Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 810 Promises to be the pioneer mobile chip for 2015’s 4K capable smartphones

by on December 23, 2014

Stephan Jukic – December 23, 2014

When it comes to the specs of the massively powerful Snapdragon 810 SoC chip from Qualcomm, the core focus is on boosting the phones and tablets that have it so that they can handle 4K video and display resolution much better. However, as part of this, the new chip will also considerably augment CPU, GPU and even wireless connectivity.

In other words, the Snapdragon 810 is promising to be the pioneer flagship mobile phone chip of 2015.

The Snapdragon 810 was first announced by Qualcomm in April of 2014 but since chips often stay in development for months to years after their makers first announce their existence, we won’t be seeing this powerful new SoC appear in our mobile phones until early 2015 (pretty soon now actually), but when it does, the phones and tablets that do get it will be much more ready for the new resolution of 4K than most of their predecessors.

With the Snapdragon 810, Qualcomm is undertaking some serious revamps over previous processing chips.

For starters, when building the 810, the company ditched its entire custom “Krait” CPU design architecture that they had spent years putting together and have been using in other Snapdragon chips since 2012.

Instead, the 810 uses a standardized design from another company called ARM, in the form of the 64-bit Cortex A57 and A53 CPUs. Each Snapdragon will contain four of each kind the design is such that the faster A57s will do heavy processing work while the four A53 cores undertake lighter tasks. This means that all four CPU cores in the 810 can work at the same time if necessary and give much more processing power to even the most intensive software needs on a mobile device.

This new 64-bit design is a way of competing with Apple on the SoC chip front.

Since Apple’s new A7 and A8 chips have the same essential specification, the publicity around 64-bits was important enough from a marketing perspective to at least temporarily sacrifice Qualcomm’s native chip design (which wasn’t geared towards 64-bits) in favor of a standardized third party 64-bit package that the public will perceive as being equal to what Apple is including in its latest iPhones.

The Snapdragon 810's 64-bit architecture is a response to Apple's A7 and A8 chip designs

The Snapdragon 810’s 64-bit architecture is a response to Apple’s A8 chip design

As far as the Snapdragon 810’s GPU goes, Qualcomm went with its own Adreno design. Specifically, the new GPU in the 810 will be the Adreno 430, which is expected to be 30% faster than the most recent previous Adreno version, the 420 while at the same time consuming 20% less power.

This is largely the component that’s supposed to give maximally efficient support to a maximum resolution of 4840 x 2160 pixels: 4K in other words. The previous 420 chip of the Snapdragon 805 was already designed to also support 4K graphics but, as the percentages above show, much less efficiently.

Qualcomm itself expects the tablets and high end smartphones of 2015 to be fully 4K capable and for many of them to have UHD displays. The Adreno 430 is aimed squarely at this expected resolution in mobile screens.

Other considerable improvements on the new Snapdragon chip include an augmented 802.11ad WiFi connectivity that will be better at passing video (read 4K and HD video) between mobile devices and connected home theater devices like 4K TVs and set-top boxes.

Finally, the 810 will be built through a new 20nm process that is a considerable improvement from the previous 28nm process of other Snapdragon chips. This means a smaller chip size and more headroom for performance enhancing features while reducing power consumption so that it stays the same as it did with previous chips despite the more powerful specs of the Snapdragon 810.

These are just some of the cool new features that are going to make the Snapdragon 810 such a popular new SoC chip for the mobile devices that are coming out in early 2015, particularly from manufacturers like Samsung and HTC.

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