We’re at the launch of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820. Here are the brilliant new features the processor will bring to flagship smartphones in 2016.
Although details about the chip have been floating around the web for a while, Qualcomm has now revealed exactly what advantages and upgrades it will bring. After all, as the firm said itself, the benefits need to be big enough and tangible for people to upgrade.
“The Snapdragon 820 has been holistically designed around enriching visual quality and audio clarity, as well as developing more intuitive ways to interact with devices, to generate deeply immersive experiences,” said Qualcomm.
Snapdragon 820 specs
Let's break down the four main components of the Snapdragon 820 which are the CPU, GPU, DSP and LTE modem.
An obviously important part of any SoC (system-on-a-chip), the Kryo CPU inside the 820 will bring up to twice the performance and twice the power efficiency when compared to previous generations. We’ll come back to what the latter means for battery life later.
The 64-bit-capable custom CPU is also the first to be made with a 14nm FinFET manufacturing process.
Adreno 530 GPU
On the graphics side of things, the Adreno 530 provides 40 percent better performance and power efficiency compared to previous generations.
Hexagon 680 DSP
Announced already, the Hexagon 680 DPS (digital signal processor) is for tasks which can be done faster than the CPU and with less power. For simple things like playing an MP3, the 680 can double playback time. Qualcomm says it can be up to 3x faster than the CPU for certain tasks and 10x more efficient.
Last but not least is the X12 LTE modem which will provide 33 percent better performance and 15 percent better power efficiency. Users will be able to, in theory, get 600Mbps download speeds and 150Mbps upload speeds thanks to Cat 12 – that’s double if you’ve got a phone with Cat 6 in your pocket.
It’s also the first to support unlicensed spectrum bands to help with data capacity on networks (LTE-U). There’s also 802.11ad for faster line-of-sight Wi-Fi, 11ac MU-MIMO (multi-user), Smart Wi-Fi Calling.
Snapdragon 820 new features
Qualcomm says the processor connectivity features are unmatched by any other mobile SoC, so let's look at them to see what you're 2016 phone will be capable of. Do be aware that these are just base features of the 820 and some are optional so manufacturing partners will choose which they want to invest time and money in.
Battery life and overheating
These are probably two of the big questions on your lips right now when it comes to the Snapdragon 820. Will it provide better battery life and will it overheat?
Well according to Qualcomm the news is good. Since the 820 is more power efficient, that not only will increase battery life but will produce less heat. In terms of numbers, the Snapdragon 820 consumes 30 percent less power compared with the 810 which has suffered from some heat issues in a number of phones.
Quick Charge 3.0
Also on the subject on battery life is quick charging. Quick Charge 3.0 is designed to be four times faster than normal charging. Compared to previous versions it’s twice as fast as the original and 38 percent more efficient than Quick Charge 2.0.
Qualcomm says it “employs Intelligent Negotiation for Optimum Voltage (INOV), an algorithm which allows your portable device to determine what power level to request at any point in time, enabling optimum power transfer while maximizing efficiency.”
With phones now offering up to 4K resolutions visuals are more important than ever. Well Qualcomm says you can expect photorealistic video graphics thanks to the combined efforts of the Kryo CPU and Adreno GPU. It does this by implementing things like dynamic reflections, HDR rendering and temporal anti-aliasing.
Snapdragon Scene Detect
This is an interesting technology which Qualcomm says will intelligently work out what you’re taking a photo of, detecting things like people, sky, sand etc. The system can be trained to recognise different things, even a type of food eg. Sushi. To do this it uses the Zeroth neural processing platform and the heterogeneous cores.
The fact that it can detect different image types and scenes means the photos can be automatically organised into those different categories, making your life a bit easier.
Snapdragon Low Light Vision
Low light is where everyone is striving to make improvements and Qualcomm's answer is adaptive brightness and noise reduction. It says the Low Light Vision system can compensate for HDR scene and motion artefacts usually created by camera or subject movement. The firm promises DSLR-like results without needing kit like a 'proper' lens. Bold claims, then.
Also related to Scene Dectect, the Intelligent Camcorder has the ability to recognise and track multiple objects using ‘computer vision’. Qualcomm even says it will be able to pick out your child in order to focus on them instead of anyone else, even across a football field full of kids.
Audio is an area often overlooked but the Snapdragon 820 aims to offer a better experience producing a ‘center of sound that’s faithfully sharp and immersive, unmatched on other audio platforms’. Immersive 3D sound is also touted for when you’re wearing headphones.
This looks for bad behaviour in software to stop malware before a security vendor has identified it. Qualcomm has taught the Snapdragon 820 what to look out for. Zero Day threat detection in real-time is a very nifty idea if it works.