Qualcomm announced new names and tiers for its Snapdragon SoCs. Currently, performance is segmented into four tiers: S1, S2, S3 and S4. These numbers reflect processor generation and form a loose hierarchy reference similar to Intel's use of Core i3, Core i5. and Core i7.
The 2013 roadmap employs a new naming structure, based on a three digit number. Moving forward, you'll see Snapdragon under the 200, 400, 600, and 800 headings. It's not quite clear how this affects existing Snapdragon products. For example, the company hasn't clarified if the S4 Pro will get rebranded. We do know that the Snapdragon 600 and 800 should deliver even better performance then the S4 Pro that's dominated the competition (read Snapdragon S4 Pro: Krait And Adreno 320, Benchmarked). Qualcomm, though, is a fabless company, and relies on TSMC for final silicon. As a result, it's interesting to point out that these new Snapdragons still leverage TSMC's 28 nm manufacturing node.
|S4 Pro||Snapdragon 600||Snapdragon 800|
|CPU||Krait 200||Krait 300||Krait 400|
|Max Clock||1.7 GHz||1.9 GHz||2.3 GHz|
|GPU||Adreno 320||Adreno 320||Adreno 330|
We don't know much about the Snapdragon 200 or 400, but the higher tiered 600 and 800 processors employ Krait cores with a bit of a twist. The current S4 Pro technically uses a Krait 200 CPU with a max 1.7 GHz clock. In comparison, the Snapdragon 600 features a Krait 300 CPU clocked as high as 1.9 GHz. The Snapdragon 800 looks even more impressive; it's Krait 400 scales up to 2.3 GHz. This is likely the result of a more mature manufacturing process on the part of TSMC, allowing Qualcomm to employ silicon binning.
|At A Glance||Krait 300||Krait 400|
|Features Compared to Krait 200||Added Hardware Data Prefetch|
Improved Branch Prediction
Improved Memory Management
Increased Out Of Order Capability
Forwarding Between Pipelines
Improved FPU Performance
|Redesign of circuits for High-K 28 nm|
Lower Memory Latency
Faster L2 cache
(In Addition to Krait 300 features)
It's not just about turning up the clock speed, though. The Krait 300 and 400 are both still share a common architecture with the preceding Krait 200. It's true that all three are based on the Cortex-A15. However, the Krait is very much a customized Qualcomm design. However, company engineers tell us the silicon blocks at the heart of these chips have been rearranged. That's kind of an interesting statement. Presumably, this would be to optimize performance a bit. We'll know more in the days ahead.
Interestingly, Qualcomm claims "Snapdragon 600 processor to deliver up to 40% better performance than the Snapdragon S4 Pro processor at lower power." That's a tall order, but the Snapdragon 800 perhaps looks to be a potential performance beast. The Adreno 330 GPU inside the company's new flagship promises 2x better compute and 1.5x better graphics performance than the A320. UltraHD support is also a welcome surprise. Provided vendors employ high quality camera components, the Snapdragon 800 is capable of capturing and playing 4K resolution video. That's four times as many pixels as 1080p (1920x1080 vs 4096x2304). Android 4.0 has a native resolution of 720p, and most things just get downscaled. It'll be interesting to see if how fast software catches up with hardware. If all goes well, though, we should expect devices powered by the Snapdragon 600 by April and Snapdragon 800 by June. Nvidia's Tegra 4 seems to be the main competition, and it'll be interesting to see how these devices fare in a head to head once we get them in the lab.