Snapdragon 820: Better Video, Security and Internet

By Tom Allen
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The Snapdragon 820 processor has been unveiled by Qualcomm in New York, with upgrades to deliver longer battery life, faster performance and more efficient operation than previous generations. It should also be able to support external wireless displays.

Graphics capabilities have been boosted, with support for Epic’s Unreal Engine 4. New technologies include Qualcomm Trupallette and Qualcomm Ecopix, both of which are used to improve graphical quality. Trupallette enhances colour and detail, and also includes a tone mapping feature; Ecopix adjusts images based on the ambient light level. Qualcomm claims that Ecopix can reduce LCD or OLED power consumption by up to 30%, as well.

On the subject of power, the 820 will be compatible with the WiPower wireless charging system, and supports Quick Charge 3.0.

Cameras on devices using the 820 will benefit from imaging improvements, delivered through software. For instance, Low Light Video brightens elements of the video that require it, without washing out the entire image. This can be done in real time, without latency. Image recognition will also be supported, using a deep learning system.

Qualcomm has installed support for the 802.11ad WiFi protocol on the 820, which is said to be much faster than today’s fastest protocol (802.11ac) but also includes the WiGIG technology for wireless display support. According to Qualcomm, a full-length film will be able to be transferred in about 30 seconds, when using a compatible router.

Better WiFi goes hand-in-hand with the 820’s upgraded modem: the SoC will be able to reach download speeds of up to 600Mbps, and upload rates of 150Mbps. The modem will also be able to monitor the quality of a WiFi signal, to analyse whether using 4G would be faster, and then automatically switch.

Other new features include improved security, with Sense ID and Smart Protect. Sense ID is a version of Apple’s Touch ID, which works with wet fingers and through cover glass – so fingerprint readers can be hidden underneath the display. Smart Protect uses machine learning to scan for what it believes to be malware – even if that malware hasn’t been previously reported. It will then make ‘an educated guess’ as to the malware’s threat level, and act accordingly.

Finally, there are two new audio technologies: immersive audio and speaker protection (to avoid distortion).

The version of the Snapdragon 820 Qualcomm was showing used a 64-bit Kryo CPU core, a custom chip built on Samsung’s 14nm process. Although the firm did not share the criteria it used to arrive at these conclusions, it said that the 820 consumers about 35% less power than the Snapdragon 801 (a 28nm chip).

Analyst Comment

We expect to begin seeing mobile devices using the Snapdragon 820 at CES and MWC next year. (TA)