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Looking beyond Qualcomm's extensive mobile SoC line-up

Posted: 24 Feb 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Qualcomm? ARM? mobile SoC? big.LITTLE? LTE Advanced?

Qualcomm has become the first ARM partner to unveil devices using the latest 64bit ARM Cortex-A72 core when it unleashed a wide-ranging mobile SoC portfolio. Qualcomm's latest offering concerns the company's 600 and 400 series Snapdragon mobile SoCs geared for mid-range mobile devices.

Starting off at the high-end is the Snapdragon 620, which will feature four of the latest 64bit ARM Cortex-A72 CPU cores in a big.LITTLE octal configuration with four ARM Cortex-53 cores. In addition, the Snapdragon 620 will include all the features of the existing Snapdragon 800 series, including dual integrated image signal processors (ISPs) that can support up to 21MP image sensors, the Qualcomm Hexagon DSP for multimedia processing, a dedicated 4k HEVC video encode-decode engine, an upgraded Adreno GPU, and support for QHD displays at 60fps. The Snapdragon 625 will also feature a next generation Cat 7 LTE modem that supports 2x20MHz carrier aggregation and the LTE Advanced standard.

While specification and performance details are still forthcoming, Qualcomm did indicate that commercial availability of the devices will be available in the latter half of the year and will be supported with reference designs. The little brother of the 620, the Snapdragon 618, will have all the features of the 620 with a 2x6 CPU configuration consisting of two ARM Cortex-A57 cores and four ARM Cortex-53 cores.

Qualcomm also announced the Snapdragon 425 and 415 products. The Snapdragon 425 will have the same features as the 620 and 618 with an Adreno 405 GPU and eight ARM Cortex-A53 cores in an all-little octal configuration. The 415 will also be configured with eight ARM Cortex-A53s and the Adreno 405 GPU, but more in line with the current Snapdragon 410 features, including a single ISP supporting up to 13.5MP. Both the 425 and 415 will also feature the same Cat 7 modem as the 620 and 618.

What really makes this exciting, however, is what Qualcomm is implicating with this announcement. The 625 has all the specifications of the highest-end mobile SoC on the market. So, what should we expect of the next generation 800 series mobile SoC? Qualcomm is clearly paving the way for the introduction of its own custom 64bit ARMv8-compatible core, the follow-on to the 32bit Krait core, and leaving the highest-end of the product line open to what the company anticipates will be a new level of performance for mobile SoCs. Unfortunately, no details are available about this future core or future products at this time.

If the latest products were not enough, Qualcomm also doubled-down on the Snapdragon brand. Going forward, Qualcomm will use the Snapdragon brand to represent both the mobile SoCs and discrete modems, which have been branded under Gobi. The modem will be represented by the letter 'X' followed by a generation number, such as the Cat 7 discrete modem will be branded the Snapdragon X8 while the mobile SoC will be branded the Snapdragon 625 with X8. While this won't completely avoid some confusion in the short-term, it does provide the company with a single brand an easier way to distinguish between the modems, which is Qualcomm core-expertise.

- Jim McGregor
??Tirias Research

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