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New chip stacking tech and a 20 nm process will accompany Qualcomm's Snapdragon 205, 410, 610, 615, 805, 808, and 810

A Chinese microblogger, panjiutang, posted on the Chinese-language microblogging platform Weibo pictures of what appears to be a leaked Qualcomm Inc. (QCOM) roadmap.  If accurate the roadmap, which runs Q2 2014 through Q2 2015, suggests that the top mobile chipmaker's 64-bit Snapdragon chips are hitting mass production shortly and may be ready for launch in devices sometime around the end of the year.
 
I. Qualcomm's 64-Bit Beachhead
 
As of Q1 2014 Qualcomm controlled roughly two-thirds of the cellular baseband processor market and roughly half of the mobile applications processor market as of the end of 2013 [source: Strategy Analytics].
 
If there's a clear threat to Qualcomm's hegemony it's the ambitious in-house efforts of Apple, Inc. (AAPL) and Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (KRX:005930) (KRX:005935), the world's second and first place smartphone sellers, respectively.  Apple beat Qualcomm to the 64-bit punch, launching the first mass market mobile SoC (the iPhone 5S's Apple A7 SoC) late last year.  In Oct. 2013 Samsung pledged to have 64-bit chips of its own shortly.
 
Qualcomm's chief market officer and SVP Anand Chandrasekher initially responded by blasting this trend.  But the rest of Qualcomm's executive staff quickly decided this was a dangerous mistake and demoted Mr. Chandrasekher, "clarifying" that 64-bit Snapdragon chips were on the roadmap.  The switch to 64-bit confers a number of advantages, including faster native processing of high bit-width (64-bit or 128-bit) image data and improved memory access.  

ARM Cortex A53

A pair of 32-bit registers and accompanying ALUs can do the same work as a larger 64-bit register, but in many cases operating in native precision improves power efficiency and speed of operations.  It also reduces circuit complexity in the processing pipeline as you now are dealing with a single monolithic native precision ALU/register duo, versus a pair of high/low registers and accompanying ALUs.
 
For these reasons ARM Holdings plc (LON:ARM) has pushed Qualcomm and other partners to embrace 64-bit, incentivizing it further by applying it to the new ARMv8 and ARMv8-A instruction sets, which pack new functionality and more registers for faster mobile processing.
 
In Dec. 2013 Qualcomm previewed the upcoming 64-bit Snapdragon 410 chips, and in Feb. 2014 Qualcomm announced the upcoming availability of 64-bit Snapdragon 610 chips, as well.  Notably, both upcoming chips used licensed ARM Cortex-A53 cores, for now shelving the proprietary ARM instruction set architecture (ISA) "Krait" cores found in the Snapdragon 200/400/600/800 line

Qualcomm roadmap
Allegedly this is Qualcomm's Q2 2014 through Q2 2015 roadmap (click to enlarge).
[Image Source: panjiutang on Weibo]

The leaked roadmap (slide 1 of 2 is above) indicates the timeline for sampling, along with some new technical details of Qualcomm's upcoming lineup, which is largely comprised of 64-bit product.
 
II. Qualcomm's 64-Bit Beachhead
 
According to the leaked roadmap, the Snapdragon 410 will likely be the first 64-bit chip to ship in devices, having begun sampling at the end of Q2.
 

Qualcomm 64-bit

Here's the info on the chip:
  • Snapdragon 410 MSM8916 (28 nm LP process)
    • Basics
      • 28 nm LP process
      • Likely Qualcomm's first 64-bit chip to ship in product to consumers.
    • CPU
      • 4x Cortex-A53 cores (licensed)
      • Max: 1.2 GHz
      • Avg.: 800-1190 MHz [source]
    • GPU
      • Adreno 306 @ 400 MHz
    • Memory
    • Baseband
      • LTE Cat4 on-die
      • HSPA+
      • TD-SCDMA
    • Image Signal Processor
      • Support for up to 13 megapixel cameras
      • HD video (720p; 1,280 x 720 pixels) @ 60 fps
      • FHD video (1080p; 1,920 x 1,080 pixels) @ 30 fps
    • Other
This chip has thus far been confirmed or rumored to be in at least two upcoming devices, both from China: the A805e from the Lenovo Group, Ltd. (HKG:0992) and the G621 by Huawei Technology Comp., Ltd. (SHE:002502).  Both devices were leaked in June and rumored for July launches, but have yet to launch.  Expect them closer to the holiday season.  

Based on recent leaks, the Samsung's 6-inch Galaxy Mega 2 smartphone/phablet tweener is expected to come in two varieties, one of which has the 64-bit Snapdragon 410 onboard.  (The other variant packs a M7450 baseband processor from Sweden's Ericsson AB (STO:ERIC.AERIC.B) and a Pega Pro SoC from an unknown chipmaker.)

Samsung Galaxy Mega 2
The upcoming  Samsung Galaxy Mega 2 is rumored to be one of the first devices to use Qualcomm's Snapdragon 410.  An alternate version packing a Pega SoC is pictured. [Image Source: GSM Arena]

Moving up to the high end, the roadmap shows the Snapdragon 805 APQ8084, as well as the Gobi MDM 9x25 and 9x35 global modems, all built on a 28 nm HPm process.  The APQ8084 is the first available chip in the Snapdragon 805 SKU; it was announced in Nov. 2013.  Onboard is a quartet of Krait 450 cores clocked at up to 2.7 GHz.  Also inside is an Adreno 420 GPU, running at 600 MHz.
 
The new Snapdragon 805 chip will be phasing out the Snapdragon 801 as Qualcomm's new high-end model.  The Snapdragon 801 topped out at around 2.45 GHz, packed older Krait 400 cores, and had a slower Adreno 330 GPU, clocked at around 575 GHz.
 
So far Samsung has been gobbling up most of the stock of Snapdragon 805 chips.  The Korea-only Galaxy S5 LTE-A has an APQ8084 chip onboard.  Samsung will give the international market its first taste of the new chip with the launch of the Galaxy Note 4 early next month.
 
II. Nanoscale Packaging, Gobi "Fusion" and the Snapdragon 805
 
One interesting tidbit revealed by the leak is that the APQ8064 is Qualcomm latest chip to implement its so-called "nanoscale package" or NSP technology.  More commonly known as a land grid array (LGA) format or an "internal stacked module" (ISM), the NSP involves stacking a bare chip -- in this case, the CPU/GPU/baseband/ISP/etc. Snapdragon SoC, directly on top of a second prepackaged chip, typically memory.'
 
The combined SoC + LPDDR3 module is packed into a flip-chip ball grid array (FBGA) package assembly, which traditionally used 0.4 mm pitch solder balls.

Qualcomm NSP
Qualcomm Xray
Qualcomm's NSP chip-stacking technology is seen here in a Snapdragon S4 chip analyzed optically (top) and with x-rays (bottom). [Image Source: Chipworks]

This 3D chip packing technology took a while to perfect, but should cut the size of smartphone circuit boards, marginally improve power efficiency, and possibly slightly nudge performance upwards, as well.  Qualcomm first tested it with 512 Mbit (64 MB) DDR2 SDRAM internally mounted in selected Snapdragon S1 through Snapdragon S4 chips (namely, the S1 QSD8650 and the S4 MSM8660).  The S1 Snapdragons also used the NSP technology to attach the digital signal processor (DSP) (aka, the baseband modem), which was eventually incorporated into the die.
Qualcomm NSP
The original Snapdragon used the NSP approach for many of its coprocessors, which were not on-die at the time. [Image Source: Chipworks]

One possibility is that Qualcomm is using the stacking tech to bundle a dedicated memory chip for the onboard Adreno GPU.  That memory cache may also be shared with the SoC's hardware video decode units and image signal processors.  Another possibility is that the stacking is being used to include a more advanced baseband processor that's too large to currently put on-die.

A second slide indicates that Qualcomm will be marketing the APQ8064-Gobi MDM 9x25 duo as "Fusion 4" and the APQ8064-Gobi MDM 9x35 pairing as "Fusion 4.5".  

Qualcomm roadmap slide 2
This is the second slide of the leaked roadmap. (click to enlarge). [Image Source: panjiutang]

This hints that Qualcomm may also be bundling its Gobi modem as a tested chip inside the package, with the graphics RAM and core SoC.  Hence Fusion may represent a single-package solution that's more advanced than any other SoC-bundled baseband currently available.
 
III. Snapdragon 610, 615, 808, 810, and 205 Await
 
Looking ahead to the fresher details, the roadmap suggests that Qualcomm's Snapdragon 6XX series chips -- the octa-core Snapdragon 615 MSM8939 and the quad-core Snapdragon 610 MSM8936.  Both of these mid-range powerhouses will be 64-bit.  
 
Here's a quick rundown of the roadmap and other known info on them:
  • Snapdragon 610 MSM8936
    • Basics
      • 28 nm LP process
    • CPU
      • ARMv8 instruction set
      • 4x Cortex-A53 cores
      • Max: 1.8 GHz
      • Avg.: 1.5-1.7 GHz
    • GPU
      • Adreno 405 @ ??? MHz
    • Memory
      • Support for 800 MHz LPDDR3
    • Baseband
      • LTE Cat4 on-die
      • HSPA+
      • TD-SCDMA
    • Image Signal Processor
      • h.265 codec hardware decode
      • Support for up to 20+ megapixel cameras
      • FHD video (1080p; 1,920 x 1,080 pixels) @ 60 fps
    • Other
      • GPS / GLONASS / BeiDou
  • Snapdragon 615 MSM8939
    • Basics
      • 28 nm LP process
      • Qualcomm's first octa-core CPU.
    • CPU
      • 4x Cortex-A53 cores @ 1.0 GHz ; 4x Cortex-A53 cores @ 1.8 GHz
      • Higher clocked cores may downclock to 1.5-1.7 GHz
    • GPU (same)
    • Memory (same)
    • Baseband (same)
    • Image Signal Processor (same)
    • Other (same)
The Snapdragon 610 and 615 chips will begin sampling towards the end of Q3 2014, with devices launched early in 2015.

IV. Snapdragon 205, 808, and 810 -- Filling the High and Low End

Expanding on its mid-range 64-bit rollout, at the end of 2014 Qualcomm reportedly will look to start sampling the Snapdragon 810 MSM8994.  Finally, in Q2 it will begin sampling the Snapdragon 808 MSM8992 and the Snapdragon 2XX series chip, the MSM8909.

Some Russian sites have been referring to the MSM8909 as the "Snapdragon 210".  However, this branding seems unlikely as the roadmap explicitly states that this chip uses a quartet of Cortex-A7 (32-bit) cores clocked at 1.1 GHz.  As Qualcomm has previously reserved the Snapdragon X08 and X10 monikers for its first 64-bit model in the track, it's much more likely that this unannounced chip will be branded as the Snapdragon 201 or 205.

The MSM8909 will carry a new (not-yet-announced) Adreno GPU, the Adreno 304, which is likely a slightly freshened version of the Adreno 302, the chip aboard Snapdragon 200 series.  The slide shows a clockspeed of 300 MHz, which is inline with the Adreno 302, which generally ranged from 300-400 MHz.  Another minor tweak is the inclusion of 533 MHz memory support, which greatly bumps the 333 MHz speed limit of the current spec.

Looking at the Snapdragon 808 and 810, we see the high end of the lineup filling in with 64-bit offerings.

Snapdragon 810
[Image Source: Qualcomm via AnandTech]

Looking at the MSM8992 and MSM8994 here's what is mentioned:
  • Snapdragon 808 MSM8992
    • Basics
      • 20 nm HPm process
      • Qualcomm's first hexa-core SoC
    • CPU
      • ARMv8-A instruction set
      • big.LITTLE architecture.
      • 2x Cortex-A57 cores @ 2.0 GHz
      • 4x Cortex-A53 cores @ ?? GHz
    • GPU
      • Adreno 418 @ 540 (?) MHz
    • Memory
      • Support for 933 MHz LPDDR3
    • Baseband
      • LTE Cat6 on-die
      • HSPA+
      • GSM/EDGE/GPRS
      • TD-SCDMA
    • Image Signal Processor + Hexagon DSP
      • 12-bit ISP @ 600 MHz (20% faster than ISP in Snapdragon 805)
      • h.265 codec hardware decode
      • 1.2 Gigapixels/s throughput
      • Support for 4K x 2K pixel video @ 30 fps
      • QHD video (2.5K) video @ 60 fps
    • Other
      • GPS / GLONASS / BeiDou
  • Snapdragon 808 MSM8994
    • Basics
      • 20 nm HPm process
    • CPU
      • ARMv8-A instruction set
      • big.LITTLE architecture.
      • 4x Cortex-A57 cores @ 2.0 GHz
      • 4x Cortex-A53 cores @ ?? GHz
    • GPU
      • Adreno 430 @ 578 MHz
    • Memory
      • Support for 933 MHz LPDDR4
    • Baseband
      • LTE Cat6 on-die
      • HSPA+
      • GSM/EDGE/GPRS
      • TD-SCDMA
    • Image Signal Processor + Hexagon DSP
      • dual ISPs
        • 14-bit
        • 600 MHz (20% faster than ISP in Snapdragon 805)
      • h.265 codec hardware decode and encode
      • 1.2 Gigapixels/s throughput
      • Support for 4K x 2K pixel video @ 30 fps
      • UHD video (4K) video @ 60 fps
    • Other
      • WTR3905/WTR3925 RF companion chips
        • May be mounted in-package via POP
        • Triple-band capable
          • Dual Wi-Fi bands
            • IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
            • IEEE 802.11ad (successor to 802.11ac)
          • 802.15 (WPAN) (Bluetooth overhaul)
      • GPS / GLONASS / BeiDou
      • Enhanced Wilocity wireless charging support

There will be lot of firsts here for Qualcomm -- its first 64-bit big.LITTLE design, its first chips with LPDDR4 support, and its first chips with support for the upcoming new kind of Bluetooth (IEEE 802.15, aka WPAN) (as well as the IEEE 802.11ac successor, IEEE 802.11ad Wi-Fi).
 
V. New Processes -- 20 nm and "POP"
 
Both the Snapdragon 808 and Snapdragon 810 cores are built on a new 20 nm process.  The fab partner is unclear.  Both Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Comp., Ltd. (TPE:2330) (TSMC) and Samsung are believed to be vying for the contract, with other third party fabs also waiting in the wings.  Both TSMC and Samsung are using a gate-last process for 20 nm.
 
Samsung was the first to 20 nm.  It's currently producing Exynos chips and DDR3 memory on its 20 nm HMKG process.  Both its Hwaseong, South Korea Line-16 foundry and its Austin, Texas S2 foundry have been updated to produce 20 nm wafers and are currently ramping up mass production.
 
Mass production of 20 nm LP wafers at Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Comp., Ltd.'s (TPE:2330) (TSMC) Fab 12, 14, and 15 (both in Taiwan) is just coming online, according to Chipworks, an analyst firm.  TSMC is expanding Fab 14 to try to boost its 20 nm production

Snapdragon 810
The Snapdragon 810 packs an on-die Gobi 9x35 modem with some unknown other good in a BGA-mounted in-package chip.  It's unknown whereter that second chip is WTR3905/3925 or the QCA6174A. [Image Source: Qualcomm via AnandTech]

Other Common Platform Group candidates who may be eligible to produce the new Snapdragon chips include GLOBALFOUDNRIES and Taiwan's United Microelectronics Corp. (TPE:2303). GLOBALFOUNDRIES also remains a possibility as a fab partner for production in late-2015, as it recently announced the availability of design flows for its upcoming 20 nm LPM chip line.  Its fab in Dresden, Germany is one pending 20 nm line.  UMC's has been somewhat silent on its progress to 20 nm, but it's already committed to producing chips on that node at its Fab 12A facility.
 
The addition of LTE Category baseband modems with support for carrier aggregation will be a first for a packaged SoC.  What's more, Qualcomm may look to pack its triple-band RF solution chip into the chip's package.  The leaked roadmap reveals a bit about how Qualcomm is pulling off that feat.
 
To pack the RF modem -- which in previous Qualcomm chipsets has been provided as a separate chip package -- inside the Snapdragon 808 and 810 Qualcomm is employing a new 3D stacking technology.  The new method is called "Package on Package" (POP) mounting.  Unlike the NSP approach, where chips are internally wired to each other with gold wirebonds, PoP is a more standardized approach, where on chip is mounted with a standard ball grid array (BGA) of solder joints to the second chip.
  

POP ASIC
A diagram of the package-on-package (POP) mounting technique [Image Source: Wikimedia Commons]

The larger chip typically goes on the bottom (as the BGA mount pins are limited on the upper chip) so a RF chip will likely be on top with the Snapdragon 800 Series chips on the bottom.  The standardized nature of POP mounting and lack of internal manipulation (versus NSP) should help cut costs and improve out at compatible fabs.
 
AnandTech cited Qualcomm as saying the Snapdragon 808/810 would not have "integrated" Wi-Fi, but it's possible Qualcomm might produce variants that have the RF chip stacked or not stacked.  If the RF isn't the stacked design, then the stacked chip has to be some sort of memory package, as the shot of the Snapdragon 810 die shared by Qualcomm clearly shows the Gobi 9x35 modem and other coprocessor are on-die.

Source: Weibo





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