It's December people! and as all of you might have heard till now, but in case you are waiting for us, here’s what Santa brought for the 2018 Androids — Qualcomm Snapdragon 845. Yay! Everyone was quite in the anticipation of this one, given recent long jumps in the SoC race (Ahem! Bionic) Qualcomm divulged Its product of the year for 2018, the legendary Snapdragon 845. Snapdragon 845 got its official call on December 5, 2017, at a rather scenic place in Hawaii. Sure, Snapdragons are the top of the food chain in the Android world, with increasing year by year dominance and reach. Snapdragon platform has become quite iconic and praiseworthy, essentially good like water for life.
Snapdragon 845 All you need to know
As no surprise, Snapdragon 845 is the direct successor to last year’s Snapdragon 835, the fiery core of this year’s almost all flagship smartphones. As Snapdragon 845 is bound to have the same role but with more punch for 2018, let’s take a deep dive into what all has changed and is the newly launched Snapdragon 845, truly worth the hype?
Following the keynote, Snapdragon 845 sees improve all over the board, with the inclusion of new dimensions to the Snapdragon platform. Qualcomm laid more emphasis on the future beyond just processing for the Snapdragon platform, following a more holistic approach, not only with the compute power but with a wide range of applications and tasks. We saw a huge emphasis on multimedia, security, 5G connectivity of course and VR is the new cool. As it feels, Qualcomm is more concerned with Snapdragon as a broader platform than just a CPU, while Its definitely good if the vision gets some ground, It's not here, not now. So let’s cut the marketing and go unraveling the power this new king of beasts packs.
15% increase in performance and 10% increase on battery performance
Well, Qualcomm is in deep love with the Kryo architecture and this indeed has many ramifications. Snapdragon 845 is powered by all new Kryo 385 cores and a crazy powerful Adreno 630 GPU. The chip remains on Samsung’s 10nm node, assured directly by the foundry chief, Dr. E.S Jung from Samsung. The process, now in the 2nd generation, offers 15% increase in performance and 10% increase on battery performance, surely those are not staggering numbers but wait, Snapdragon 845 has got a lot more than brute power to show off. Carrying on the legacy, this year too, Kryo 385 is a custom build on ARM’s latest A55 and A75 cores. FYI, ARM claims that these A75 cores are 30% faster and Qualcomm offers an additional 25% performance boost compared to Snapdragon
835, all thanks to their customization magic.
Again, It comes as no surprise that the CPU is indeed based on ARM’s DynamicIQ controller with a new 2MB L3 cache. These cores can clock up to 2.8 GHz, searing fast! This develops some key memory sharing and task handling prowess. The 845 is heterogeneous 8 core SoC with 4 cores as high-performance ones(A75), clocked at 2.8GHz and other 4 battery-efficient cores(A55), clocked at 1.7 GHz. This octa-core arrangement, with 4 high-performance cores sitting together on the same cluster offers significantly low memory latency and better task sharing capabilities.
30% increase in graphics performance over Snapdragon 835
It's not only about CPUs anymore, Qualcomm has done some stupendous work with the GPU as Adreno 630, the next generation ‘Visual Processing Subsystem’ as Qualcomm deems it, has been reworked from the foundations. This redesign brings a host of performance boosts, with over 30% increase in graphics performance over Snapdragon 835. This isn’t all, even with that enhanced power output, this GPU can work on 30% lower battery consumption, how’s that? Qualcomm thanks, Samsung foundry for its 10nm process with this one as well.
Moving to broader horizons, Adreno 630 marks the readiness of Snapdragon platform for more Intensive AR and VR workloads. Now, It supports displays up to 2K x 2K in resolution at 120Hz tops, on a side note, seeing this, 2018 could very well be the year of the 120Hz displays like the one in Razer Phone.
The so-called Visual Subsystem also includes baked in capabilities for tile rendering, eye tracking, multiView rendering, and fine grain preemption. Boasting Its AR capabilities, the 845 also
becomes the first SoC with room-scale 6 degrees of freedom (6DoF) of movement, simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) and enables the wall-collision detection ability for the new Snapdragon. So much for improvements all across the board, the Spectra 280 ISP, Qualcomm’s famous Image signal Processor lineup makes its debut in the 845. For starters, Spectra ISP is at the core of those great smartphone cameras you saw around in 2017.
So yeah, 2018 is gonna bring a refueled camera experience. Spectra 280, take everything including pixel quality, color volume, accuracy forward in a big sense. Spectra 280 ISP also pushed Snapdragon 845 into being first with 4K HDR video capability SoC. It can now record at a range of frame rates like 480 fps slow motion 720p video, 60 fps video recording at up to 16 megapixels. And did I tell you that this Spectra 280 will enable capturing of 64X more high-dynamic range? Yeah, that’s true.
Qualcomm has been driving the connectivity revolution for some time around, this time the eyes are all set at the 5G revolution.
In a nutshell, the photos on 2018 flagships are gonna get even better and even lifelike. The color accuracy and quality are about to set new levels. Video quality is in for a treat too with great experiences captured in 4K HDR. The 10-bit HDR and Rec-2020 color gamut for 4K/Ultra HD content are also in place to blow your mind off. Whether smartphone displays will be able to utilize this is another question.
Qualcomm has been driving the connectivity revolution for some time around, this time the eyes are all set at the 5G revolution. Qualcomm introduces a new Wi-Fi modem with 60 GHz 802.11ad for groundbreaking speeds of up to 4.6Gbps. The integrated 802.11ac Wi-Fi has now 16X improvements in connection setup times, simultaneous dual-band support and utilizes over 30% more of channel capacity.
Let’s talk about the stunning, new X20 LTE modem, which has some serious abilities as it's category 18 compliant with up to 1.2 Gbps download speeds and 150 Mbps upload speeds, It offers a plethora of other features such as 5x carrier aggregation, 4×4 MIMO on up to 3 carriers, and the most important dual SIM-dual VoLTE. The X20 is 20% faster than X16 found on Snapdragon 835. Though, I am skeptical about the carriers abilities to realize these speed numbers.
Qualcomm has been very vocal about AI and the Snapdragon “Platform” to be at the center of AI revolution. Qualcomm has introduced an all-new Hexagon 685 DSP(Digital Signal Processor), now you might be thinking that Qualcomm must have bagged in a new AI sub-processor like Apple Neural Engine or like Huawei has done with Kirin, but no.
Qualcomm looks at this with a different, more integrated approach. The Hexagon 685 (3rd generation, Vector DSP with HVX) makes Snapdragon 845 gain up to 3X faster performance in AI and Image processing workloads. Qualcomm has been moving rapidly on the AI grounds and Hexagon 685 is meant to accelerate machine learning and inference on the device with searingly fast speeds. Due to continuous investments in Machine Learning and AI, Qualcomm SoCs now support more AI Frameworks than anyone else. The good news this time around for developers is that TensorFlow Lite would be now supported by Snapdragon Neural Processing Engine SDK. The Snapdragon 845 also supports Google’s Android Neural Networks API for use with Android 8.1.
With all the security uncertainties and privacy buzz going around, Qualcomm took a major step by including a new “Secure Processing Unit (SPU)” which is essentially Snapdragon 845’s inbuilt Fort Knox, with the purpose of storing sensitive, security information, isolated from the rest of the SoC components and own power circuits.
The security functions include user passwords management, application data, and biometric data. Qualcomm is definitely late to realize the necessity of a separate security vault on the chip but the change is welcome. This is very much crucial in the age where most of the payments happen from the device and notorious hacker groups are on the rise.
Fast Charging will be faster than ever with Quick Charge 4+, which delivers charge at 30% greater efficiency.
We know you’ve been looking for it, and Qualcomm knows it too, Fast Charging will be faster than ever with Quick Charge 4+, which delivers charge at 30% greater efficiency, 15% faster and with cooler. And good news! Bluetooth 5 makes it into the Snapdragon 845 for greater efficiency with wireless peripherals such as wireless earbuds with custom enhancements from Qualcomm such as direct audio broadcasts to multiple devices. With this simple tabular representation of how Snapdragon 845 pits against its predecessor, that’s all we’ve got about Snapdragon 845. Take a look at the Snapdragon 845 Specifications below.
Snapdragon 845 vs Snapdragon 835 Comparison
Let's take a look at the specifications comparison of Snapdragon 835 and Snapdragon 845.
|Snapdragon 845||Snapdragon 835|
|Production Process||Second-gen 10nm (LPP)||First-gen 10nm (LPE)|
|Processor cores||4x Kryo 385 @
Cortex-A75) + 4x
Kryo 385 @ 1.8GHz
|4x Kryo 280 @
2.45GHz + 4x Kryo
280 @ 1.90GHz
|GPU||Adreno 630, 2x
2400x2400 @ 120
FPS (VR), physical
during VR sessions
|Modem||Snapdragon X20 LTE (5xCA)
(Download: Cat 18, up
to 1200 Mbit/s;
upload: Cat 13, up to
150 Mbit/s), 4x4
|Snapdragon X16 LTE (4xCA)
(Download: Cat 16, up
to 1000 Mbit/s;
upload: Cat 13, up to
|AI Co-processing||Yes, Hexagon 685||Yes, Hexagon 682|
|Video Encode||4K HDR at 60fps||4K HDR at 30fps|
280, support for
16MP image sensor
operating up to 60
frames per second
|Qualcomm Spectra 180|
Unit (SPU) isolated
|Misc||Quick Charge 4+
Dual SIM dual VoLTE
Slow Motion video
capture ([email protected])
|Quick Charge 4|
Huawei Kirin 970: The Unnoticed Trailblazer
We usually are so interested in Qualcomm’s Snapdragon developments that we often miss out some major breakthroughs elsewhere in the silicon industry. The same happened, when Huawei unleashed Its home-cooked Kirin 970 SoC with a top of line AI capabilities baked right in.
It is quite the trend nowadays to put AI-First approach into building these top of the class SoCs and Huawei is no different. The chip has been manufactured using TSMC’s 10nm process. It is an octa-core CPU with a gigantic 12- core GPU to back the intensive graphics workloads along with boosting the AI performance. Kirin 970 features dual ISPs and Cat18. super speed LTE modem. The CPU is exactly same as the previous Kirin 960, featuring a heterogenous 4+4 configuration with 4 high-performance Cortex A73 cores and 4 battery efficient Cortex A53 cores.
This time around, these cores have been overclocked to 2.4GHz and 1.8GHz respectively. Kirin 970 also happens to be the first SoC to showcase ARM’s latest Mali-G72 GPU. Huawei claims that Its custom implementation of Mali-G72 puts Kirin 970, 20% ahead of Kirin 960 in performance and also manages to get an awesome 50% greater power efficiency.
Source: Android Authority
Huawei boasted a lot about AI capabilities of the all-new Kirin 970, so talking about AI, Huawei’s AI dreams are founded on dedicated Neural Processing System (NPU), simply putting a specialized hardware for running machine learning tasks and workloads at super speeds. When put in contrast with the Kirin 970’s CPU, this time around the NPU is almost 25 times faster in machine learning workloads and delivers all that performance by being over 50% more efficient on power. Believe me, that’s crazy neural power.
If you are into computing, you know that the power of GPUs and such stuff in calculated in TeraFlops, defining the number of floating point operations that can be performed by the hardware per second. The Kirin 970 NPU scores an unheard 1.92 TeraFlops on Floating point 16. In AI calculations, 16-bit and 8-bit floating point configurations play a major role as most of the calculations don’t require such accurate results that justify the use of 32 or 64-bit floating point operations.
“As we look to the future of smartphones, we’re at the threshold of an exciting new era, Mobile AI = On-Device AI + Cloud AI. Huawei is committed to developing smart devices into intelligent devices by building end-to-end capabilities that support coordinated development of chips, devices, and the cloud. The ultimate goal is to provide a significantly better user experience. The Kirin 970 is the first in a series of new advances that will bring powerful AI features to our devices and take them beyond the competition.”
- Richard Yu, CEO, Huawei Consumer Business Group
To get the 3rd party developers on board, Huawei is opening Kirin 970 to developers, hoping to make Kirin an open platform for AI. Good news is that Kirin 970 supports TensorFlow, TensorFlow lite and Caffe 2.
Snapdragon 845 vs Apple A11 Bionic vs Huawei Kirin 970: How it fairs?
The year is still 2017 and Apple is still at the helm with A11 Bionic, moving towards 2018 will Snapdragon 845 be able to topple the godly A11 Bionic or not? Let’s take a sneak peak at the benchmarks are not up yet. Apple being Apple doesn’t reveal much about the SoC architecture apart from their names and some little configuration information. Which makes it really difficult to compare with others without benchmarks. So here, with all the presumption granted, we’ll take a look at how the all-new Snapdragon 845 might pit up against the A11 Bionic, the beast of the year 2017. Here are a few specifications.
Snapdragon 845 vs Snapdragon 835 vs Apple A11 Bionic Comparison
Let's take a look at detailed specifications comparison of Snapdragon 835, Snapdragon 845 and Apple A11 Bionic.
|SoC||Snapdragon 845||Snapdragon 835||Apple A11 Bionic||Kirin 970|
|CPU Cores||Octa Core
4x 2.8 GHz Kryo 385
4x 1.7 GHz Kryo 385
X20 LTE modem
|Octa Core CPU
4x 2.45GHz Kryo 280
4x 1.9GHz Kryo 280
X16 LTE modem
Monsoon + 4×
Mistral) Max up to
|4 x Cortex A73 at
2.4GHz 4 x Cortex
A53 at 1.8GHz
|GPU||Adreno 630||Adreno 540||Apple designed
custom 3 core(s)
|Mali G72 MP12
|RAM||Up to 8 GB dual channel
|Up to 8 GB dual channel
|3 GB of LPDDR4||Up to 8 GB dual-channel
|10 nm FinFET||10 nm FinFET||10 nm FinFET||10 nm FinFET|
|NPU||Hexagon DSP 2nd
|Hexagon DSP||Neural Engine||NPU|
|LTE||Cat 18, up to
|Cat 16, up to 1
|Cat 16, up to 1
|Cat 18, up to
In terms of brute power, A11 Bionic is miles ahead of anything else in view, even the Snapdragon 845 won’t be shaking that lead.
In terms of brute power, A11 Bionic is miles ahead of anything else in view, even the Snapdragon 845 won’t be shaking that lead. The addition of an L3 cache might make some significant boosts in the CPU power but not enough to place A11 Bionic on its toes. Recent benchmarking rumors put Samsung Galaxy S9, powered by Snapdragon 845 at a score of 2422 on a single core and 8351 on multi-core tests, while the A11 is still in its own league with 4197 on a single core and a gigantic 10051 on multi-core scores. Here, take a look.
While Snapdragon platform has been making some great strides to have a more comprehensive growth in several departments such as camera performance, connectivity and AI. Apple has done quite a bit in shadows to uplift its chips in all those departments as well, most of which don’t get in front of the public like Qualcomm. A11’s extraordinary benchmark scores and great results in camera, connectivity, and multimedia is unarguable.
A11 Bionic is just the tip of the iceberg and just a faint reflection of the efforts Apple has been pumping that are plainly hidden from media houses and keynotes.
Apple has also laid significant efforts in the AI with Neural Engine and CoreML as AI frameworks. Qualcomm’s achievements are no doubt breakthroughs but as a tech fan, you shouldn’t take Apple’s hidden advancements for granted.
A11 Bionic is just the tip of the iceberg and just a faint reflection of the efforts Apple has been pumping that are plainly hidden from media houses and keynotes. In my views, Qualcomm has been playing more reactive than proactive with the SoC business but is doing quite well altogether. Apple just 2 days ago open sourced, TURI - Apple’s Machine Learning framework much like the famous TensorFlow by Google, open-sourced way back in 2015 which is the Industry standard now.
Huawei, on the other hand, is making quite a noise for Its Kirin 970, Huawei boasted Kirin 970’s AI capabilities that come as a result of all new Neural Processing Unit (NPU), On the benchmarks, Kirin 970 falls just short of Snapdragon 835, hence far beyond bionic. Snapdragon 845 also enjoys a comfortable lead over it in numbers. That doesn’t reflect that Huawei is doing bad, no, Huawei being a new entry to chip business compared to Apple and Qualcomm is putting quite a competition and is putting Its chips is close range.
Huawei is taking good ground by staying at the edge of technology by betting on AI as Kirin’s specialty. Though Kirin 970’s is not the best SoC for 2017 but certainly has some great show for money. We look forward to Huawei’s commitment for AI and how Kirin fares in the real world performance. Though as weird as it may sound, some bloggers and reports in the media suggest that Kirin 970 might actually be more powerful than Snapdragon 845. We still have a lot to look out for in 2018 when actual benchmark results are out.
Expected Snapdragon 845 Smartphones in 2018
If you’ve been into the Qualcomm loop for some time now, you’d be well aware of the traditions. These incremental changes and gains won’t reflect much in everyday usage but are a strong foundation for future technologies to build upon. It only gets visible once you are 2 or 3 years down the line and at some odd night, you feel how much the smartphones have progressed. If that night is tonight, don’t forget to give our brand new Medium post a read, Its stirring!
The Snapdragon 845 is born to be the trending SoC of 2018, with all the major flagships walking with it at the core. Xiaomi has been first to officially confirm that Mi 7 will be the first flagship to boast Snapdragon 845, we expect other biggies like Samsung to come up with Galaxy S9 sometime in April 2018. LG and Sony will be following soon with others like OnePlus(6) and Razer(?) to be next. By September, you’ll have at least 10 devices running on Snapdragon 845 in the market.
How do you feel about the Snapdragon 845? How in your view is Qualcomm doing with SoCs? Does the new Snapdragon 845 fair better than Apple’s A11 Bionic? We’d like to see
your views on this topic. Do give us a shoutout on Facebook and make sure to follow us on Twitter for similar and quality technical articles. Do check us out for some great content there and be sure to follow. Till then, farewell!
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