It would appear that Qualcomm have a lot riding on the Snapdragon 820 after the predecessor device, the Snapdragon 810, caught the imagination of industry pundits all over the world as "the Snapdragon that overheated." In Qualcomm's eyes, far too many pixels have been inconvenienced through discussion about the 810's heat issue and the business wants to move on. Yesterday, Qualcomm unearthed their new champion chipset, the Snapdragon 820 and today they have been showing off the chipset and what it is capable of. Qualcomm's press release talked about how their new mobile chipset "is engineered to create immersive experiences for your next new smartphone … has been holistically designed around enriching visual quality and audio clarity, as well as developing more intuitive ways to interact with devices, to generate deeply immersive experiences." But what does this all mean? Let's take a look under the public relations gloss.
Qualcomm have made much of the visual processing abilities of the Snapdragon 820, which they say is able to generate photorealistic graphics when processing imaging files, using a mix of the integrated Adreno 530 GPU and the custom Kyro application cores. The Snapdragon 820 features the latest version of Epic's Unreal Engine, UE4, which includes the ability to generate screen space reflections, dynamic reflections that move relative to the viewing angle, High Dynamic Range Rendering (HDRR), enhanced contrast, realistic color and lighting and temporal anti-aliasing. QUalcomm use the heterogeneous core processing technologies and the Zeroth neural processing platform in a product called Qualcomm Snapdragon Scene Detect, which is "designed to automatically and quickly (within fractions of a second) analyze and classify recognizable image types and categories." These images may be organized into a photo gallery and used to build a new image. Qualcomm's deep learning technology is integrated into Snapdragon Scene Detect so the processor can be trained to recognize different devices or remove parts of an image that do not correspond to the desired results. The Snapdragon 820 also includes Snapdragon Low Light Vision (LLV), which is a combination of adaptive brightness and noise reduction technologies. LLV is able to adapt for movement when taking HDR (High Dynamic Range) shots and motion artifacts, to remove much of the noise present in low light photographs.
Qualcomm have given the Snapdragon 820 Immersive Audio, which when paired up with dual front facing speakers, can produce "a center of sound that's faithfully sharp and immersive, unmatched on other audio platforms" and how "music can now sound like it's flowing from multi-channel headphones, using nothing more than the device in your hand."
Qualcomm also explained how for the Snapdragon 820, their engineers took a fresh look at the processor and optimized each individual IP block, so as to improve the chipset's performance and power consumption with today's always-on applications and operating systems in mind. The chipset includes the X12 LTE (600 Mbps download speed) modem complete with enhanced LTE-U and WiFi calling functionality, the Hexagon 680 DSP and 14-bit Spectra ISP (two dedicated specialist cores designed to assist the 64-bit customer Kryo application cores), Qualcomm Snapdragon Smart Protect and the deep learning system, Qualcomm Zeroth.
In terms of processor speed, Qualcomm's data shows that the 820 can be twice as powerful as its immediate predecessor, the Snapdragon 810. It also uses around half the energy (and so all being equal, should produce half the heat). It will be built on a 14nm FinFET process. We're expecting devices running the new Snapdragon 820 to appear in the first half of 2016 but we do not know what customers will get their hands on the chipset first.