Every year, the differences between smartphones are getting smaller. And it’s not the laziness of producers who copy ideas from each other (albeit in this too), but in the ever-increasing role of platforms. Once we talked only about processors, then – about single-chip solutions, including also a graphics accelerator. Today the same Qualcomm offers systems, which, in fact, it is enough to add a case, battery and a few individual strokes in the filling – and get ready for sale device. Yes, Qualcomm can even provide the camera module assembly.
In the conditions of the actually won competition, Intel (for the time being) left the smartphone market, NVIDIA with its Tegra also does not exist anymore, and, in essence, only Mediatek remains. Qualcomm strives not only to strengthen its leadership, but also to increase its influence in the development of gadgets. When developing flagship smartphones with maximum performance, only Apple, Samsung and Huawei can afford to ignore the products of an American chip maker. They develop their own platforms themselves. Moreover, both Koreans and Chinese ignore not fully, using Qualcomm solutions in certain models or their modifications – for example, the flagship Galaxy S come out on the American market traditionally with the top Snapdragon on board.
And in general, perhaps, it is impossible to speak about the struggle – there is quite a dense cooperation. Like Qualcomm Snapdragon 820, the new platform, Snapdragon 835, is manufactured in Samsung factories, and companies exchange technologies and patents with each other. Some of the technologies will be applied in the new Exynos. And Snapdragon 835 itself, no doubt, will appear in the Samsung Galaxy S8 for the US market.
Let’s pass, however, directly to the conversation about the new platform. Unfortunately, to test it ahead of time, like last year , we did not have the opportunity, so we will limit ourselves to a simple description of the architecture and its capabilities.
If Intel has for many years adhered to the neat “tick-to-tak” strategy, applying the new standards of photolithography every two years, mobile platform manufacturers “catch up” by jumping, introducing new technical processes or once a year, or even more often. However, the race will soon be over – Snapdragon 835 is produced on a 10-nm process, and further reduction in the size of transistors will be given much harder . The implementation, as before, is FinFET .
Whatever it was, Snapdragon 835 is the first mobile platform, made with the use of 10-nm process technology.
Interestingly, Qualcomm has its own “tick-on”. Recall that the Snapdragon 800 was equipped with four original Krait cores, developed by Qualcomm itself. Snapdragon 810, which replaced it, received a combination of standard, licensed ARM cores Cortex-A57 and A53, and Snapdragon 820 again got the core with the original architecture of Kryo. But, like Intel, this year the “tick-tock” was a little skewed: Snapdragon 835 is based on its own Kryo 280 core, but not completely original, but based on ARM Cortex. This time the cores became eight: four with a clock frequency of up to 2.45 GHz (there will be variations) and 2 MB of second-level cache and four with a clock speed of 1.9 GHz and 1 MB cache.
Naturally, the principle of task distribution works, but this time Qualcomm not only talks about the application of the ARM big.LITTLE architecture, but compares the work of its platform with the game of the symphony orchestra. The system’s capabilities are even more flexible, the number of clusters that are disabled when the cluster is idle includes not only the graphic subsystem, but also the Qualcomm Hexagon 690 signal processor.
The new Adreno 540 module is responsible for the graphics – but its clock speed is not called yet. It provides support for both OpenGL applications, and Vulkan, and DirectX 12. Qualcomm makes a big bet on virtual / augmented reality, promising full support for all relevant solutions, including , of course, Google Daydream. For better work with VR, a special sensor with six degrees of freedom is built into the platform (if you see the abbreviation 6DoF – then this is it).
Also, the graphics system supports the standard 4K Ultra HD Premium (HDR 10) with 10-bit color. We can assume that mobile displays will also develop in this direction in the near future.
The system supports Qualcomm aptX and aptX HD Bluetooth and supports audio at 32 bits / 384 kHz.
One of the most interesting moments associated with Snapdragon 835 is not just the presence of a signal processing processor in its composition, called Spectra 180, which allows you to record 14-bit color (until recently only high-end cameras were able to do it), and the offer of ready-made Cameras in the assembly.
Either with one camera (the Sony IMX298 module is offered), or with two, working on the principles of Huawei (RGB + monochrome sensors, which give a wider dynamic range) or LG / Apple (two sensors and optics with different viewing angles). But the manufacturers can still choose the modules on their own: the Spectra 180 supports a maximum of either a 32-megapixel single or two 16-megapixel cameras.
The Snapdragon 835 uses a new LTE modem X16, which works with gigabit networks (4×4 MIMO), as well as integrated Wi-Fi modems (2×2 802.11ac Wave-2 + 802.11ad Multi-gigabit Wi-Fi). It is possible to switch traffic on the fly between Wi-Fi and LTE networks. The move for telecommunications companies – Smartphones based on Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, which will be available in the spring, will be ready for gigabit data rates.
There’s also the Qualcomm Haven security module, which provides hardware support for the fingerprint scanner and user authentication across the retina or the entire face. Haven is also responsible for creating tokens when you want to pay for something using your phone, as well as for verifying the signatures of applications and securely downloading the system.
And, of course, energy efficiency – for this, Qualcomm makes a separate emphasis, already greater than on the growth of productivity. The company claims a 50% reduction in energy consumption compared to Snapdragon 801 with a disproportionately increased capacity. Qualcomm has set a goal to create a platform for smartphones that accurately live a day off the battery – but here, of course, not everything depends entirely on the system-on-the-chip. Here everything first of all rests, of course, on the development of batteries.
Before that, Quick Charge 4.0 quick charging system was announced. The manufacturer claims that the charging speed has increased by 20%, and the efficiency of the system has increased by 30%. Another figure: 15 minutes – it takes so long to fill a battery with a capacity of 2750 mAh by half. The main marketing “counter” of the standard is “5 by 5”: in 5 minutes the device with a battery of the specified volume will be charged enough for five hours of operation. Very relative value, of course.
And the company is afraid that the problem of overheating in case of using QC 4.0 is excluded – the incident with Galaxy Note7 scared everyone in earnest. But the most important news related to fast charging is full support for the USB Type-C standard, or more precisely, USB Power Delivery (UDB-PD). The problem with unsuitable for fast charging adapters and cables from third-party manufacturers should if not disappear, then become less acute.
The first smartphones on Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 should be presented at the Mobile World Congress 2017, which will be held in Barcelona in late February or early March.
The main news of the second acquaintance with Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 was the change in the company’s policy regarding the naming of its processor. Roughly speaking, now Snapdragon can not be called a processor or even a system-on-a-chip – just a mobile platform. Now it’s official. This is explained (apart from marketing needs) by the fact that Snapdragon includes not only hardware, but also software solutions, as well as services. Above we already talked about the components of Snapdragon 835.
But it’s worth mentioning that, for example, the module Qualcomm Haven, responsible for checking tokens, digital signatures of applications, and so on, is provided with a software add-on based on the developments of Trustlook, which allows “out of the box” Device security. Although talking about an antivirus that fully competes with regularly updated external solutions, it would still be too optimistic. Nevertheless, Qualcomm has long been aiming at more than just providing hardware performance, and continues to develop this theme – now even in the field of ideology.
However, in this case we will talk specifically about the performance of the Snapdragon 835 platform – I managed to try it in the case with the main mobile benchmarks.
As a test device was not provided the final product like Sony Xperia XZ Premium (officially the first device with the claimed Snapdragon 835 on board), and MDP (Mobile Development Platform) – a platform for developers. Standard practice, the year before with Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 was the same story.
This MDP was equipped with a 6-inch display with a resolution of 2560 × 1440 (560 dpi), 6 GB of RAM LPDDR4 and 64 GB of flash memory, as well as an unexpectedly single 21-megapixel camera; The sample includes both a Wi-Fi-module and a cellular communication module, which also works with 4G-networks.
Evaluate the heating level for this unit, made in a very thick case with a removable battery is pointless. Nevertheless, all the same it is necessary to say that even at peak loads in benchmarks the case remained a little bit warm. However, the conclusions about how Snapdragon 835 behaves under real conditions will be left up to the tests of commercial devices based on this platform. Below – only the results of testing.
Unfortunately, Qualcomm representatives did not allow downloading the benchmarks at their own discretion by disabling Google Play beforehand and leaving only a group of pre-approved benchmarks on board. Nevertheless, the most important thing, including the one used in our standard package, except for 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited (instead of it the Sling Shot 3.1 test was loaded) was. For comparison, in those tests where we have results, I chose devices based on Snapdragon 820 (Sony Xperia XZ), Snapdragon 821 (Xiaomi Mi5s Plus), Samsung Exynos 8890 Octa (Samsung Galaxy Note 7 due to the availability of Geekbench 4 ), HiSilicon Kirin 960 (Huawei Mate 9) and Apple A10 (iPhone 7). Part of the tests is unique and presented in the form of screenshots from the screen.
As you can see, there was no dramatic increase in performance on the 835th platform compared to the 820th and 821st. The emphasis in this generation is not on the growth of pure computing power, but primarily on energy efficiency. Representatives of the company claim on average about a 25 percent increase in this component. In benchmarks, this figure is significantly smaller, although Snapdragon combined with 6 GB of RAM and confidently outperforms all competitors in key synthetic benchmarks, slightly behind only Apple A10 in the performance of a single core and holding on to it on a par with graphic power.
WEBXprt test in no small degree also speaks about optimization – in this case its result can not be called really valid, although for illustration it is suitable.
Nevertheless, the advantage in most tasks for Apple’s current platform is obvious: for Snapdragon 820 in comparison with A9 this task was beyond repair. Talking about any disappointment in the performance of Snapdragon 835 does not make any sense. Progress is evident in all directions.