Qualcomm Launching Snapdragon 618, 620 Chips Based On Cortex-A72; Two New Low-End Chips, Too

Today, Qualcomm announced four new mobile chips: the low-end Snapdragon 415 and Snapdragon 425, and the mid-range Snapdragon 618 and Snapdragon 620.

Snapdragon 415 & Snapdragon 425

The Snapdragon 415 will likely succeed the current Snapdragon 410. It's also based on Cortex A53 CPU cores, but it has eight of them instead of four. It seems Qualcomm is really starting to embrace this eight-core marketing, possibly influenced by high market demand in Asia for such chips, although it's not entirely clear that this many cores is needed today, even for gaming.  All cores will be clocked at 1.4 GHz, and the chip will be bundled with the X5 Cat. 4 LTE modem that supports download speeds of 150 Mbps and upload speeds of 50 Mbps.

The Snapdragon 425 is a little faster, with CPU cores clocked at 1.7 GHz, and it also has a more advanced Cat. 7 LTE modem that supports 300 Mbps download speeds and 100 Mbps upload speeds. The modem supports carrier aggregation, which should make it easier to automatically switch between carriers depending on signal strength. The signals can also be combined for improved performance. This modem is called the X8 and will be integrated in the Snapdragon 618 and the Snapdragon 620, as well.

Snapdragon 618 & Snapdragon 620

The Snapdragon 618 and the Snapdragon 620 seem to be categorized as Snapdragon 600-series chips, which have been mid-range chips so far. However, these chips are supposed to use ARM's next-generation Cortex-A72 CPU cores.

That's surprising for two reasons. For one thing, these two new chips are expected to come out this year, yet they are using a CPU core that wasn't supposed to come out until next year.

Second, this also implies that Qualcomm has something prepared for the high-end that's even faster than Cortex-A72, and it will come out this year as well. The Snapdragon 820 was already leaked earlier this year, and it's supposed to have a 14nm custom "Taipan" core made by Qualcomm.

The surprisingly fast release of Cortex-A72 chips, along with "midrange" branding for the 618 and 620, comes mainly as a consequence of building these chips on the old 28nm planar process (according to a Qualcomm spokesperson), rather than the recommended 16nm (or 14nm) FinFET process for the high-performance Cortex-A72 core. This could increase the power consumption of the Snapdragon 618 and Snapdragon 620 significantly, which is probably why Qualcomm decided to use more conservative clock speeds for them.

Both the Snapdragon 618 and the Snapdragon 620 will have their Cortex-A72 cores clocked at 1.8 GHz, and the Cortex-A53 cores will be clocked at 1.2 GHz. It's still not clear if these frequencies will be low enough for Cortex-A72 to be efficient, though. The main difference between the two SoCs is that the Snapdragon 618 will only have two Cortex-A72 cores, while the Snapdragon 620 will have four.

New Adreno GPU With Hardware Tessellation

The mid-range chips will also get a "next-generation GPU" that will support the latest graphics APIs (presumably referring to OpenGL ES 3.1 here), as well as hardware tessellation and geometry shading, which are features that Google introduced in its Android Expansion Pack to complement OpenGL ES APIs. Qualcomm didn't reveal the name of this new GPU, nor did it give any indication about how much faster it will be compared to current Adreno generations.

Other Features

Both the 618 and 620 will also support features such as Quick Charge 2.0, which we've seen on high-end Qualcomm chips before, as well as security features.

The Snapdragon 618 and the Snapdragon 620 also come with other features that have been available on high-end chips before, such as dual-ISP camera support, 4k video capturing at 30fps, and HEVC encoding. (There's no VP9 support, apparently.)

All four chips announced today come with 802.11ac Wi-Fi, which should make this new standard more mainstream in 2015. The chips only support LPDDR3 RAM, unlike the Snapdragon 810 which supports LPDDR4, but that's likely to be sufficient as they're only intended for the low-end and mid-range markets.

The Snapdragon 415 SoC will be in devices in the first half of the year, according to Qualcomm, while the other three chips will come to market in the second half of this year.

Update, 2/19/15, 2:45pm: We received slightly incorrect information on a feature and have now removed a reference to it.  

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Lucian Armasu
Lucian Armasu is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He covers software news and the issues surrounding privacy and security.
  • Nuckles_56
    "Today, Samsung announced four new mobile chips: the low-end Snapdragon 415 and Snapdragon 425, and the mid-range Snapdragon 618 and Snapdragon 620. "
    Don't you mean Qualcomm?