualcomm first alerted us to the existence of the Snapdragon 835 last month, and heralded that this would be its first 10nm chip for smartphones and tablet. We’re now learning that the Snapdragon 835 contains over 3 billion transistors, a new Adreno 540 GPU, and features more efficient Kryo 280 cores. The SoC also incorporates Qualcomm’s Snapdragon x16 LTE, the world’s first gigabit-class modem.

Keith Kressin Ben Suh Samsung

When it comes to efficiency, the Snapdragon 835 has a 35 percent smaller package size than the Snapdragon 820/821, thanks the use of a second generation FinFET manufacturing process, while consuming 25 percent less power. Although many may have forgotten the Snapdragon 801 from many moons ago (February 2014 to be exact), Qualcomm says that the power consumption is cut in half compared to that SoC. Translating that power efficiency to the real world, Qualcomm says that that the Snapdragon 835 will enable smartphones to deliver over a day of talk time, over 5 days of music playback, over 11 hours of 4K video playback, over 7 hours of 4K streaming, or over 2 hours of VR gaming (at peak performance levels).

The Snapdragon 835 of course is built using ARM Cortex architecture, but is a semi-custom design. Qualcomm had included dedicated busses to increase system coherence and has tweaked buffer sizes for improved performance and efficiency. The Kyro 280 cores (of which the Snapdragon 835 has four) can be clocked up to 2.45GHz and include 2MB of L2 cache. Performance wise, the new SoC offers a 20 percent uplift over the Snapdragon 820.

Those four high-performance Kyro 280 cores are joined by four “efficiency” cores that can clock up to 1.8GHz (and include 1MB L2 cache). Qualcomm is projecting that in typical usage scenarios, devices will spend roughly 80 percent of their time using these efficiency cores.

qualcomm heterogenous

Qualcomm is also talking a lot about immersion with its new SoC, and is doing so by improving visuals, interactions with virtual environments, and enhancing audio capabilities. The Snapdragon 835 offers 25 percent faster rendering speeds (that’s where Adreno 540 GPU comes into play), while the move from 8-bit to wide color gamut 10-bit displays improves the number of available colors by up to 60x. The chip is HDR10/4K ready, which means that it gains Ultra HD Premium-ready certification. You’ll also find foveated rendering (to improve VR performance) and Q-SYNC which refreshes the display at the same FPS as the GPU for a “smooth and jank-free” experience. In other words, this is the mobile equivalent of NVIDIA G-SYNC and AMD FreeSync/FreeSync 2. Photon latency has also been reduced to 15ms.

On the audio front, the Snapdragon 835 has support for object and scene-based audio, audiophile-grade DSD (direct stream digital) audio and Crystal Clear Voice using the Aqstic engine.

qualcomm camera

When it comes to image capture, the Spectra 180 features two separate ISPs, one which can interface with a wide-angle lens and one that can accommodate a telephoto lens. EIS3.0 brings improved video stabilization with gyro-based pitch, yaw and roll correction along with enhanced rolling shutter correction.

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The Snapdragon x16 LTE modem provides the foundation for carrier gigabit LTE and carrier aggregation. It incorporates 4x4 MIMO which provides double the throughput of 2x2 MIMO along with Downlink 256-QAM, which offers up to 33 percent faster throughput compared to 64-QAM. The integrated Wi-Fi module, which include 2x2 802.11ac with MU-MIMO and 802.11ad Multi-gigabit Wi-Fi support, is 50 percent smaller than its predecessor while offering up to a 60 percent reduction in power consumption.

qualcomm always aware

On the security front, the Haven Security Platform offers eye- and face-based secure camera authentication, voice print verification, along with enhanced authentication (user verification) and attestation (device authentication).

qualcomm haven

“Our new flagship Snapdragon processor is designed to meet the demanding requirements of mobile virtual reality and ubiquitous connectivity while supporting a variety of thin and light mobile designs,” said Cristiano Amon, executive vice president, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., and president, QCT. “The Snapdragon 835 has an unprecedented level of technology integration that supports superior battery life, improved multimedia, and exceptional photography with gigabit class speeds for fast, immersive experiences.”

Products using Snapdragon 835 will begin shipping during the first half of 2017. It should be noted that the Snapdragon 835 will likely be used in a slew of new products later this year (notebooks, smartphones, and tablets), as Microsoft recently announced that Window 10 can now natively run on Snapdragon processors.