Qualcomm lifts the veil on the Snapdragon 845 SoC

Qualcomm just lifted the veil on its newest mobile device SoC, the Snapdragon 845. The company's previous-generation Snapdragon 835 is used in pretty much every high-end handset that runs Android, and Qualcomm's building on that chip's success. Compared to its predecessor, the Snapdragon 845 includes an improved Kryo 385 CPU, a new whiz-bang Spectra 280 image signal processor (ISP), and a more powerful Adreno 630 GPU—all along with a host of minor improvements.

The start of the show is probably that Spectra 280 ISP. According to Qualcomm, the new image processor is capable of handling 4K capture with HDR. Both the HDR10 and HLG standards are supported. The ISP's image stabilization and noise-reduction features work across multiple frames, too, making for some impressive results. In a nod toward Instagram stars everywhere, the Spectra 280 can natively generate cinegraphs (or animated GIFs in modern parlance) and has a "bokeh" portrait mode that can do its thing with a single camera. Last but not least, those attending F1 races can grab a slow-mo clip of a passing Red Bull car at 480 FPS.

All the above capabilities are great for getting pixels into the phone, but what about displaying them? That's where the Adreno 630 GPU comes in. Qualcomm didn't go too deep into the silicon's capabilities, but did let on that users should see 30% better performance and a 30% reduction in power consumption compared to the previous-gen Adreno. Since VR is actually becoming A Thing, the Adreno 630 can track hands and controllers in meatspace in full six-degrees-of-freedom (6DOF) with SLAM. Likewise, foveated rendering capability makes an appearance. We're all big fans of high-refresh-rate displays around here, and it's good to see that the Adreno 630 can output graphics at a resolution of "2K x 2K" at 120 Hz.

The ISP and GPU would be useless, however, without the newfangled Kryo 385 CPU. Like the Kryo 280 before it, the 385 is an octa-core jobbie with four cores tuned for performance and another four tweaked towards power efficiency. The "big" cores in the Kryo 385 can hit 2.8 GHz, and Qualcomm says they should offer a 25%-to-30% boost compared to their predecessors. Meanwhile, the "small" units clock at up to 1.8 GHz and should be 15% faster than before. The company didn't specify whether these gains were per-core or aggregate, though. This time around, each core has its own L2 private cache, and there's 2 MB of L3 cache on top.

The company also made a lot of noise about the Hexagon 685 DSP's "3x better AI performance," a statement that we take to mean that the new SoC's neural network hardware is multiple times faster than before. Qualcomm didn't offer many details beyond that, though XDA has an in-depth article detailing its machine learning capabilities.

The improvements onboard the Snapdragon 845 aren't all about bit and core counts. The new SoC supports 802.11ad millimeter-wave Wi-Fi that should be capable of reaching multi-gigabit speeds. Qualcomm says that regular-flavor 802.11ac Wi-Fi should see improved bandwidth and connection speed, too. When talking to the outside world, the Snapdragon 845's X20 modem can use Category 18 LTE, enabling download speads up to 1.2 GHz and 4×4 MIMO on up to three carriers. In the past, Qualcomm put its modems separate from its SoCs, but the company's apparently integrated both devices in the same package now. The proprietary Quick Charge 4.0 tech also makes an appearance and promises to charge attached batteries up to 50% in only 15 minutes.

Despite the improvements, the Snapdragon is still manufactured on the same Samsung 10-nm LPP as its predecessor. By our reckoning, the newcomer will doubtlessly power scores of high-end Android devices in the coming year. Both LG and Xiaomi are reportedly working on handsets with the new chip. Likewise, we wouldn't surprised to see the chip inside thin-and-light notebooks similar to the recently-released Asus NovaGo and HP Envy x2.

Comments closed
    • BobbinThreadbare
    • 2 years ago

    Octocores barely make sense for normal desktop usage, and none at all for phone. A 2+2 configuration gives up no responsiveness and uses less power.

    /signed someone who had an HTC One M9 that constantly thermal throttled and now an LG G5 that’s much nicer to use

      • willmore
      • 2 years ago

      Agreed. Two fast cores are plenty. 2 or 4 low power cores is fine as well.

      The manufacturers really need to work on process scheduling. Interactive jobs need to hit the big cores which need to quickly clock up and clock down. Lower priority tasks need to be confined to the low power cores.

      They keep relying on the kernel to schedule tasks which isn’t going to ever work well. The kernel schedulers are designed for completely different processors and completely different workloads. This whole ‘good enough’ mentality keeps leading to poor outcomes.

    • Helmore
    • 2 years ago

    Actually, Samsung’s 10-nm LPP process is the newer second generation of their 10 nm process. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 was produced on Samsung’s 10-nm LPE process. Keep in mind though that the performance improvements from LPE to LPP aren’t that big, with only a 10% improvement in performance for the same power and complexity or a 15% improvement in power consumption for the same performance and complexity and no improvements in density.

    Another thing that should be mentioned is that most Qualcomm Snapdragon SoCs have always included the modem. It’s actually one of the reasons why their SoCs are so popular, as you get CPU, GPU, ISP, modem and other assorted parts all in one package, so even if they don’t offer the best performance and aren’t actually that cheap, the alternative is often more expensive. Especially as Qualcomm has for years now been the leader in 3G and 4G modem technology. Many would argue that Qualcomm would never have gotten as big in the mobile SoC industry without their wireless modem leadership. (The patents they hold on modem technology has turned them into a bit of a bully though.)

      • TheRazorsEdge
      • 2 years ago

      Qualcomm had that 30% handed to them.

      It looks like a pretty even split from what I’ve been reading: half from moving from LPE to LPP, half from switching from ARM A73 to A75–with maybe slightly more coming from the ARM side.

      They get all of the credit for cellular and wifi improvements, but external factors fully account for the general performance gains.

        • BurntMyBacon
        • 2 years ago

        [quote=”TheRazorsEdge”<]Qualcomm had that 30% handed to them.[/quote<] I mostly, but don't entirely agree. The 835 was built on ARM's "Built on ARM Cortex Technology" license. This means that while the design was mostly ARM's, Qualcomm had the ability (and used it) to change certain features (I.E. cache sizes, memory controllers, etc.) to better meet their performance, efficiency, and cost targets. They are likewise customizing the 845 to hit their targets. Given a different base processor, the customizations would not necessarily be the same. I have to give Qualcomm some credit here, though most of the credit still lies with ARM and Samsung.

    • blastdoor
    • 2 years ago

    If Windows on ARM ever takes off it won’t be on the back of Qualcomm’s weak CPU cores.

    Wake me if and when Microsoft starts pouring billions into designing ARM cores.

      • chuckula
      • 2 years ago

      A10X chips running windows… CONFIRMED!

        • tipoo
        • 2 years ago

        Funny that the most interesting ARM player is sitting this category out so far.

          • blastdoor
          • 2 years ago

          If by “funny” you mean “annoying”, then I agree!

            • tipoo
            • 2 years ago

            They’ll move when they’re ready as always. I think a flip-back style hybrid iOS device would be much more appealing to me than the floppy as crap smart keyboard origami mess.

    • Lord.Blue
    • 2 years ago

    “enabling download speads up to 1.2 GHz” – I think you mean 1.2 Gbps.

    • jarder
    • 2 years ago

    When is Nvidia going to get into the Windows-On-ARM action. They’ve been a bit quiet in the ARM-space the last few years, but they did have a big design win with the Nintendo switch. So how about bolting 8 ARM cores onto a 1060 and letting loose with an all-in-one windows gaming box that cuts Intel out of the equation.

      • Chrispy_
      • 2 years ago

      I was mostly underwhelmed by the Switch until I saw it running Doom.

        • Kretschmer
        • 2 years ago

        Not running. The proper word is “stumbling.” Still impressive given the size of the hardware, though!

      • TheRazorsEdge
      • 2 years ago

      Don’t hold your breath.

      Hand-tuned code is still a thing in performance-critical paths. I would be shocked if none of that engine code is so highly tuned for x86-64 that it runs like crap on ARM.

      There is probably a lot of developer work necessary before AAA-level Windows gaming is possible on ARM.

      Less-demanding strategy, puzzle, and RPGs will probably come first. That might be enough for me to jump ship since I don’t really play sports or FPS games that much anymore.

    • Blytz
    • 2 years ago

    So hows the power consumption.

    With the exception of the improvements in camera processing (curious to see how this stacks up vs the visual chip in the pixel 2’s) I’ve not found a use for the increasing power the chips have.

    Better efficiency in soc and screens over more grunt will do me every day of the week now, but I welcome the camera improvements

      • yeeeeman
      • 2 years ago

      Power consumed by SoCs is split to many components so it depends on the use case very much. The biggest problem that should be solved today is the battery technology, because as a matter of fact, SoCs consume very little power for what they actually do.

    • ET3D
    • 2 years ago

    According to the 845’s product page ‘2Kx2K’ is ‘2x 2400×2400 @ 120 FPS’. Not bad at all, I’d say.

    • ronch
    • 2 years ago

    I’d love to have one of these… not in a phone or tablet but in a (theoretical) gaming console. I kinda wish someone like Nintendo would use one of these spunky ARM SoCs and build a console and software ecosystem around it… which is exactly what Nintendo already did with the Switch.

    As a kid in the 90’s who was so into consoles like the Playstation 1 and Saturn that were some of the first consoles to feature 3D graphics which was much bigger then than VR is today, I can’t help but be amazed by these tiny SoCs that completely blow away those consoles in a tiny chip that’s no bigger than your thumb. Heck even my first 3D graphics card, a Voodoo3 3000 which was amazing back in 1999 is nothing compared to the cheap Mediatek SoC in my phone.

    • albundy
    • 2 years ago

    meatspace…thank goodness for boxers.

      • flip-mode
      • 2 years ago

      Yeah, that word also shot me right in the eye.

    • Pancake
    • 2 years ago

    Four big cores at 2.8GHz + 4 baby cores. With legacy x86 emulation a solved problem this really marks the beginning of the war on x86 in the Windows laptop space. The throughput of this micro-monster should be in the order of i5.

    20+hr battery life with that sort of performance. Intel will be eliminated from the low-end laptop/tablet space with the fight brought right up to the mid-end mainstream. Intel can fight but AMD will have nowhere to go. Not even the developing world will want their bloated, wheezy craptops.

    I can’t wait. Call me toast and smother me with butter and Bovril. I can’t wait.

      • anubis44
      • 2 years ago

      You must have missed the memo that Ryzen mobile IS higher end. It competes with Intel’s best i7 mobile chips. Oh, and the other memo is that Qualcom and AMD are probably becoming closer allies. AMD and Qualcom announced Qualcom’s mobile modem tech in their ‘always connected’ PCs: [url<]https://seekingalpha.com/news/3316498-amd-confirms-working-qualcomm-always-connected-pcs[/url<] Still think this closer alliance between Qualcom and AMD is a fantasy? After all, AMD sold Qualcom their Adreno mobile GPU tech. Recognize the anagram in Adreno? Hint: R A D E O N. 🙂

        • Pancake
        • 2 years ago

        Ryzen mobile is certainly powerful and way faster than Snapdragon 845. But it’s also a comparatively energy pig and won’t find itself in the desirable thin and light form factors. Ryzen mobile will find its place in the desktop replacement laptop market where you never have to move the heavy, hot, wheezing beast or be far from a permanent power source.

      • ronch
      • 2 years ago

      Nope. Dream on, ARM.

        • Pancake
        • 2 years ago

        Do I detect a tremble of fear? Don’t be afraid. Embrace the better new change.

          • ronch
          • 2 years ago

          Yeah sure I’m shaking in my boots.

      • tacitust
      • 2 years ago

      Even if Intel’s low end was even remotely under threat, which seems doubtful, they’re not going to just sit around twiddling their thumbs and let it happen. We’ve already seen how quickly they’ve responded to AMD’s return to competitiveness, and they’re perfectly capable of doing the same thing should Qualcomm threaten their business.

      In any case, I don’t get this obsession with wanting companies like Intel or Microsoft to die. You kill off one dominant competitor, all you get is another one, with all the same crappy monopolistic tendencies as before. Competition is good, and three viable competitors in the CPU market is far better than two.

        • Pancake
        • 2 years ago

        Nobody wants companies like Intel or Microsoft to “die”. For what it’s worth I’m a big Microsoft fan – console, laptop, PC, phone. I’m all in with MS. What I am predicting instead is that Microsoft has finally got the formula right with ARM – full fat Windows with performant x86 binary translation. ARM will be BIG in the Windows mobile/thin and light space next year. Battery life and heat dissipation characteristics of the new ARM Windows machines will be TRANSFORMATIVE. Applications will increasingly include ARM native binaries. In a very short few years x86 emulation will be adequate for all the essential legacy cruft. I would expect five years from now my main desktop workstation will still be Intel but my laptop/tablet will be Windows ARM.

        Edit: I should say I do want the x86 ISA to die. I will merrily tap-dance on its grave.

      • srg86
      • 2 years ago

      err x86 is not a solved problem, for starters MS’s emulator only emulates the 32-bit ISA.

        • Pancake
        • 2 years ago

        To be pedantic x86 = 32-bit. Anyway, that should be quite sufficient for legacy cruft. MS could easily produce an x64 emulator if they desired. I suspect the intention is to get software developers to produce native ARM binaries which will have advantages for performance and battery life. So, going forward in a few years time all the angst about old x86/64 compatible cruft will just be bad memories.

          • Ninjitsu
          • 2 years ago

          …to be pedantic x86-64 = 64 bit?

      • TheRazorsEdge
      • 2 years ago

      Do you know even know what’s going on in that space? You are missing most of the important information.

      This SoC will perform nowhere near a modern i5 CPU. We can wait for formal benchmarks, but I can assure you they will not even be close.

      Intel has the Goldmont architecture for low-power devices. They even made some SoCs for cell phones a few years ago. Their SoCs performed better than the ARM-based competition, but they were not popular due to the existing ARM ecosystem and the lack of integrated baseband. The issue was integration rather than performance. Microsoft shipped the lower end Surfaces with Silvermont/Airmont/Goldmont CPUs. Intel is already competing in the low-power mobile space.

      AMD has already shown a willingness to dabble in ARM production, but they stopped work due to a lack of funds and a small market. If Ryzen provides the money and Microsoft expands the market, AMD could easily head back down that path again.

      You make a number of startling predictions, but you offer no reasonable basis for accepting those predictions.

        • tipoo
        • 2 years ago

        Each smartphone with them also had pretty poor battery life. People blamed every manner of other thing, but there was no example phone that proved it was up there with ARM SoT.

        • Pancake
        • 2 years ago

        Perhaps I’m not clear enough – low power i5 in thin and light form factors such as the recently reviewed Core i5-8250U. Not desktops. Thin and light, long battery life. Repeat that mantra until you get it.

        But let’s play extrapolation with Geekbench 4. A Core i5-8250U gets about 4400 in single-core, 14000 in multi-core (looking up best case scores). In a PHONE a Snapdragon 835 gets about half that (worst case scenario). Snappy 845 should be about 50% better. And then put it in a thermally favourable environment like a thin and light laptop (that I desperately want to buy) with a relatively large battery (compared to a phone)…

        I would say Snappy 845 would be snapping at the heels of i5 in raw CPU performance. And would munch it in GPU performance. Then combine that with 20hr+ battery life. Wowsers. You’d have to be the most one-eyed x86 fan not to be drooling at what’s soon to come in the Windows space. To be clear – I use a whole device not just a CPU. I really don’t care about the ISA or even brand.

          • derFunkenstein
          • 2 years ago

          The Snapdragon 845 consuming less than a third of 5W is not going to challenge a Core i5, especially not a quad-core model like the 8250U.

            • Pancake
            • 2 years ago

            Where do you get less than a third of 5W? The big CPU cores consume 1.1W each. You’re looking at total SoC consumption of 5-10W I would guess.

            Anyway, I have extrapolated the performance based on Geekbench. You offer nothing.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 2 years ago

            A third of 15W. And if you offer Geekbench you offer less than nothing. Lol

          • BurntMyBacon
          • 2 years ago

          I understand your excitement, but:
          [quote=”Pancake”<]Snappy 845 should be about 50% better.[/quote<] Where do you get this? Per the article, we should be seeing 25%-30%. [quote="Pancake"<]A Core i5-8250U gets about 4400 in single-core, 14000 in multi-core (looking up best case scores). In a PHONE a Snapdragon 835 gets about half that (worst case scenario).[/quote<] Using your "half an i5-8250U" and "50% improvement over the 835" numbers, you still only get to 75% of the i5. It's only 65% if you use the (likely best case) 30% improvement quoted in the article. It's also completely unknown if that 30% is applicable to the benchmark in question. [quote="Pancake"<]And then put it in a thermally favourable environment like a thin and light laptop [/quote<] As a side note: you do realize that power efficiency will not be as good when allowed to run full speed more often on its less power efficient and hotter performance cores. From a performance perspective, even if we assume the (unqualified) gains are applicable to the chosen benchmark, it is uncertain how limiting the environment was for the 835 in the first place. Given this lack of information, it is optimistic to assume that the environment will make up for the 25% - 35% deficit. [quote="Pancake"<] But let's play extrapolation with Geekbench 4.[/quote<] I don't really think I need to point out the problem with this statement. Given that there aren't many good cross-platform benchmarks, I'll simply say, we are better off waiting to see how the 845 performs than extrapolating from unqualified performance improvement claims and questionable benchmarks. I do sincerely hope the 845 is a fantastic processor that brings compelling competition to the spaces it competes in. I will, however, remain realistic with where I expect it to compete. Tablets, hybrids, and possibly low end ultrabooks that favor battery life over performance seems to be a good fit (given limited information). I would expect these to have more limited utility, but they may compete well with chromebooks (given the right price). Lets see how things develop.

            • Pancake
            • 2 years ago

            Anandtech estimate up to 50% based on IPC and clock speed improvements. Which is no doubt optimistic but in lieu of real data why not speculate? That’s what message boards are about.

            75% of an i5 would be a very good result I would think. Heads and shoulders knees and toes above the Atom-core rubbish. And I think a lot of people would be happy trading a little performance for a massive gain in battery life.

            I don’t know what your use case for a thin and light laptop is but – for me and I would speculate most people with jobs – it’s for work on the go. Not Cinebench rendering or gaming. Bursty CPU demand for rendering a document, web page etc. For me, also coding using Eclipse and some GIS work. So, a fast CPU is important for the experience.

            So, as you say, and as I have said this will be great for the lower-end CPU demands. But this doesn’t mean low-end or non-premium product. I would happily pay a premium for a high quality product that is small, thin, lasts forever and a day on battery even if the outright performance is much less than a heavy, wheezing, bloated gaming-oriented beast. 20 hr+ battery life? This is the next stage of the evolution of the ultrabook.

    • Captain Ned
    • 2 years ago

    Red Bull, Bruno?

    Oh well, they’ll need the next gen chip and more FPS to shoot images of a Ferrari or Mercedes.

      • morphine
      • 2 years ago

      I’m just here for the caffeinated drink.

    • thor84no
    • 2 years ago

    Need a banana for scale. No idea what this pushpin rubbish is.

      • Neutronbeam
      • 2 years ago

      Good, ah, point. That’s actually a 12-inch (30.5 cm) pushpin; those are hooge chips.

    • willmore
    • 2 years ago

    I wonder if Apple will sue them for something in this chip?

      • YukaKun
      • 2 years ago

      I can see the SoC in the picture is a curved rectangle design.

      Lawsuit imminent.

        • trackerben
        • 2 years ago

        Size matters.

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