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Snapdragon 820 Within Thermal Limits & Debuts Tomorrow

November 9, 2015 - Written By David Steele

Qualcomm are set to officially launch their latest flagship System-on-Chip, the Snapdragon 820, tomorrow. As part of the release, Tim McDonough, a marketing leader specializing in technology, is taking over Qualcomm’s Twitter account and will be answering questions about the new Snapdragon 820 chipset. In what is becoming something of an extended preview of the chipset and tomorrow’s announcement, Tim has already started that the chip meets and exceeds device manufacturers’ thermal requirements. Unfortunately for Qualcomm, and given how they denied the Snapdragon 810’s overheating issues this statement has been met with a degree of cynicism across the industry. Otherwise, the Snapdragon 820 is quite a different System-on-Chip compared with its immediate predecessor, the Snapdragon 810. Whereas the 810 uses ARM’s reference processor core designs, the Cortex-A53 and Cortex-A57, the Snapdragon 820 sees Qualcomm returning to their comfort zone of a custom application processor core architecture. Until 2015, Qualcomm used their own custom design processor core in their chipsets, called “Krait.” The Snapdragon 820 will use the “Kryo” custom core. Furthermore, the 820 will contain a single cluster of four Kyro cores rather than multiple tiers of differently performing processor cores, as many competitor chipsets use. Instead, Qualcomm are using some clever technologies to optimize the Snapdragon 820’s power consumption such as heterogeneous computing.

To explain what Tim’s statement means, we need to consider that every electronic component in a modern smartphone will essentially convert energy (from the battery) into heat plus another byproduct. The byproduct in question may be radio transmission, executing code, or similar. The more energy efficient the component, the less heat is wasted for a given duty or task. Components have a stated heat output, which may be a peak or a continuous measurement depending on a number of factors. With the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810, there may have been something of a disconnect between the stated power consumption and heat output of the SoC, and the ability of the smartphone or tablet to exhaust this heat. Tim’s statement that the Snapdragon is within original equipment manufacturers’ thermal requirements is an encouraging sign, although of course we will need to see how the chip behaves when used in production devices. Clearly, Qualcomm wish to put the overheating issues of the Snapdragon 810 behind them.

It is still unclear as to what devices will be powered by Qualcomm’s latest flagship device, but the biggest question mark is hanging over the next Galaxy S flagship, believed to be the Samsung Galaxy S7. In Qualcomm’s recent earnings call, the business appeared less optimistic that Samsung were going to use the Snapdragon 820, but we have also seen reports that the South Korean smartphone manufacturer has been busy working on the technology in order to make the SoC work in their device. In the coming months, we are likely to continue to see rumors and speculation surrounding the Snapdragon 820 and Galaxy S7. Tomorrow’s announcement may shed a little light on the matter, but we are likely to have to wait until an official announcement from either Qualcomm or Samsung on the matter, which seems unlikely. Or until the Galaxy S7 is launched in the New Year.