Qualcomm Unleashes Snapdragon 820 With Adreno 530 Graphics, Better Performance, Lower Power For Mobile Devices

Get ready for the next generation of mobile. So says Qualcomm, a formidable force in the mobile sector with its Snapdragon silicon, and today the company held an event in New York City to demonstrate for the first time its highly anticipated Snapdragon 820 System-on-Chip (SoC). More than just a speed bump and refresh of the Snapdragon 810, Qualcomm says it designed the Snapdragon 820 "from the ground up to be unlike anything else."

Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 SoC

Behind the marketing hyperbole is an SoC with a custom 64-bit quad-core Kyro processor clocked at up to 2.2GHz. Qualcomm says it delivers up to twice the performance and twice the power efficiency of its predecessor. In fact, Qualcomm officials have quoted 2x the performance of their previous gen Snapdragon 810 in single threaded throughput alone, which is a sizable gain. 

Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 Power Efficiency

Efficiency is really a key point here -- according to Qualcomm, the improvements it made to the underlying architecture translate into nearly a third (30 percent) less power consumption. That should help the Snapdragon 820 steer clear of overheating concerns, which is something the 810 wasn't able to do.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 Core

The Snapdragon 820 also features an Adreno 530 GPU. Qualcomm's talked about its flagship GPU before, claiming that it offers a 40 percent improvement in performance over the Adreno 430 wielded by the Snapdragon 810. It also has a smaller power footprint (40 percent reduction),  supports up to OpenGL ES 3.1+, and can drive 4K Ultra HD displays.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 Photorealistic

These are impressive pieces in their own right, but when working in tandem, the Snapdragon 820 is able to generate photorealistic video graphics and images like the one shown above.

"When combined, these two processors are designed to create amazingly realistic images that challenge people’s ability to tell the difference between a photo and a rendered image," Qualcomm says.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 VR

Tying into that is the Snapdragon 820's ability to deliver immersive experiences like the ones being developed by players in the virtual reality (VR) field. The CPU and GPU are both up to the task of driving VR applications and devices, which are likely to bombard the market in 2016, but it's not just about graphical eye candy and raw horsepower.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 Audio

"Let’s be honest, without sound, all the pretty pixels in the world would make VR about as immersive as a silent movie. The only way to believe a flying droid or a possessed doll is sneaking up behind you is for you to hear them approaching from behind. That 360 degree audio experience is the magic of spatial audio running on Snapdragon 820," Qualcomm explains.

One of the keys to an immersive audio experience is the Snapdragon 820's Hexagon 680 DSP (digital signal processor). Audio chores can be offloaded to the DSP, which not only lessens the load on the CPU and improves battery life, it also allows for some fancy effects to level up the immersion factor of VR applications.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 Wi-Fi and LTE

There are reasons beyond VR to be excited about the Snapdragon 820. One of them is the newly integrated X12 LTE modem. On compatible networks, the Snapdragon 820 becomes the first commercially available processor to support LTE Category 12 download speeds of up to 600Mbps, which is a full 33 percent faster than the peak download speeds of the X10 LTE modem in the Snapdragon 810.

It also supports LTE Category 13 uplink speeds of up to 150Mbps, which is triple that of the X10 LTE and should make things like uploading video and high-resolution photos to social networks a more pleasurable experience.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 X12 LTE and Wi-Fi

On the Wi-Fi side of the wireless equation, the Snapdragon 820 ups the ante with 802.11ac MU-MIMO and next-generation 802.11ad. The latter paves the way for multi-gigabit transfers over Wi-Fi, such as 4K video streaming and large file transfers.

Finally, let's take a moment to talk about camera performance. After all, the smartphone has largely replaced the dedicated point-n-shoot (though not the DSLR...yet) for things like selifes, food pictures, and everything else we see fit to post to Facebook and Twitter.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 Photo

The Snapdragon 820 includes a brand new Spectra camera ISP (imaging signal processor). It's a dual-ISP and Qualcomm's most advanced one to date with support for the latest 14-bit sensors and up to three simultaneous cameras. Why three? Think of a smartphone with a front-facing camera and two rear lenses for depth-of-field photography.

Qualcomm says you can expect a wider range of colors with more natural skin tones and better low light performance. Improvements are across the board, with things like a flexible hybrid autofocus framework and multi-sensor fusion algorithms for next generation computational photography, along with support for up to 25 megapixels at 30 frames per second with zero shutter lag.

The company notes devices with the new Snapdragon 820 will be shipping in the first half of 2016.