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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  • melgross - Monday, November 25, 2013 - link

    It's not, really. It works very well in the iPhone 5s. How many of these other chips will be capable of working in a phone?
  • BoneAT - Friday, November 22, 2013 - link

    I like the current SD800/Adreno 330 combo (except for the excessive drainage in heavy gaming, which is larger than ever), it makes the Nexus 5 very snappy.

    Speaking of, whatever happened to the Nex5 review, maybe I missed it?
  • paul_59 - Saturday, November 23, 2013 - link

    With the 805 reported to be sampling to OEMs already, with the intention to ship devices to consumers in the first half of 2014 this would seem to make the yet to be released ( to end users) Snapdragon 800 ac redundant.
  • SydneyBlue120d - Saturday, November 23, 2013 - link

    "I'd expect the transition to 64-bit ARMv8 to happen for Qualcomm next year."
    Do You think that by the end of the year we will have devices in store running ARMv8 or just a press release like this, pushing real products in 2015? Thanks a lot :)
  • ArthurG - Saturday, November 23, 2013 - link

    I think many SoCs are waiting for 20nm to adopt ARMv8, thus will be announced at CES2015.
    In 2014, 28nm will still be main process, TSMC will not be ready to ship any 20nm relevant volume before 2014 Q4
  • Krysto - Sunday, November 24, 2013 - link

    They have to be ready this year, otherwise they might as well skip the 20nm process. Tegra 6 is coming out at 16nm FinFET in 2015, which will probably give Nvidia a process advantage for the first time ever against other ARM SoCs (and my guess is even against Intel's Atom, too, which always lags ~a year behind the Core adoption of a new process node).
  • blanarahul - Sunday, November 24, 2013 - link


    Tegra 6 with 16 nm comes 2015. Intel 14 nm Atom comes in 2014.
    It's impossible to beat Intel in terms of process node.
  • fteoath64 - Friday, November 29, 2013 - link

    When ARM chips get to 14/16nm, the Atom chips will be trash .... ie out gunned and out priced such that no body wants it even if given free!. Intel race to the "bottom" is going to hit them hard in the face on that race, unless they wake up and do ARM!!!. x86 is already dead, they just do not know it yet...
  • TheinsanegamerN - Sunday, November 24, 2013 - link

    hopefully we will see them. we still havent got a good sucessor to the asus transformer tf300t...
  • fteoath64 - Friday, November 29, 2013 - link

    Qualcomm is in no rush to get to ARMv8 64-bit. Apple just did their launch of A7 and that actually buys at least 12 months before Apple does any refresh and they might just raise the clock speed to 1.5Ghz modestly, so the rest of ARM can chase performance with good power consumption on A15 variants and A12, A7 etc to optimize for their existing 28nm and upcoming 20nm process. At least it saves cost going to 20nm in wafers. Only Samsung is in a hurry to go 64-bit since they announced that already and actively seeking that path. Samsung has fab capacity and process node to handle their chip but volumes might be questionable (ie for Exynos 6). They have huge R&D in fab but less so in processor design as seen on their Octa8 chip. It might take them a couple of iterations but they will get there maybe first or second (ie a surprise ARM licensee).

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