Semiconductor Value Chain

Qualcomm Adds 4K, improved LTE to Mid-Tier Snapdragons

18 February 2015

Qualcomm has announced four application processors that add high-end features such as 4K graphics and an integrated LTE modem to its low and mid-tier Snapdragon 400 and 600 families of processors.

High-end phones have enjoyed these benefits, courtesy of the Snapdragon 800 series for the last year but are now being introduced in the form of the Snapdragon 620, 618, 425, and 415 processors.

These processors include the X8 LTE modem – a Category 7 modem with download speeds of up to 300Mbps and upload speeds of up to 100Mbps.The Snapdragon 620 and 618 chips will support LTE Broadcast and VoLTE (Voice over LTE).

Although mid-tier smartphones are not expected to offer 4K displays themselves they may increasingly be used to download video and push it to a nearby screen.

The Snapdragon 620 and 618 essentially upgrade previous devices by dropping 64-bit Cortex-A72 "big' processor cores in as replacements for the Cortex-A57 used in previous Snapdragon 615. ARM Holdings plc announced the development of the Cortex-A72 a couple of weeks earlier (see ARM Launches Mobile IP Core Suite for 2016) saying it was intended for 16nm FinFET implementation although other licensees might make use of other manufacturing nodes.

The Cortex-A72 is ARM's highest performing processor core and was described as being 1.8 times higher performing than a Cortex-A57 but this also took into account a move from a 20nm CMOS implementation to 16nm FinFET.The Octa-core Snapdragon 620 has four Cortex-A72 CPUs and four Cortex-A53 cores. The six-core Snapdragon 618 combines two Cortex-A72 cores with four Cortex-A53 CPUs. The use of two differently tuned 64-bit cores is part of design philosophy called big-little developed by ARM and which uses more energy efficient cores for background tasks such as phone calls and audio and higher performing cores for compute intensive tasks.

The chips have the Adreno 405 graphics processor, developed internally at Qualcomm, which is able to process 4K video for display on larger screens connected to handsets. The chipset supports two 13-megapixel cameras and can capture and play 4K video based on the H.265 format.

Another highlight for both the 600 and 400 processors is the Qualcomm Hexagon application DSP, which has the ability to process low-power tasks without waking up the CPU cores.

The Snapdragon 425 and 415 processors both feature octa-core CPUs, a first for the 400 tier. The Snapdragon 425 doubles LTE download and upload speeds with the X8 LTE modem, another first in the 400 tier, as well as advanced camera features with dual ISPs and high-fidelity audio, while the Snapdragon 415 processor integrates X5 LTE, supporting download speeds of up to 150 Mbps.

The Snapdragon 415 chipset is sampling now and expected to be in commercial devices in first half of 2015. The Snapdragon 620, 618 and 425 processors are expected to be in commercial devices in the second half of 2015. The company did not indicate the manufacturing process technology it would use for implementation.

The product announcement comes shortly after Qualcomm said it had paid a fine of $975 million over anti-competitive behavior in the Chinese market. Qualcomm has also agreed a reduced royalty rate for its 3G/4G devices and will no longer insist on making the signing of a separate licensing agreement as a condition of the sale of baseband chips; a condition that China's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) found to be unreasonable.

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Related links and articles:

IHS Semiconductors & Components

News articles:

ARM Launches Mobile IP Core Suite for 2016

Report: Qualcomm Close to Settling China Dispute

Marvell Adds Octacore to LTE Mobile Processor Range

HiSilicon Launches Octacore Smartphone Chip with LTE

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