When it comes to the processors that run inside of our smartphones, Qualcomm has been the biggest player for a long time now, but 2015 has been a misstep for the San Diego company. Missing out on both the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy Note 5 from Samsung has seriously hurt their bottom line, and this was because Samsung’s Exynos 7420 was so good that it was a better choice – for Samsung, at least – than the Snapdragon 810. There are many reasons that the Snapdragon 810 hasn’t proven all that an attractive processor for manufacturers, but chief among them was the fact they were just standard ARM cores. By that, we mean that they were not custom CPU cores as the Snapdragon 805 features, but rather simple reproductions of the chip designs licensed from ARM.
The Snapdragon 820 however, appears set to become a big deal for the firm when it hits devices next year. The octa-core 64-bit processor sees a return to custom cores, this time dubbed Hydra, and a much better GPU than we’ve seen this year. On paper, the Snapdragon 820 seems to be a big return to form for Qualcomm, so much so that prominent Chinese analyst, Pan Jiutang, has said that the new processor will be 50% more powerful than the Exynos 7420. Jiutang also shared a new rundown of what’s new in the MSM8996, the Snapdragon 820, and also said that even in single-threaded tests the Snapdragon 820 is a much better performer than the Exynos 7420.
This isn’t actually all that surprising, this year’s processors have mostly been stock core designs from ARM, the British firm that designs the ARM architecture as well as CPU cores and the Mali GPU. In the past, Qualcomm have made waves in the industry with custom cores, taking what ARM has created and vastly improving upon it. That didn’t happen in either the Snapdragon 810 or Exynos 7420 from Samsung, there was no special sauce, so to speak. A return to this custom engineering effort from Qualcomm should definitely yield much better performance, as they’ve now had a good amount of time to work with the new platform and perfect it.