By and large, 2014 was a great year for American mobile processor, Qualcomm, just don’t mention the Chinese investigation! Their processors had powered one billion Android devices and they were introducing the new generation of 64-bit processors, starting off with the Snapdragon 410, the successor to the popular Snapdragon 400. Qualcomm also announced the Snapdragon 615 and 810 as mid and high end 64-bit processors… and then the odd rumor started concerning issues with these two processors and specifically their overheating issues. There were some stories that the 810’s production would be put back by six months until the second half of 2015, something that would likely be disastrous for Qualcomm on the expectation that the high volume manufacturers will be powering their 2015 flagships with the Snapdragon 810 (by this, I mean Samsung, Lenovo, HTC, Sony and LG as five big names). And it’s the Snapdragon 810 that I’m most interested in this article because it’s scheduled to arrive via two new handsets, the LG G Flex 2 and Xiaomi Mi Note Pro, but due out inside the next fortnight.
Let me write about the new Qualcomm processors, the Snapdragon 615 and 810 – with more of a focus on the 810. Both are “big.LITTLE” processor designs, but differ in the detail. The 615 includes two pairs of ARM Cortex-A53 quad core processors; one pair is optimized for high performance and the other for high power efficiency. The 810 also uses a high efficiency quad core A53 processor but pairs it up with a quad core high performance ARM Cortex-A57, the successor to the ARM Cortex-A15 design that we find in some Chromebooks and tablets. It’s also manufactured on a smaller die size at 20nm. Essentially, the Snapdragon 810 is quite the departure for Qualcomm; it uses a new manufacturing process, a new technique to balance performance and battery life, and ARM’s reference processor design rather than an in-house unit. Qualcomm have had to rewrite their processor management software, too. Oh and there’s also the Internet hyperbole effect, where any defect may be blown up out of proportion!
We’ve seen rumors that Qualcomm has put the alleged problems behind them and the Snapdragon 810 is in production, which given that a couple of handsets built around the 810 are about to be unleashed into the market, would appear to carry more than a little weight! As I’ve already written, I expect the G Flex 2 and Mi Note Pro to be joined in the coming weeks by a growing list of flagship devices using the new processor. What I don’t expect to see are stories of molten flagship processors.