Category Archives: qualcomm


Qualcomm Snapdragon 845: Everything You Need To Know

Hubert Nguyen December 7, 2017

Like clockwork, Qualcomm has announced its Snapdragon 845 system on chip (SoC) and high-end Snapdragon platform which will power numerous high-end smartphones and possibly always-connected laptops throughout 2018.

As always, a major architecture change brings new performance, efficiency, and features. After a very comprehensive briefing at the Snapdragon Summit 2017, here is our overview of Snapdragon 845, split into different areas of interest: Camera, Performance, Battery life, Connectivity, Immersion, AI, and Security.


Let’s start with the best understood, most desirable feature for many users: the camera. With Snapdragon 845, camera performance will reach new levels, both in terms of raw capabilities, but also in image quality.

First, the camera will be capable of capturing 4K Ultra HD Premium HDR video. This is a mouthful, but it is similar to the feature-set used in Hollywood movies (1 Billion colors + HDR). Obviously, this is not exactly Cinema-quality, but in general, this is a huge improvement in video recording (16.7M colors, no HDR). Today’s best devices can “play” this kind of content, but Snapdragon 845 phones will be able to create that content.


If you are unaware, Ultra HD Premium is not a technical standard, but rather a marketing umbrella that federates different TV makers around a certain quality level for 4K, HDR and color rendering. You will hear a lot about “Color Volume”. That is a 3D representation of the colors that devices can record (camera) and reproduce (display). The color volume can be visualized by using color gamut (reproducible colors) and luminance data (how bright tings are). The image below shows the larger color volume of Snapdragon 845 (Rec. 2020) vs, Snapdragon 835 (Rec. 709). This is leading-edge stuff.

Secondly, the camera ISP (Image Signal Processor) and overall subsystem are so fast that it is now possible to capture 720p video at 480 FPS. This will allow video creators to capture amazing slow-motion videos without having buffering limitations often encountered with this kind of extreme situations. For example, Sony has an extreme 960 FPS slow-motion recording, but only for a very short time. And yes, you can capture 1080p at 240FPS and 4K UHD HDR at 60FPS.

Still photos also benefit from the same resources allocated to image processing. Snapdragon 845 can process 16 Megapixel photos at a rate of 60 FPS (talk about bursting!). You might think of this as a video, but photos are treated differently because they are meant to be seen and saved as individual frames, while videos are an animated stream.


Snapdragon’s performance is due to various high-performance computing units, some with a distinct purpose such as the ISP (Image Signal Processor) or the GPU (graphics unit) and others with a slightly more general role such as the DSP (Digital Signal Processor) and of course the CPU cluster.

Snapdragon 845 is manufactured using Samsung’s second-generation 10nm process, which is an optimization of last year’s introductory 10nm semiconductor node. There are very small improvements in performance and efficiency derived from this.

Kryo 385 CPU

The CPU cluster is divided into two groups of four cores: four high-performance cores (ARM A75 derivatives, 2.8GHz max) to process workloads as fast as possible. There are also four other low-power cores (ARM A55 derivatives, 1.8 GHz max) to handle less intensive tasks with the best possible power-efficiency. You can read our article about ARM’s big-LITTLE architecture to understand more about heterogeneous CPU core clusters.


Qualcomm did some custom work on the CPU cores and therefore named it Kryo 385. Qualcomm often tunes a specific core design or can build CPU cores from the ground up if necessary. This time, Qualcomm has done some custom work on the A75 and A55 designs from ARM but did not rebuild the cores from the ground up.

For Snapdragon 845, the engineers have added a 2MB L3 cache along with a 3MB “System Cache.” The main difference is that the L3 cache is only accessible to the CPU cluster, while the System Cache is accessible to other computing units as well (GPU, DSP, etc…). In both cases, the caches can drastically reduce the latency of getting information (from RAM) along with memory bus traffic.

With all of this, Qualcomm is expecting a ~25% CPU performance boost from last year’s Snapdragon 835 chip (see image above for details). I have to say, double-digits CPU performance increase: that is worthy of attention.

Adreno 630 GPU (Graphics Processing Unit)

As its name implies, this is the unit responsible for 3D gaming and VR performance. A GPU can also be used for artificial intelligence and other non-graphics workloads, but it’s fair to say that 3D graphics is the main purpose here.

At the moment, Qualcomm has not revealed the inner-workings of the GPU, so we don’t know exactly how many GPU cores there are, texture units, etc.… however a 30% graphics performance improvement should come out of this new design.

Additionally, Qualcomm also claims a 30% power-efficiency increase, which means that Snapdragon 845 can perform the same rendering while using 30% less energy as its predecessor. That is a rather large increase in both efficiency and speed.

Snapdragon 845 can support 2K per eyes in VR applications to improve one of VR’s pain point: the blockiness of the in-headset graphics. Incidentally, Qualcomm has also developed a Foveated rendering framework to help developers boost performance. I’m not 100% clear on what engines are supported, but the principle is sound can significantly accelerate pixel-level rendering. I previously explained how Foveated rendering works on Desktop PC, and this is the same principle, but in one sentence, Foveated rendering consists in reducing the detail away from your gaze point.


To accelerate rendering, Qualcomm has added “multiview rendering,” a very effective technique that can reduce geometric (per-vertex) operations by nearly 50% in VR apps. The principle is simple: to achieve stereo rendering, the same scene is being rendered TWICE from slightly different points of views (LEFT+RIGHT eyes). Multiview rendering allows some computation to be shared between the LEFT/RIGHT frames because they are extremely similar (although not identical). There are other applications of similar multi-projection techniques, and they have proven to be highly efficient.

The graphics and extended reality framework of Snapdragon 845 allow it to support 6 Degrees of Freedom (DoF) and SLAM (Simultaneous Location And Mapping). SLAM is used to sense where you are in the room and track your motion in space by looking at your position relative to the environment. This is the foundational technology for 6 Degrees of Freedom without wires. Although some of this was available before, it is now fully baked into the Snapdragon platform and will be available to more OEMs.

The compound optimizations offer a very high potential for boosting VR (and AR) performance. These are cutting edge rendering techniques previously available only on desktop computers, or in a small number of engines. Qualcomm could democratize this further by supporting them in the Snapdragon Platform.

Hexagon 685 DSP

The DSP (Digital Signal Processor) is a specialized computing unit that can perform vector math on large quantities of data with extreme power-efficiency. It can be used for a vast array of things such as, but not limited to 2D image processing/effects, depth sensing for face-recognition, artificial intelligence inference and more.

People often think of the GPU when it comes to massive math workloads, and it is not a bad reflex. However, the DSP and the GPU are complementary tools that serve different situations. It is impossible to generalize completely, but DSPs are often more appropriate to use when you need to quickly process relatively small quantities of data. GPUs can be great at churning super-massive quantities of data, but they also require more setup and have more overhead. In reality, it’s not DSP vs. GPU — both can be extremely useful depending on the app.

Hexagon 685 is 3X faster than last year’s Hexagon 682. Without a doubt, Qualcomm must have increased the number of math units but hasn’t yet revealed the implementation details. This kind of performance increase matches the arrival of Google’s Neural API for Android 8.1+.

Battery Life

With battery life being the #1 concern for users, Power optimizations are always at the top of the list for mobile chip engineers. There are several ways to increase the power efficiency, and without a major manufacturing node change, it had to come from the architectural and software efforts.

The software can be optimized to offload work (when possible) to the most efficient sub-systems we discussed previously.

The addition of multiple cache layers reduces RAM access by as much as 75%, thus helping save power as well. The hardware has multiple clock domains and voltage domains, which means that the chip has several power islands that can use the most optimum amount of power at any given time. This leads to continuous savings if the tuning is done properly.

Snapdragon 835 was 50% more power-efficient as Snapdragon 821. A large chunk of this was due to the manufacturing node change. This time, the delta is not as large, but Eliane Fiolet checked power draw tests comparing Snapdragon 845, 835 and 660 and for the exact same task (4K video playback, 30FPS) Snapdragon 835 uses ~8% more power while Snapdragon 660 draws ~15% more power as Snapdragon 845. Not bad at all!

Earbuds battery savings

This time, Bluetooth (BT) will have the ability to broadcast to multiple devices at once under the Qualcomm TrueWireless name. You may not know, but BT wireless earbuds are currently set up to have one of them as the “master” that will orchestrate the communication with the phone, and with the other earbud. The master essentially does 2X more work as the other earbud, causing an imbalance in power consumption between the pair. That situation can be fixed by having the phone talk to both at the same time.



Last year’s world-class X16 LTE modem is replaced by a more advanced X20 model that can reach 1200 Mbps in theoretical peak speed (vs. 1000 before). That is of course if your wireless carrier supports it locally.

Even without an advanced network, Qualcomm uses MIMO (multiple inputs multiple output) techniques with up to four antennas that lead to large performance increases due to sheer parallelism on existing networks.


Qualcomm has added support for 60 GHz WiFi AD (802.11ad) which is a 4.6 Gbps short range WiFi connection ideal for large data transfer from within your network. Today many people still use wired Ethernet which is considered to be faster and more reliable. However, this technology could, in theory, replace wires within a 30-feet range. Keep in mind that the range is typically a distance without any physical obstacles that could disturb the signal.


Extended Reality tasks such as Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are two of the most challenging tasks that the GPU can handle. In both cases, there are other units at play. Typically, the GPU would render the 3D scene or 3D overlay.

At the same time, the Hexagon 685 DSP could treat signals coming from the real world such as the room’s environment while the Spectra 280 ISP processes incoming data from the cameras, maybe to spot AR beacons. Qualcomm’s real technique for peak performance and power efficiency is to offload work to the best-suited, most power-efficient, unit – sometimes at the same time. If you think of it, game console programming is sometimes exactly like that. It’s about maximizing your hardware utilization.

Artificial Intelligence (A.I)

As of late, several silicon vendors have announced their flavor of “Neural Processors” with various marketing claims. However, the same OEMs have been dodgy when asked for details about the specs and capabilities of said neural computing units. To Qualcomm’s point, “neural processors” for mobile are almost always “DSP” units being re-marketed.


As we have seen earlier, the Qualcomm Hexagon 685 DSP is the 3rd generation that has been used in an AI context. The 300% performance increase from last year’s model shows that Qualcomm’s customers are taking AI very seriously and demanding more horsepower for that kind of workload.

However, Qualcomm’s AI effort doesn’t rely on a single unit. The DSP is surely the central nexus, but the embedded Adreno GPU supports FP16 numbers, and the CPU has been optimized to support 8-bit operations that are commonly used in AI. With these changes, developers have a wide array of AI tools at their disposal to optimize different types of workload.


Maybe the most obscure but important aspect of Snapdragon chips is security. First, it is important to know that security is not equal for all chips and that standards can be pretty loose (if there are any outside of payment). Not so long ago, some phones stored the fingerprint sensor data in the public area of the phone’s storage!

Previous generations of Qualcomm Snapdragon chips as a trusted execution zone which was secure. However, with the recent apparition of hacks for that kind of trusted environment, Snapdragon 845 has a new “Secure Processing Unit” which is more isolated from the rest of the SoC’s sub-system.

It is an island that has its memory, CPU and power gates. It can also generate random numbers internally (this is the base of all encryption) and its cryptographic engine. Services that need a very high level of security will go through this unit. Things like biometric data, for example, should transit through this unit to be processed so that only some kind of digital key (or Hash) is accessible by apps and services. A 3rd party should never see the biometric data.

Biometric data is not like a password. You cannot change your biometric data, and once stolen, you can never take it back, so it’s best to protect it as much as possible.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 845: Everything You Need To Know , original content from Ubergizmo. Read our Copyrights and terms of use.


Qualcomm PC Push Materializes In ASUS and HP Laptops

Hubert Nguyen December 5, 2017

After announcing its plans to enter the PC Windows 10 market at Computex in July, Qualcomm and its partners from ASUS and HP have announced upcoming “always-on” laptops powered by Snapdragon 835, the same chip used in most high-end Android smartphones. This marks an inflexion point in the PC space as two of the most frequent consumer demands might finally be addressed: always-on connectivity and more than a full day of battery life.

The benefits of using a Qualcomm chip are the consequence of decades of innovation in smartphones and the relentless drive to drive higher performance per watt. The obsessive power-savings habits of the cellphone industry has made it possible for handsets to be connected and use as little power as possible. Today, many PCs aren’t even updating emails over WIFI when they are closed. Phones do, and Qualcomm’s Always-Connected PC should too.

At its Snapdragon Summit in Maui, Hawaii, Qualcomm has invited two sizable partners: ASUS and HP. Both companies presented upcoming laptops which are based on Snapdragon 835, and promise to deliver similar benefits, namely 20hrs of video playback, many days (up tp 30) of standby power and a real Instant On that makes the computer usable as soon as it is turned on.

Today’s most power-conscious Intel-powered laptops might play video for 10-13 hours and that is one of the best-case scenarios when it comes to battery testing. We haven’t picked up those PCs for a real spin yet, but the technicals make it seem possible to achieve such a goal. The Snapdragon platform consumes less power than the Intel one. It is possible to further optimize communications and standby time.

The wild card here is also the level of performance that one is getting on these chips. However, there is a market that can be efficiently addressed: the basic productivity ultralight PCs. People who edit documents, lightly browse the web, stream movies, update social media and work on PowerPoint documents – that kind of things. These use cases can successfully be served within the compute power envelope of Snapdragon 835.

HP has announced the Envy x2 Always Connected, a 6.9mm thin  2-in-1 detachable that HP says match the 20 hrs battery life and connectivity goals. It is built with machined aluminum and should be available in Spring 2018, according to HP. No pricing has been announced.

ASUS has more details about its NovaGo always-on laptop: It is also a 2-1 laptop (360-degree screen rotation). In addition of the Gigabit-class LTE from the Snapdragon 835, the laptop also features WiFi 4×4 MIMO for higher peak speeds. We spotted one full-size HDMI port on the side, but we’ll have to take a closer look to see how many USB ports there are.

The ASUS NovaGo uses a physical nano-SIM card or an eSIM card, to accommodate use cased where you have one account with multiple devices. ASUS say that it can play 22 hrs of video, and 30 days of standby. It is compatible with Windows Ink, Windows Hello and Cortana. Configurations and prices are: $599 USD 4GB / 64GB or $799 for 8GB / 256GB. It will be launched in the USA, Europe, China and Taiwan.

Qualcomm PC Push Materializes In ASUS and HP Laptops , original content from Ubergizmo. Read our Copyrights and terms of use.


Broadcom May Increase Bid For Qualcomm

Adnan Farooqui November 23, 2017

Broadcom made an unsolicited $130 billion bid to acquire Qualcomm earlier this month. The company hasn’t put itself up for sale but Broadcom went ahead and bid $70 per share for the company anyway. Qualcomm took a few days to respond and ended up rejecting the bid. A recent report suggested that the company would be willing to sell at a higher price. Broadcom is now reportedly considering a revised bid for Qualcomm.

Broadcom is reportedly considering raising its offer to buy Qualcomm by offering more of its stock after consultations with several top Qualcomm shareholders, according to Reuters.

It’s unclear at this point in time when Broadcom is going to make its revised offer. Its ongoing preparations seem to suggest that it’s planning to apply pressure on Qualcomm to take part in negotiations. It plans on doing that by offering more to its shareholders and even threatening to replace Qualcomm’s board of directors.

Broadcom Chief Executive Hock Tan has previously said that he’s open to a takeover battle and that Broadcom is preparing to submit nominations for new directors by Qualcomm’s December 8th deadline.

Some of Qualcomm’s shareholders have indicated to Broadcom that they expect at least $80 per share to consider a deal. However, Broadcom’s board hasn’t decided on the level of any new offer just yet.

Broadcom May Increase Bid For Qualcomm , original content from Ubergizmo. Read our Copyrights and terms of use.


Analyst Claims 2018’s iPhones Will Allow For Gigabit Speeds

Tyler Lee November 22, 2017

Ahead of the iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and X’s announcement, it was rumored that the new iPhones would not be capable of reaching gigabit download speeds. It turns out that the rumors were true, but the good news is that 2018 is expected to change that, according to a report from KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.

According to Kuo, he claims in his report that Apple’s 2018 iPhones will be capable of gigabit speeds, and that Apple is expected to include faster baseband chips in the phones, which echoes Kuo’s report from last week. He claims that the new iPhones will be capable of supporting 4×4 MIMO standards which should allow for faster speeds. This should also allow for better coverage especially in low-coverage areas.

We have heard the rumors that Apple is working with Intel to bring 5G hardware onto the iPhones, but whether or not it will be in time for next year’s iPhones is unclear. Earlier reports have also stated that Intel will be supplying the majority of the chipsets to Apple, around 70-80%, while the remainder will come from Qualcomm.

A recent video that surfaced compared the download speeds on the iPhone X and the Galaxy Note 8 from Samsung, showing just how far behind Apple is. Whether or not this can be felt by users in their day-to-day usage is unclear, but we suppose being able to hit faster speeds can’t be a bad thing.

Analyst Claims 2018’s iPhones Will Allow For Gigabit Speeds , original content from Ubergizmo. Read our Copyrights and terms of use.


Qualcomm Investors Reportedly Seeking $80 Per Share For Broadcom Deal

Tyler Lee November 21, 2017

Recently Broadcom announced that they would be placing a takeover bid for Qualcomm worth $130 billion, where it was reported that the company had offered to pay $70 per share. Qualcomm later rejected the bid in which they felt that what Broadcom had offered had undervalued the company.

Now it seems that we have an idea of how much Qualcomm’s investors are looking for, and that is $80 per share. According to a report from Bloomberg, it looks like Qualcomm’s investors are asking for at least an offer per share starting with the number “8”, meaning that $80 is probably as low as they’re willing to go.

However whether or not Broadcom is willing to pay that much remains to be seen, as Bloomberg reports that Broadcom Chief Executive Officer Hock Tan is known to be a tough negotiator. The report also claims that Tan’s previous purchases saw him not going over more than 6.8% of his opening offer, meaning that what Qualcomm is asking for is probably much more than what Broadcom is willing to pay for.

That being said, previous reports have suggested that if Broadcom’s offer is rejected, they could be looking at a takeover battle where Broadcom could try and push to replace Qualcomm’s board of directors for one that would be more favorable towards them.

Qualcomm Investors Reportedly Seeking $80 Per Share For Broadcom Deal , original content from Ubergizmo. Read our Copyrights and terms of use.


iPhone X VS Galaxy Note 8 In LTE Speed Showdown

Tyler Lee November 20, 2017

Apple’s iPhones currently do not support gigabit download speeds, or rather to ensure a uniform experience across iPhones, Apple has capped the speeds on iPhones using Qualcomm’s modems to match those of Intel’s. For those who are wondering what’s the difference, a video uploaded by Booredatwork.com on YouTube demonstrates the differences.

As you can see in the video above, it compares the LTE speeds between that of the iPhone X and the Samsung Galaxy Note 8. It is pretty obvious from the video that the Note 8 is much faster, thanks to it being equipped with a gigabit LTE modem. While the Note 8 couldn’t hit the 1Gbps speeds (there are many reasons why, such as coverage, how many people in the area are using the network, and so on), it is still much faster than that of the iPhone X which topped out at 600Mbps.

Whether or not these differences in speed can be felt by users is a different story. If you’re just doing some light work like checking emails, surfing the web, sending instant messages, then chances are the differences might not be so obvious. However if you’re watching movies, playing games, or downloading larger files, then perhaps it will be.

That being said, last we heard Apple’s 2018 iPhones are expected to feature faster baseband chips, but whether or not this will allow the iPhones to achieve gigabit speeds remains to be seen.

iPhone X VS Galaxy Note 8 In LTE Speed Showdown , original content from Ubergizmo. Read our Copyrights and terms of use.


Apple’s 2018 iPhones Expected To Feature Faster Baseband Chips

Tyler Lee November 18, 2017

Apple tends to source from multiple suppliers for their components, and for the iPhone’s modem, it is no different as Intel and Qualcomm are the companies supplying Apple with the hardware. That is expected to be the same even in 2018, although KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claims that Intel is expected to supply the majority of it.

The report from Kuo claims that 2018’s iPhones are expected to feature faster baseband chips from both Intel and Qualcomm. This is in line with an earlier report that said that Apple is working with Intel on 5G hardware for future iPhones, although Kuo’s report suggests that this could arrive as soon as 2018, and that Qualcomm is expected to continue supplying to Apple.

However Kuo’s report states that Intel will be the majority supplier, with as much as 70-80% of the components coming from Intel, while the rest is handled by Qualcomm. This isn’t surprising given that both companies have lawsuits filed against each other, although earlier reports suggested that Apple could skip Qualcomm’s components entirely.

That being said, Kuo’s report does not state what kind of speed improvements we’ll be looking at, although chances are that these will be pre-5G hardware, but the speed increases should be welcome all the same. It should also make up for the fact that Apple’s latest iPhones can’t hit gigabit speeds, but until it is official, it’s best taken with a grain of salt.

Apple’s 2018 iPhones Expected To Feature Faster Baseband Chips , original content from Ubergizmo. Read our Copyrights and terms of use.


Apple Reportedly Working With Intel On 5G Hardware For Future iPhones

Tyler Lee November 17, 2017

As it stands, Apple relies on components from both Qualcomm and Intel for the iPhone’s modem, but according to a report from Fast Company, it seems that future iPhones could use Intel’s hardware more or less exclusively. The report claims that Apple is working with Intel on 5G hardware for future iPhones.

Now you might be thinking that this could have something to do with the lawsuit that Apple and Qualcomm are embroiled in, and while that might have been the reason suggested in an earlier report, Fast Company’s report has indicated that this is purely for professional reasons, and that Intel is apparently willing to meet Apple’s needs when it comes to customizing their components in a way that Qualcomm will not.

The report also claims that Intel currently has a “small army” working on 5G hardware in order to catch up to the competition. Prior to this, there were reports that said that the iPhone would not offer its users gigabit download speeds, and apparently this had to do with the limitations in Intel’s hardware, which meant that even if Qualcomm’s hardware could hit those speeds, Apple would have artificially limited them to ensure an even user experience across the board.

That being said, none of this is official information for now so obviously it should be taken with a grain of salt, but we suppose we will find out in future teardowns if Apple has indeed decided to go with Intel for 5G hardware.

Apple Reportedly Working With Intel On 5G Hardware For Future iPhones , original content from Ubergizmo. Read our Copyrights and terms of use.