Qualcomm Snapdragon 845: The flagship SoC of 2018 in details

After presenting the first two ARM processor-based Windows 10 computers, Qualcomm dedicated the second day of its Tech Summit to formalizing the Snapdragon 845, its new high-end processor.

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Qualcomm announced last March that it would now qualify some Snapdragon “mobile platforms”, and more simple processors. This new branding, apparently purely marketing, nevertheless rightly reminds us that these SoCs group together on a single chip many components dedicated to different uses: Qualcomm Snapdragon 845.

The smelter gathers these components around 5 pillars, each of which benefits from improvements. This follows a logic according to which most uses resort to several components. Let’s go over them.

Immersion

The first pillar addressed by Qualcomm is that of “immersion”, that is, photography, video, virtual reality and augmented reality. Most of these uses are based on the new Qualcomm Spectra 280 home signal processor (ISP).

Photo and video

In terms of video, this new ISP is changing from playback to capture in Ultra HD Premium. The capture in 4K up to 60 fps thus passes from 8 to 10 bits (or 64 times more shades of colors), the color space Rec. 709 at Rec. 2020 (more vivid colors) and SDR to HDR. And the new Spectra will improve the image quality of videos with motion compensated temporal filtering, an algorithm that uses adjacent frames to reduce digital noise, as is done in a photo.

The new ISP also allows you to shoot at slow speeds up to 480 fps in 720p and HDR10.

In terms of photo, the Spectra 280 brings the multi-frame noise reduction hardware. This process, already used on a software scale by some smartphones like the Google Pixel 2, is a reminder to capture a burst (up to 16 megapixels at 60 fps) and combine the shots to reduce noise. Qualcomm is hoping that Snapdragon 845 smartphones will surpass 100 points in the DxOMark ranking (compared to 98 points for Google Pixel 2).

The new ISP also introduces a new advanced depth perception process. It allows to offer a portrait mode with a single sensor (background blur) and it enhances the security of facial recognition.

Virtual reality

In another area, that of virtual reality, the Spectra 280 provides hardware support for hand tracking.

This ISP is associated with the new Adreno 630 GPU, also qualified by Qualcomm for “visual processing architecture“. In a context of extended reality (eXtended Reality, grouping the virtual reality, the augmented reality, etc.), this component brings the Foveation function which, associated with a method of follow-up of the gaze, makes it possible to modulate the level of detail of the center of the look at the periphery. This corresponds to the operation of the human eye, less precise at the periphery, in order to optimize the rendering.

Artificial intelligence

The second pillar is that of artificial intelligence. Qualcomm advocates for it to migrate from the cloud to devices. This in favor of low latency, confidentiality and reliability. The various components used for artificial intelligence (CPU, GPU and Hexagon) allow the Snapdragon 845 to claim a performance gain of 300% over the Snapdragon 835.

Qualcomm also provides support for TensorFlowLite (Google) and ONNX (Facebook and Microsoft), standards that allow artificial intelligences to work natively on this Snapdragon.

security

Third pillar: security, increasingly important, as the biometric authentication is democratized and the smartphone is used more as a means of identification or means of payment.

The Snapdragon 845 inaugurates a “secure vault”, a dedicated section of the SoC, including partitioned components for key generation, encryption, decryption, etc.

Connectivity

In terms of connectivity, fourth pillar of the mobile platform, the Snapdragon 845 benefits from several major developments.

For starters, the new SoC switches from the Snapdragon X16 modem to the X20 (LTE category 18). There is 4 × 4 MIMO, but the frequency aggregation is increased from 4 to 5 carriers, bringing the maximum 4G reception rate from 1 to 1.2 Gb / s.

Many Android smartphones are now dual SIM. With the Snapdragon 845, both SIMs will be able to operate simultaneously in VoLTE, that is to say benefit from the contributions of 4G calls (setup time, sound quality).

In terms of Wi-Fi, the Snapdragon 845 supports two 602.11ad-compatible 802.11ad antenna modules for multi-gigabit speeds per second. The controller negotiates the initial connection 16 times faster and switches more quickly from one access point to another.

In terms of Bluetooth finally, the new SoC hosts a function called Qualcomm TrueWireless, which provides audio broadcast in HD to multiple devices simultaneously. This allows for example to connect two wireless headphones directly to the smartphone, rather than using one of them as a relay, which reduces their consumption and increases their autonomy.

Performances

Fifth and last pillar of Snapdragon 845: performance.

The CPU inaugurates new Qualcomm Kryo 385 cores. The 4 cores “performance” are derived from ARM Cortex-A75 architecture and are clocked at 2.8 GHz. They claim a performance gain of 25 to 30% compared to Snapdragon 835. The 4 cores “efficiency” are derived from the ARM Cortex-A55, are clocked at 1.8 GHz, and claim a gain of 15 %. These 8 cores are now accompanied by 2 MB of L3 cache. 3 MB of system cache complete the package. These caches allow components to exchange calculations without cluttering the RAM, and thus reducing power consumption.

The Qualcomm Adreno 360 GPU also promises a 30% performance boost.

And overall, the Snapdragon 845 boasts an energy efficiency improvement of 30%. This is made possible mainly by improvements to dedicated components that are more efficient than CPUs and GPUs.

The SoC is naturally compatible with the latest fast charging technology, the Quick Charge 4.0, which recharges a battery from 0 to 50% in 15 minutes. QC 4.0 is also compatible with the USB Power Delivery standard.

Availability

The Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 mobile platform is available now for smartphone manufacturers. The first smartphones integrating it are expected in the first half of 2018, probably from the MWC 2018.

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