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A Closer Look At The AWESOME Snapdragon 820: Specs & Features DETAILED

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You will see the Snapdragon 820 in A LOT of phones and tablets this year. A huge leap forwards from the Snapdragon 810, which was plagued with issues from the get-go, the 820 is currently the most powerful chip on market, wiping the floor with both Apple’s A9 chipset and Samsung’s Exynos 8890.

Samsung famously ditched support for Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 810 CPU last year. This was a HUGE blow to the company; Samsung was its biggest client by quite a margin. In 2016, though, Qualcomm and Samsung have appeared to have made up. And the reason is Samsung’s 14nm FinFET process technology.

Despite this Qualcomm still retained its hold on the market. 

“Qualcomm remained a leader in the 4G LTE segment for 2015 with 65 per cent market share while the 4G LTE market is expected to grow at an annual rate of 78.6 per cent till 2019,” reports Gulf News. “Moreover, the company faced difficulties in collecting licensing revenues from China, the world’s largest consumer of mobile phones, last year. The Chinese handset manufacturers did not pay royalty payments on Qualcomm’s wireless technology patents. But that is also settled as China’s more than 80 companies, including five largest smartphone makers — Xiaomi, Huawei, TCL, ZTE and Lenovo — have agreed to a major patent licensing agreement for 3G/4G technologies.”

And 2016 will be even better. Samsung’s FinFET process technology makes for smaller, faster CPU cores. This is the main reason why there will be such an uplift in performance and efficiency compared to last year’s SoCs. Samsung’s FinFET production allows for lower-rated nanometer construction, faster chips, cooler temperatures, and so forth. Qualcomm is picking a more advanced production partner, understandably, despite past differences and will re-introduce its own custom cores once again.

“Samsung’s new 14nm LPP process delivers up to 15 percent higher speed and 15 percent less power consumption over the previous 14nm LPE process through improvements in transistor structure and process optimisation. In addition, use of fully-depleted FinFET transistors brings enhanced manufacturing capabilities to overcome scaling limitations.”

The Snapdragon 820 packs an Adreno 530 GPU, which promises a performance uplift in the region of 40% increase. It will also utilise the new LPDDR4 RAM memory standard and support a raft of new hardware capabilities like 4K video at 60fps and DSLR-like photography.

The Snapdragon 820 also sees the reintroduction of Qualcomm’s custom core architecture. And they’ve even got a new name… 

Say, HELLO, To The Snapdragon 820 with KRYO…

With the Snapdragon 810, Qualcomm ditched its own custom Krait core architecture in favour of ARM’s big.LITTLE octa-core setup, however, with the Snapdragon 820 Qualcomm will debut the successor architecture to Krait, dubbed Kryo. Not a great deal has been revealed about this other than it being 64-bit and part of Qualcomm’s Zeroth cognitive computing platform.

What’s cognitive computing? Well it’s a bit full-on to be honest but in very simplistic terms it’s essentially an attempt to make a computer processor work more like the human brain in terms of efficiency. On a practical level it’s also supposed to be more intelligent and to be able to better anticipate a users’ needs.

A demo we saw in Barcelona showed Zeroth recognising points of reference in photographs, such as people or landscapes, and then performing searches based on that information. This can, for example, show you every photo featuring a particular person. In theory, such a system could be used with a front-facing camera to allow a device to adapt to the needs of whoever is using it, and this can be extrapolated to other always-on sensors paired with software applications. There’s been more than a hint that this technology is aimed at bringing the so-called Internet Of Things (ie: smart appliances and household goods) to life as a genuinely useful proposition, because it has the potential of minimising mundane user interaction for things like logging into accounts. If you walk into your house or switch on your phone and it just does all the things you like, how much better is that? Qualcomm even mentioned the possibility of Zeroth recognising facial expressions, so in theory if your phone starts playing a song you don’t like it could realise straight away and skip it just from that grimace you pulled.

A report from ExtremeTech describes how this functionality will be preserved from one device to another via Zeroth:

“What Qualcomm is saying is that the Zeroth platform will have the ability to learn from a users’ actions and can transfer that learned knowledge across different devices, even when the user upgrades a smartphone. The company is pitching Zeroth a bit like a smart administrator that knows your preferences before you do, and can leverage its own measurements and capabilities to take better photos; switch intelligently between WiFi, Bluetooth, and cellular data depending on which signals are the strongest. Zeroth is also supposedly capable of recognizing gestures, expressions, and faces, and intelligently sensing its own surroundings.”

Snapdragon 820 WILL Support INSANE 600Mbps LTE-A Speeds

As you expect, the Snapdragon 820 runs LTE-A. But unlike previous versions the chipset will support up to 600Mbps, a HUGE uplift over last year’s 450Mbps record. This is all made possible by Qualcomm’s newly upgraded X12 LTE modem, which also bumps uplink speeds to 150Mbps.

“This is the first publicly announced processor for use in mobile devices to support LTE Category 12 in the downlink and Category 13 in the uplink,” said Qualcomm at launch, “providing up to 33 percent and 200 percent improvement over its predecessor’s download and upload speeds, respectively.”

The Snapdragon 820 also features LTE support for 4×4 Multi-Input Multi-Output (MIMO), which will enable double download throughput speeds on a single LTE carrier, meaning faster downloads and less waiting around.

But That’s Not All…

The Snapdragon 820 also features a bunch of new technologies that make your LTE and Wi-Fi connections work more effectively together. Qualcomm outlined the below during launch:

  • LTE-Unlicensed (LTE-U). The Snapdragon 820 processor is the first publicly announced processor for use in mobile devices to offer comprehensive LTE-U support when paired with the WTR3950, increasing mobile network capacity and user throughput by aggregating LTE in licensed and unlicensed bands.

  • LTE and Wi-Fi Link Aggregation (LWA). LWA is another method of aggregating licensed and unlicensed spectrum. It is designed to allow mobile operators to utilize their Wi-Fi infrastructure to augment licensed LTE network capacity with unlicensed spectrum capacity.

  • Next-generation Wi-Fi calling. The X12 LTE modem supports next-generation HD Voice over LTE (VoLTE) and Video over LTE (ViLTE) calling services using the IP Multimedia Subsystem, with support for call continuity between LTE and Wi-Fi. Making use of the cognitive capabilities of Qualcomm® Zeroth™, the X12 LTE modem monitors real-time Wi-Fi quality to decide if and when to shift the call from LTE to Wi-Fi or back.

  • Antenna sharing. The new modem supports several antenna sharing schemes between LTE and Wi-Fi, designed to make it easier for manufacturers to design devices with advanced technologies like LTE-U, 4×4 LTE MIMO, and 2-stream Wi-Fi, with attractive form factors and minimal performance impact on either technology.

“The Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor with X12 LTE modem is a new industry leader, offering highly differentiated features that put OEMs and carriers on the cutting edge, including the latest advances in LTE and Wi-Fi connectivity,” said Alex Katouzian, senior vice president, product management, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. “With technologies like 4K video, virtual reality and cognitive computing rapidly evolving, it’s important to provide consumers with the speed and bandwidth to create a more compelling mobile experience.”

Snapdragon 820 WILL Enable DSLR-Like Photography

I headed out to SIGGRAPH 2015 in LA last year, as part of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820 media tour. However, there was no talk of clock speeds, processors and the like. That week’s announcement was ALL about the new Adreno 530 GPU and the company’s new, 14nm Spectra ISP unit which the company claims will deliver DSLR-like photography to mobiles in 2016.

This week we found out ALL about Qualcomm’s brand new Adreno 530  and Adreno 510 GPUs, which, according to company reps, represent a HUGE step forward in overall performance, power efficiency and features.

There will be two distinct Adreno 5xx GPUs released inside 2015/16 — the Adreno 530, which will appear inside the Snapdragon 820, and the Adreno 510 inside the Snapdragon 620/618 processors.

So what can we expect from these new GPUs? Quite a bit as it goes. But the most notable of which are as follows:

  • 40% lower power consumption and 40% faster performance for both graphics and GPGPU compute when compared to the Adreno 430;
  • OpenGL ES 3.1+AEP (Android Extension Pack) support, Renderscript, as well as the new OpenCL 2.0 and Vulkan standards (Vulkan, in case you were wondering, minimizes driver overhead and enables multi-threaded performance on mobile devices;
  • Support for 64-bit virtual addressing, meaning shared virtual memory (SVM) and efficient co-processing with 64 bit CPUs;
  • Fine-grain power management, new rendering, compositing and compression techniques to enable higher performance at lower power consumption and reduced DRAM bandwidth;
  • And last but by no means least, 4K HEVC video support at 60fps.

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Qualcomm Spectra: A New Dawn For Mobile Photography?

Spectra is the company’s new Image Signal Processor and it will introduce a raft of new features and capabilities to phones, VR devices and a whole bunch of other Snapdragon 820-powered gizmos in 2016.

But for most of us the main benefit will be DSLR-like photography on mobile devices, which is a HUGE deal for handset makers and consumers. Today’s imaging technology on phones is decent, says Qualcomm, but it’s not great. Spectra is designed to fix this and make the camera technology aboard 2016 flagship handsets truly exceptional.

Image quality is one thing — it is going to get A LOT better. But in this context it’s the tip of the iceberg because Spectra does so much more. Take this nugget, for instance: support for up to three simultaneous cameras (one facing the user, and two rear facing) as well as 25MP sensors operating at 30 frames per-second with zero shutter lag.

Other Confirmed Spectra Features

  • Improved photos with Qualcomm Spectra ISP’s flexible hybrid autofocus framework and multi-sensor fusion algorithms supporting next generation computational photography
  • Improved power efficiency when compared to previous generations, better noise immunity and higher throughput via advanced compression techniques and use of the latest MIPI serial C-PHY interface
  • Next generation Computer Vision and other use cases via direct-to-DSP raw bayer data streaming and pre-processing capabilities.

You will find the Snapdragon 820 inside A LOT of phones and tablets this year. The most notable handsets to carry the chipset thus far has been the LG G5 and Samsung Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 EDGE (although, only in certain regions). 

Plenty more of 2016’s Most Exciting Phones will carry this chipset too. 

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