Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 is official, coming to Android flagships in 2019

A Snapdragon 855 on a Snapdragon 855 wafer.

The 855 next to a penny.

This is not scale, but it gives us a general idea of ​​how Qualcomm creates an image of the chip layout. The most important thing here is the separate 5G modem.

Qualcomm announced its flagship on-chip (SoC) system for 2019: Snapdragon 855 . Qualcomm having virtually no competition in the high-end SoC market, particularly in the United States, the Snapdragon 855 will address almost all flagship Android phones delivered in 2019. Compared to the chip From 2018, the Snapdragon 845, promises a 45 – faster processor, a 20% faster GPU and a platform that will usher in the era of 5G connectivity.

How is the Snapdragon 855 different from its predecessor, the Snapdragon 845? First, we get smaller transistors. The Snapdragon 845 was built on Samsung's 10 nm semiconductor manufacturing process, but the 855 switches to TSMC's 7 nm process. A smaller manufacturing process has the advantage of lower energy consumption and smaller chips. The 7nm node positions the Snapdragon 855 on an equal footing with Apple, which delivered the 7nm Bionic A12 SoC in iPhone XS earlier this year.

The Snapdragon 845 processor was branded "Kryo 385" and had four cores at 2.7 GHz for the Cortex A75 and four cores at 1.8 GHz for the Cortex A55. These two processor clusters divide the processor into "big" and "small" jobs, where four larger, more energy-hungry cores handle heavier tasks such as leading applications (A75 cores) and four slower cores and less greedy paper. inactive processing (A55 cores).

The Snapdragon 855 is still built with this 4 + 4 core layout, but one of the big cores now has an optimized clock frequency. Thus, the new Snapdragon 855 processor is branded "Kryo 485" and upgraded to four new cores based on the Cortex A76 for the "big" cluster, with three cores clocked at 2.42 GHz and one at 2.84 GHz. Qualcomm calls this boosted kernel the "Prime Core". The smaller cluster uses the same four 1.8 GHz cores based on the Cortex A55 as the old chip.

The Snapdragon 855 die-agram.

The GPU passes Adreno's 630 from 845 to an Adreno 640 GPU in 855. Apart from promising that it will be 20% faster and will come with Vulkan 1.1 support, Qualcomm does not not much talk about the GPU. The company claims to be leading the industry in terms of performance per watt, and has focused on "sustained system performance" with its new graphics processor, so it should be less strangling. This should be an improvement for the games.

Qualcomm indicates that the Hexagon 690 DSP has gone from a normal DSP processor to a more generic processor. The company presents the component as an "artificial intelligence platform" with a new "tensor accelerator" for neutral network work.

The provider of Internet access (the chip that powers the camera) is also faster. It seems that Qualcomm will be able to do augmented reality and other camera tricks at 4K 60FPS. For video playback, h.265 and VP9 decoding is hardware-accelerated, which should help a lot with applications like YouTube.

The Snapdragon 855 Wi-Fi is also upgraded. Support for "Wi-Fi 6" (also called 802.11ax) with 8×8 MIMO, will be the next big consumer Wi-Fi upgrade over the current 802.11ac. I highly recommend consulting Jim Salter's extensive Wi-Fi 6 primer, but 802.11ax is essentially focused on fundamental improvements that will improve Wi-Fi performance, instead of generating huge increases in Wi-Fi. speed. Wi-Fi is driven in the modern era with new features such as the ability for multiple devices to transmit at the same time and bidirectional communication! Up to 802.11ax, Wi-Fi was one device at a time, one direction at a time, which is why Wi-Fi is often so terrible.

The Snapdragon 855 also supports the 802.11ay standard at 60 GHz, also known as the "next Wi-Gig". 802.11ay penetration is not good, so it needs line-of-sight between devices, but it can reach speeds of up to 10 Gbps. As the Wi-Gig now disappeared, someone must find a use for it.

5G via an additional chip

Qualcomm's greatest strength in the system-on-a-chip market is its modem technology and intellectual property, as it is one of the few players in the market today. build a processor, a graphics processor and a modem on a single chip. A single-chip solution offers a dual benefit to the battery life of a device: a chip consumes less power than a two-chip SoC + modem solution and the single chip takes up less space, leaving more room for a bigger battery.

In 2019, the cellular industry will be centered on millimeter wave connectivity . In addition, Qualcomm calls the 855 "the first commercial mobile platform supporting 5G multi-gigabit technology." "Supporting 5G" is however very different from "Integrated 5G", and a Snapdragon 855 with 5G will not have the benefit of this generation's unique Qualcomm chip. The 855 will have LTE on board, as usual, but these first generation 5G devices will need an extra chip, the Snapdragon X50 modem.

The extra chip means that the 5G will be bigger, more complicated and more energy-hungry than 4G. You benefit from all the disadvantages of the first-generation network technology. 5G uses a much higher frequency than 4G (30 GHz and above), which means it has very low penetration and can easily be blocked by buildings or by your hand. Qualcomm suggests that manufacturers use a "beamforming" technique to work around the "You're wrong" problem. This places large RF modules on all four sides of the phone, allowing it to switch to the module that your hand is not blocking. Again, this means more use of energy and more complex devices.

Someone will have to pay for all these additional 5G components, and it seems to be the consumers. OnePlus' CEO, Pete Lau, recently told The Verge that 5G devices would likely cost between $ 200 and $ 300 more than 4G devices. 5G networks are not yet operational and operators will only start launching 5G in some cities in 2019. The good news is that 5G should be optional in 2019.

The Snapdragon 855 will arrive on the aircraft during the first half of 2019, the Samsung Galaxy S10 being probably the first landing point.

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