EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE SNAPDRAGON 835
Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 835 is nearly upon us, so here’s what we already know about the chip, including Snapdragon 835 phones, specs, speed, benchmarks, and cores.
In November 2016, Qualcomm announced the Snapdragon 835, a brand-new top-end chip that will power many of next year’s most powerful smartphones. It replaces the Snapdragon 821 as Qualcomm’s flagship chip, and looks set to offer significant performance and efficiency improvements over its predecessor. That means the smartphones of 2017 are definitely worth looking forward to.
Unfortunately, while Qualcomm has divulged a decent chunk of information about the Snapdragon 835, we’re still missing some key details about the new chip. As a result, we’ve had to rely on a couple of leaks to get a fuller picture of what to expect from the Snapdragon 835.
Read on to find out all about Qualcomm’s MSM8998 Snapdragon 835 system-on-a-chip.
QUALCOMM SNAPDRAGON 835 RELEASE DATE
We don’t have an exact release date for the Snapdragon 835, because that’s not really how chips work. Qualcomm is already supplying manufacturers with the chip, and they’ll be hard at work building it into their upcoming gadgets.
All we know for sure is that we’ll see devices containing the chip in the first half of 2017.
QUALCOMM SNAPDRAGON 835 PHONES
We won’t know which phones will feature the Snapdragon 835 until individual manufacturers announce their handsets. But with the H12017 release window in mind, there are some clear candidates.
Both the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Microsoft Surface Phone are expected to carry the chip, according to rumours. And both of those phones are also likely to launch in the first six months of 2017, so they’ll probably feature Qualcomm’s new chip anyway. After all, if the Snapdragon 835 is available, it would seem odd for a phone maker to opt for an older chip instead – with flagship phones, at least.
We’re also expecting other flagships like the LG G6, HTC 11, and OnePlus 4 to launch in the first half of next year, so they’re all highly likely to use the processor.
The only caveat to all this is the Samsung Galaxy S8, which may only use the Snapdragon 835 in certain regions, as was the case with previous Galaxy smartphones. Don’t forget that Samsung also produces its own chips – the Exynos series. It’s highly likely that at least some Galaxy S8 units will feature Samsung’s own custom-built Exynos chips, rather than Qualcomm’s new fare.
QUALCOMM SNAPDRAGON 835 CORES, DESIGN, AND SPECS
The big news about the Snapdragon 835 is that it’s Qualcomm’s first 10nm chip. The Snapdragon 821 and 820, by comparison, were built using a less efficient 16nm manufacturing process. The bottom line is that the 10nm design allows the Snapdragon 835 to be more powerful and more efficient than older chips.
But what does 10nm mean, and why is it better?
Well a chip contains a circuit and transistors. These transistors are like tiny electronic switches that allow computer systems – like the one in your phone – to get things done. The more transistors you have, the more things you can get done in parallel, i.e. at a given time. So generally speaking, putting more transistors on a chip will make that chip more ‘powerful’.
So when chipmakers use the term ‘10nm’, they’re talking about a physical distance: 10 nanometres. That’s 1,000 times smaller than a strand of hair – or about the size of a few dozen water molecules.
The technical term for what this distance describes is called ‘device half-pitch’, but that’s a little opaque. What it really means is the distance between a feature on one transistor, and the same feature on the transistor next to it. It’s an easy way of describing how far transistors are apart, or rather how densely they’re packed together.
So transistors on a 10nm chip are more densely packed than those on an older 16nm chip, which means you can fit more transistors onto the circuit. And that, in turn, means performance can be improved.
It’s getting harder and harder to keep packing transistors more densely, so it was a bit of a race to get to 10nm first. Right now, both Samsung and Taiwan’s TSMC are able to manufacture 10nm chips. That’s why Qualcomm has enlisted Samsung to build the Snapdragon 835 using its new 10nm FinFET process.
“We are pleased to have the opportunity to work closely with Qualcomm Technologies in producing the Snapdragon 835 using our 10nm FinFET technology,” said Jong Shik Yoon, who heads up Samsung’s foundry business.
He added: “This collaboration is an important milestone for our foundry business as it signifies confidence in Samsung’s leading chip process technology.”
But while we know some details about the chip, Qualcomm still hasn’t revealed which processors will be used, how many processor cores there will be, the general chip architecture, nor many other details. Fortunately, a leaked spec sheet was posted to Chinese microblogging website Weibo, and picked up by local news outlet Anzhuo, which appears to reveal the missing information.
According to the leak, the Snapdragon 835 will use Qualcomm’s own Kryo 200 processors, with eight cores laid out in ARM’s big.LITTLE configuration. That means four of the cores will be high-power, low-efficiency cores that perform harder tasks, while the other four will be low-power, high-efficiency cores that handle more basic processing. This is the same setup we saw from the Snapdragon 820 and 821, and is quite similar to Apple’s latest quad-core A10 Fusion chip.
But the fun doesn’t stop there. The Snapdragon 835 is a system-on-a-chip, which means it contains more than just a processor. The leak says it will coming packing Qualcomm’s own Adreno 450, which has yet to appear in any other Qualcomm chip. It’s the successor to the Adreno 530, a 519.2GFLOPS (519.2 billion operations per second) GPU that was clickable to 650MHz. So we’d assume the Adreno 540 will be even better.
Finally, the Snapdragon 835 is tipped to feature one of Qualcomm’s newest modems – the Snapdragon X16. It was announced back in February, and supportsLTE download speeds. Qualcomm describes this as “fibre-like”, but what it really means is a theoretical maximum download speed of 1Gbps. That means a 4K movie – estimated at 100GB average file size – could be downloaded in just over 13 minutes. And a Blu-ray movie, which averages at around 20GB, would arrive at a quarter of that time. Of course, simply having a Snapdragon X16 modem in your phone doesn’t guarantee such speeds; you’ll need a network provider that can cough up such speeds – and no UK networks currently do.
QUALCOMM SNAPDRAGON 835 PERFORMANCE AND BENCHMARKS
So we know what sort of technology is in the Snapdragon 835, but how does it actually perform in practice?
Well until we get a chance to benchmark the chip, or get our hands on a phone with the Snapdragon 835 inside, we can’t say for sure. But we do have some fancy numbers from Qualcomm to get excited about. Qualcomm reckons that compared to the Snapdragon 821, the Snapdragon 835 will be able to offer either 27% higher performance or 40% lower power consumption, depending on how the chip is configured.
But the headline feature of the Snapdragon 835 is the introduction of Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 4, which should see charging times decrease by 20% compared to the old Quick Charge 3.0. In fact, Qualcomm says that for “typical premium phone users”, Quick Charge 4 will extend smartphone use by five or more hours with just five minutes of charging.
Speaking at the announcement, Alex Katouzian, Senior VP of Product Management at Qualcomm, said: “As mobile devices become more capable and feature-rich, people tend to use them more. That’s why consumer demand and awareness for fast-charging solutions is now at an all-time high. Quick Charge 4 addresses that need by providing up to 50% battery charge in roughly 15 minutes or less, so you don’t have to spend all day chained to your charging cable.”
Quick Charge 4 also supports both USB-C – the reversible connector we’ve seen on the Galaxy Note 7 – and USB-PD (Power Delivery), which is Google’s recommend USB specification for Android phones. And it also comes with the latest version of Qualcomm’s INOV, a custom-built power management algorithm. The new version comes with real-time thermal management that automatically sets the “optimal” power transfer level for your device. This should help stop phones getting too hot – if only the Galaxy Note 7 had it, eh?