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The Samsung Galaxy S5 will pack the Snapdragon 801

Yesterday, Intel Corp. (INTC) created a stir when it rolled out its long-awaited 22 nanometer smartphone processor.  Aside from the OEMs, no one knows quite for sure whether those chips will actually make it into the smartphones the majority of us will use. 
 
I. Qualcomm and the Lure of 64-Bit
 
But yesterday we also saw another company quietly release a series of chips that are virtually assured to wind up in many of the premium smartphones we will soon come to know and love.
 
Qualcomm Inc. (QCOM) announced a pair of new high-end 64-bit octacore designs at a 2014 Mobile World Congress (MWC) keynote early Monday.  The new chips are branded the Snapdragon 610 and 615, joining the 64-bit mid-tier Snapdragon 410 which Qualcomm unveiled in mid-December.
 
ARM Holdings plc (LON:ARM), which exercises some control over the architecture designs of ARM chipmakers via its instruction-set standards, has pushed a number of improvements into its 64-bit chips in order to incentivize chipmakers to switch.  This will allow a library of 64-bit ARM software to be built up, further ARM's ambitions for capturing market share in the server market

64-bit highway
[Image Source: MIPS Dev]

While many of these improvements could easily be baked into 32-bit processors, by making them 64-bit exclusive ARM pushes chipmakers to go 64-bit, even if the benefits (having a server compatible-app library) are not immediately clear to consumers or to chipmakers.
 
Qualcomm itself grappled with the uncertain payoff.  After Apple, Inc. (AAPL) became the first major ARM chipmaker to air a 64-bit ARM system-on-a-chip (SoC) for the mobile market, a senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Qualcomm issued a controversial attack on Apple over the merits of 64-bit.  That SVP -- Anand Chandrasekher -- was quickly demoted after Qualcomm's top decision makers realized they would need to go 64-bit too in order to gain access to the latest and greatest ARM architectural improvements.
Qualcomm Snapdragon

At the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) Qualcomm disappointed by announcing automotive and media variants of the Snapdragon 2/4/6/8xx series, but failing to fill in the newly minted 64-bit lineup. 
 
II. Meet the 64-Bit Family
 
This week it delivered, unveiling part of its upper tier of 64-bit chips.  The Snapdragon 615 was a bit of a nice surprise, making up for the fact that the Snapdragon 810 was absent.  Last year Qualcomm announced the Snapdragon 600 and 800 chips simultaneously, which led to some confusion when only the Snapdragon 600 was available early in the year, with no Snapdragon 800 stock until H2 2013.
 
Qualcomm seemingly learned from that experience and is adopting a more patient approach this year.  The Snapdragon 610/5 isn't quite ready for the mass market.  It will begin shipping in Q3 2014, and will reach customers in devices in Q4 2014.
 
We can expect Qualcomm to announce a 64-bit Snapdragon 810/5 in H2 2014 or Q1 2015, closer to the actual availability date.
Snapdragon chips

The new chips pack an Adreno 405 GPU, only the second officially announced Adreno 400 series GPU.  It's unclear what improvements that new graphics chip will bring, but we can expect good things given the division's pedigree and track record (Adreno is an anagram of Radeon, it was originally the mobile division of Advanced Micro Devices Inc.'s (AMD) Radeon subsidiary, prior to its acquisition by Qualcomm in 2008).  One improvement we do know about is the addition of DirectX 11.2 support.  The new chips also get a new coprocessor which allows for decode of H.265 -- the widely used codec for "4K" (ultra-HD) video.
 
Alongside the Snapdragon 610 and 615, Qualcomm also announced a new high-end 32-bit chip to hold buyers over until it rolls out the Snapdragon 810.  The new Snapdragon 801, actually should be available very soon, where as the previously announced Snapdragon 805 is still making its way to the market.
 
III. The Lineup as it Stands
 
So what do the new Snapdragon 61x and Snapdragon 801 chips bring?  Here are some quick facts, with last generation's Snapdragon 4/600 included for comparison:
  • Snapdragon 400
    • Available: Now
    • Process: 28 nm LP
    • CPU
      • Cores
        • Count: 2-4, depending on model
        • Architecture: Krait 200
      • Instruction Set: ARMv7
      • Register/Path Width: 32-bit
      • Speed:
        • Dual Core: 1.2-1.7 GHz, varying by model
        • Quad Core: 1.2-1.6 GHz, varying by model
    • GPU
      • Architecture: Adreno 305
      • Speed: 400-450 MHz
  • Snapdragon 410
    • Available: H1 2014 (samples) / H2 2014 (devices)
    • Process: 28 nm LP
    • CPU
      • Cores
        • Count: 4
        • Architecture: A53
      • Instruction Set: ARMv8
      • Register/Path Width: 64-bit
      • Speed: 1.2 GHz+, varying by model
    • GPU
      • Architecture: Adreno 306
      • Speed: ?? MHz
  • Snapdragon 600
    • Available: Now
    • Process: 28 nm LP
    • CPU
      • Cores
        • Count: 4
        • Architecture: Krait 300
      • Instruction Set: ARMv7
      • Register/Path Width: 32-bit
      • Speed: 1.5-1.9 GHz, varying by model
    • GPU
      • Architecture: Adreno 320
      • Speed: 400-450 MHz
  • Snapdragon 610
    • Available: Q3 2014 (samples) / Q4 2014 (devices)
    • Process: 28 nm LP
    • CPU
      • Cores
        • Count: 4
        • Architecture: A53
      • Instruction Set: ARMv8
      • Register/Path Width: 64-bit
      • Speed: ??
    • GPU
      • Architecture: Adreno 405
      • Speed: ??
  • Snapdragon 615
    • Available: Q3 2014 (samples) / Q4 2014 (devices)
    • Process: 28 nm LP
    • CPU
      • Cores
        • Count: 8 (2x cluster of 4)
        • Architecture: A53
      • Instruction Set: ARMv8
      • Register/Path Width: 64-bit
      • Speed: ??
    • GPU
      • Architecture: Adreno 405
      • Speed: 400-450 MHz
  • Snapdragon 800
    • Available: Now
    • Process: 28 nm LP
    • CPU
      • Cores
        • Count: 4
        • Architecture: Krait 400
      • Instruction Set: ARMv7
      • Register/Path Width: 32-bit
      • Speed: 1.5-1.9 GHz, varying by model
    • GPU
      • Architecture: Adreno 330
      • Speed: 400-450 MHz
  • Snapdragon 801
    • Available: Now (samples) / Q1 2014 (devices)
    • Process: 28 nm LP
    • CPU
      • Cores
        • Count: 4
        • Architecture: Krait 400
      • Instruction Set: ARMv7
      • Register/Path Width: 32-bit
      • Speed: up to 2.5 GHz, varying by model
    • GPU
      • Architecture: Adreno 330
      • Speed: 578 MHz
  • Snapdragon 805
    • Available: Q4 2013 (samples) / H1 2014 (devices) (likely Q2 2014)
    • Process: 28 nm LP
    • CPU
      • Cores
        • Count: 4
        • Architecture: Krait 450
      • Instruction Set: ARMv7
      • Register/Path Width: 32-bit
      • Speed: up to 2.7 GHz, varying by model
    • GPU
      • Architecture: Adreno 420
      • Speed: ??
  • Snapdragon 810
    • Available: H1 2015 (??) (unannounced)
    • Process: 20 nm or 28 nm LP
    • CPU
      • Cores
        • Count: 4-8
        • Architecture: A53 or next-generation Krait
      • Instruction Set: ARMv8
      • Register/Path Width: 64-bit
      • Speed: 2.5-2.9 GHz, varying by model
    • GPU
      • Architecture: Adreno 430
      • Speed: ?? MHz
IV. Additional Notes on the Snapdragon 61X Series Cores
 
Note the new 64-bit cores mark an important shift for Qualcomm as it moves from its proprietary Krait core designs onto ARM Holdings' intellectual property cores, the Cortex-A53
 
It's unclear whether this is a temporary or long-term shift, but the A53 is a powerful dual-issue, in-order core design.  The octacore Snapdragon 615 has an interesting performance tweak.  While all of its cores are the same architecture, some are clocked higher for performance in a quad-core cluster, while others are clocked lower for power efficiency.  This is sort of like a virtual version of ARM's 32-bit big.LITTLE scheme.

ARM Cortex A53
Qualcomm's new 64-bit offerings use A53 cores from ARM Holdings.

The on-die LTE modem in all of the above chips is the same Category 4 LTE modem -- the 9x25.  This continues to fulfill the needs of OEMs in most regions.  For the lucky few that have access to carrier aggregation and other Category 5/6 LTE technologies, OEMs will have to add an external modem.  But this is a highly niche market at present, so Qualcomm had no real reason to upgrade the on-die modem.
 
It's a pretty confusing time in Qualcomm's lineup with ultra-HD versus HD processors, 64-bit versus 32-bit, dual-, quad-, and octa-core offerings.  We'll have to see a lot of benchmarks to see which chips wind up truly on top -- e.g. the performance of a Snapdragon 615 versus a Snapdragon 801 or Snapdragon 805.
 
One thing's for sure -- mobile OEMs have a lot of chips to pick from.
 
V. Antenna Power Electronics in CMOS
 
Qualcomm also marked a major milestone, integrating its power amplifier electronics as CMOS circuits living alongside its baseband chip for the first time.  Traditionally amplification and antenna switching required separate specialist integrated circuits built on different processes.  As the first to take this important step along the monolithic chip design path, Qualcomm can be expected to see substantial cost savings, as well as some improvement to power efficiency.
 
In effect Qualcomm now has a two-chip solution -- with CPU cores, GPU cores, a basic LTE modem, and various coprocessors living on one chip; and with a second chip supporting virtually any 3G or 4G standard/band, all the latest Bluetooth/Wi-Fi standards, Wireless charging, and -- now -- power signaling electronics (antenna switching, amplification).
Qualcomm single chip
Qualcomm is moving towards a single-chip smartphone solution.

Eventually these two chips will merge into a single monolithic die, which will also likely pull in whatever semiconductor storage technologies replace DRAM (memory) and NAND (flash) -- possibly a unified memory technology.
 
Qualcomm's new unified modem/power electronics solution is branded QFE2320 and QFE2340.  Qualcomm is working with OEMs to design single-chip solutions that have all the features they need for their devices, including cellular standards support, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, wireless charging control, NFC, and more.
 
It's definitely clear that Qualcomm is farther down the road to a truly monolithic core than Intel or chipset rival Broadcom Corp. (BRCM), at least on the mobile front.
 
In related news, Qualcomm announced a pair of major design wins.  Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. announced that the chief model of the Galaxy S5 would use the above detailed Snapdragon 801 chip. 

Samsung Galaxy S5

The Samsung Galaxy Grand 2 -- a mid-tier mass-market model -- will use the older Snapdragon 400 chip.

Sources: Qualcomm [1], [2], [3], [4]



Comments     Threshold


This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

Snapdragon 800
By blzd on 2/25/2014 5:18:32 PM , Rating: 2
Architecture: A53

Seems a bit off.




RE: Snapdragon 800
By anactoraaron on 2/25/2014 5:51:27 PM , Rating: 2
that and this:
quote:
Snapdragon 800
Available: Q3 2014 (samples) / Q4 2014 (devices)

I didn't realize that my N5 was using a SoC that isn't available yet...


RE: Snapdragon 800
By Mr772 on 2/26/2014 8:52:07 AM , Rating: 2
The line up information posted above is not accurate. The 800 has the Adreno 330 not the 405.


RE: Snapdragon 800
By fteoath64 on 2/26/2014 5:04:59 AM , Rating: 2
"Seems a bit off. " On the 810 line up, the next gen Krait 64 will likely show itself if ready. If not, there is always the Option of dual A57 on a Big.Little config with Adreno 420 gpu. It ain't half bad.

But really QC is staking out its territory for this year and next year to see what the competition can bring to the table. Both MediaTek and Nvidia are strong competitors although Samsung's Exynos seems limited to their own product range. Still it is not a comfort chair for QC as it strives to diversify its existing chips with minor variants in a market that is not realeasing anything new. So it is a good thing for QC so far.


306 vs 405
By R3MF on 2/26/2014 5:58:19 AM , Rating: 2
how much functional and performance difference is there between the Adreno 306 and the Adreno 405 GPU's?

that would appear to be the only real difference between the Snapdragon 410 and the Snapdragon 610...




Flat footed Qualcom
By Morawka on 2/27/14, Rating: 0
RE: Flat footed Qualcom
By sharpgreen on 3/6/2014 10:31:43 PM , Rating: 2
Qualcomm was right originally IMO. 64bit on mobile makes no sense, as there's nothing remotely intensive enough to use it. 64-bit ARM only makes sense in a server.


yep
By RapidDissent on 2/26/2014 3:09:22 PM , Rating: 1
I assume they stole the design for the new antenna amplifier integration from another company and that HTC will soon be paying the licensing cost for the patent infringement.




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