Qualcomm has had an incredible year. It wasn’t too long ago that I was complaining about Qualcomm’s release cadence, the lull between Scorpion and Krait allowed competitors like NVIDIA, Samsung and TI to get a foothold in the market. Since the arrival of Krait, the move to 28nm and the launch of monolithic AP/LTE solutions, no competitor has been able to come close to touching Qualcomm. These days the choice of integrating mobile silicon really boils down to what Snapdragon variant an OEM wants to go with. TI is out of the business, NVIDIA hasn’t seen much traction with Tegra 4 and even Samsung will ship Qualcomm silicon in many of its important markets. 
Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 600 was the SoC of choice at the beginning of the year, with Snapdragon 800 taking over that title more recently. Earlier this week, Qualcomm announced the successor to the 800: the Snapdragon 805. 
We’re expecting to see devices based on the Snapdragon 805 to be shipping in the first half of 2014, so Snapdragon 800 will still enjoy some time at the top of the charts.
The 805 starts by integrating four Krait 450 cores. Krait 450 appears to be an evolutionary upgrade over Krait 400, with no changes to machine width, cache sizes or pipeline depth. Qualcomm claims to have improved power and thermal efficiency, as well as increased maximum frequency from 2.3GHz to 2.5GHz. I suspect the design is quite similar to Krait 400, perhaps with some bug fixes and other minor tweaks. Qualcomm is likely leveraging yield and 28nm HPM process tech improvements to get the extra 200MHz over Krait 400. Krait 450 also adds 36-bit LPAE (Large Physical Address Extensions) to enable memory support above 4GB. This is a similar path to what we saw desktop PCs take years ago, although I'd expect the transition to 64-bit ARMv8 to happen for Qualcomm next year.
The GPU sees the bigger upgrade this round. The Snapdragon 805 features Qualcomm’s Adreno 420, designed 100% in house at Qualcomm. Adreno 420 brings about a D3D11-class feature set to Qualcomm’s mobile graphics, adding support for hull, domain and geometry shaders. Adreno 420 also includes dedicated tessellation hardware. Full profile OpenCL 1.2 is now supported. Texture performance improves by over 2x per pipe, and also gains ASTC support.
Adreno 420 is more efficient at moving data around internally. The GPU has a new dedicated connection to the memory controller, whereas in previous designs the GPU shared a bus with the video decoder and ISP. 
Qualcomm insists on occluding things like shader unit counts, so all we have to report today are a 40% increase in shader bound benchmarks (implying a 40% increase in shader hardware and/or more efficient hardware). 
Snapdragon 805 also features hardware accelerated decode of H.265 content. Hardware encode is still limited to H.264, but this is an awesome first for Qualcomm.
The Snapdragon 805 brings a much improved ISP. Qualcomm claims more than a 50% increase in ISP throughput (1GPixel/s class) compared to 640MP/s for Snapdragon 800. The 805 leverages its Hexagon DSP to deliver this level of performance. Qualcomm lists no change in DSP architecture between the 805 and 800.
Lastly, we see Qualcomm move to a 128-bit wide LPDDR3 memory interface for Snapdragon 805.  With support for LPDDR3-1600, the Snapdragon 805 features up to 25.6GB/s of peak memory bandwidth. It’s interesting to see Qualcomm go this wide just as Apple moved back down to a 64-bit wide interface. Qualcomm and Intel will be the only two shipping such a wide memory interface in the ultra mobile space come next year (although I do expect Apple to return to a wider memory bus at some point).
All of this makes for one beefy SoC, and a continuation of Qualcomm’s leadership in this space. I doubt we’ll see any slowing of Qualcomm’s roadmap after the 805 though. TSMC expects to be shipping 20nm wafers by the end of next year, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find a 20nm successor to the 805 in late ’14/early ’15. Remember that on the last process node shift we got Krait, I wonder what we’ll get this time.
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  • Nagorak - Saturday, November 23, 2013 - link

    Well, you can't exactly blame a company for hyping their own products. I'm more interested in seeing how Intel's next Atom stacks up. It looks like they're focusing on boosting graphics performance more than anything, and they already have good CPU performance. We'll just have to wait and see how it pans out.
  • oranos - Thursday, November 28, 2013 - link

    prove it. Name a phone that will have tegra 5 this winter. Lol.
  • oranos - Thursday, November 28, 2013 - link

    Actually scratch that. Name a phone I can go and buy in a store in the USA that has tegra 5 this winter.
  • HardwareDufus - Friday, November 22, 2013 - link

    Interestingly enough Qualcomm claims that MDM9x35 (4th gen cat 6 LTE modem) will be available for pairing (Fusion) with Snapdragon 805 which was announced today, (both are manufatured o the 28nm process.) Buying a 6" cell phone equipped in this manner running Windows Phone 8.1 this upcoming summer. It will be my computer away from my computer.
  • iwod - Sunday, November 24, 2013 - link

    Well the 9x35 is actually on 20nm
  • ArthurG - Friday, November 22, 2013 - link

    Anand, what about D3D11 level ? is it the basic 9.3 implementation ? And what about OpenGL support ? mobile version ES 3.0 or full 4.3 ?
    If Qualcomm said nothing about these, I suspect that Adreno 420 will only have low level support for these APIs. IMHO, this time Qualcomm will lose against Tegra5. too small improvements on GPU side. Maybe 2014 will be for Nvidia in high-end SoCs.
    Whatever will happen, very interesting time to come...
  • ArthurG - Friday, November 22, 2013 - link

    And I would like to add that next round, with S805, Qualcomm won't have a process advantage like now with S800 on TSMC HPM vs Tegra4 on TSMC HPL. Electrical parameters of HPM is 20~30% better than HPL. Its a big deal.
    This winter, different story, both Tegra 5 and S805 will be on TSMC HPM. Knowing that
    Tegra 4 A15r2 at 1.8Ghz is already at same CPU performance than Krait400 at 2.3GHz, I suspect Tegra 5 A15r4 at 2.3GHz will easily beat Krait450 at 2.5GHz...
  • syxbit - Friday, November 22, 2013 - link

    Not to doubt Nvidia's claims for the Tegra 5, but....

    1. Isn't it a bit embarrassing that Nvidia is the only Mobile GPU vendor not to have full Open GL ES 3.0 support? (Mali, Adreno and PowerVR all do it, and now Android 4.3+ and iOS 7 are OpenGL ES 3.0 enabled!)

    2. Nvidia has a habit of always comparing to old SoCs. With the T4, they were boasting that it beat the A6X by just a couple of GFLOPs. Then the A7 came out two months later and destroyed it.

    3. Arm's A15 has shown to be a complete dud. Samsung failed with it, and so did Nvidia. Qualcomm and Apple both make FAR superior designs. Just look at the Nvidia Shield. The thing needs a fan! And there are hardly any buyers for the SoC (and almost all are Tablets, as thermally it just sucks).

    3. Nvidia announcing the Tegra 4i is a complete joke. Who is going to want a Cortex A9 next year ? Only the contract free phones, and even then, you're better off with a mid-range Snapdragon. They were 18 months late on that one :). Oh, and it's still single channel 32-bit. What a joke. Arm realized their massive gap between A7 and A15, and that's why they designed the A12. Only that's also too late (and by the time it comes out, we'll all be on 64-bit SoCs anyway, so who cares).

    Also, Nvidia has already admitted that they won't have a 64-bit SoC until T6, which will probably come out H1 2015. That's almost 2 years behind Apple/intel. I'm guessing Android will go 64-bit some time in 2014, so if Qualcomm and Intel both have 64-bit SoCs by then, who is going to want the T5?

    So in summary:
    T2 was terrible (they didn't have NEON support, which was critical in Android).
    T3 had an abysmal GPU and single channel 32-bit memory interface. Typically paired with poor storage in budget devices.
    T4 doesn't have Open GL ES 3.0 support, and thermally is pretty bad. Doesn't have on board radios, which is why it isn't in phones.
    T4i What a joke. Let's leave it at that.
    T5 ? Well, it is full OpenGL 4, so that's good, particularly for Windows, but not really that valuable for Android right now. But considering it's 8+ months away, and it's 32-bit A15, I'm a little concerned.
    T6 ? This one could be really good. Too bad it's 18 months away at a minimum.
  • Suneater - Friday, November 22, 2013 - link

    T5 8+ months away????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It will be available this winter (probably in January). And 805 will be released only 5-6 months after that! Open your eyes! I'm sure by the end of 2014 there will be 64-bit logan. People, you are so blind!
  • syxbit - Friday, November 22, 2013 - link

    The T5 will absolutely not be available on or before January.

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