Qualcomm’s New Flagship SoC, the Snapdragon 810

Qualcomm Technologies (QTI) first publicly mentioned the Snapdragon 810 in April 2014, and positioned it as Qualcomm’s new flagship application processor (AP). It featured a new GPU design, and a half dozen new firsts.

Then, in the first week in December, a story appeared in Business Korea claiming the chip “overheats when it reaches a specific voltage,” and “slows down owing to problems with the RAM controller connected to the AP.” (That story was echoed by a European web site, and like so many rumors took on a life of its own, much to the delight of short sellers). However, it’s just not true.

What is true is that yours truly went to New York last week, along with several reporters, and got to have a firsthand experience with several finished, branded, devices (tablets and phones) with Snapdragon 810 APs in them. The devices were cool, in every sense of the word. They drove a 4K (3840 x 2160) TV, took 4k videos, ran AAA games, and had at least a 5″ HD display.

QTI took some challenging risks in developing the Snapdragon 810 AP. They incorporated several new features and capabilities, a tricky move for such a complex device and one loaded with potential problems. Some thought they couldn’t do it.

Nevertheless, not only is the 810 on track as promised for mid-2015 device deliveries, but it has several “firsts” associated with the new chip:

  • It is the first 20nm SoC (being fabed at TSMC) for QTI
  • It is the first SoC with dual 14-bit Image Signal Processors (ISPs)
  • It is the industry’s first multi-channel 4G LTE category 9 Carrier Aggregation Connectivity
  • It’s QTI’s first hexa core, 64 bit ARMv8 CPUs (four A57 @ ~2GHz, and four A53 @ 1.55GHz) for Qualcomm
  • It’s the introduction of the new Adreno 430 GPU
  • It has the first dual channel 1600 MHz LLPDDR4 memory implementation in the industry
  • It is the first hardware implementation of 4K (3840 x 2160) HEVC/H.265 video encode
  • The first UFS 2.0 storage support
  • Its the industry’s first multi-channel 4G LTE category 9 Carrier Aggregation Connectivity
  • And, its QTI’s first WCD9330 analog CODEC

QTI took a major gamble on running the LPDDR4 memory at 1600 MHz, especially in a mobile device. However, it paid off and the chip delivers a total bandwidth of 25.6GB/s (it is 2×32-bit channels – total width 64 bits). You need that kind of bandwidth and data width for video, high-performance graphics, as well as Open CL applications.

As mentioned, the 810 introduced the Adreno 430 GPU. The 430 provides support for OpenGL ES 3.1, hardware tessellation, geometry shaders and programmable blending. It has frame buffer compression and can drive an external 4k display at 30 fps or 1080p video at 120 fps via HDMI1.4. The company claims the 430 deliver up 30% faster graphics performance and 100% faster GP-compute performance, while reducing power consumption by up to 20% over the predecessor Adreno GPU (420). Qualcomm has also incorporated a new level of GPU security for composition and management of premium video and other multimedia.

QTI has been the leading supplier of GPUs for several years offering great performance while using little power, and selling more GPUs than any other company so these claims are not too surprising. – Dr. Jon Peddie

Display Daily Comment

We were very pleased to get this report, thanks, Jon! Jon told us that at the event, HTC was showing a smartphone that was just 3mm thick! The chip is reported to also support WiGIG (802.11ad), although the maximum bandwidth may be limited to 4 Gbps because of antenna restrictions in mobile phones. This level will allow the streaming of UltraHD content direct to TVs. We also found some interesting reports from the Qualcomm event about dual fixed focused camera systems that use processing to create “virtual zoom” images without the cost and complication of optical zooms. All the tablets at the event were reported to be using UltraHD (3840 x 2160) displays. (BR)