Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 details leak, promising big power savings for smartphones

Chances are that Qualcomm's new Snapdragon chip will power your next Android phone.

If a series of leaked Qualcomm slides is to be believed, the company is targeting two big consumer priorities with the upcoming Snapdragon 835: lower power and better image quality.

Videocardz.com posted several slides which appear to show key details of the upcoming chip, which is expected to be unveiled this week at CES 2017 in Las Vegas. Qualcomm has previously confirmed the presence of the 835, as well as some of the performance benefits the finer 10-nm process brings with it. The chip giant has released few specifics of its architecture, however.

That is expected to change. The 835 is powered by the Kryo 280 CPU core, which Qualcomm claims to be the most power efficicent of its architectures to date. According to the slides, the Kryo 280 core within the 835 will run up to 2.45GHz, combining four “big” performance-minded cores with an additional four “little” 1.9GHz cores that kick in when power efficiency is key. In total, the Kryo 280 should deliver a 20 percent improvement—presumably over the existing Qualcomm 820—in terms of typical app performance, the slides say.

Why this matters: The Qualcomm Snapdragon chips power the majority of the remainder of the world’s smartphones, aside from the Apple A-series chips which power the iPhone, and the Exynos chips which drive some of Samsung’s Galaxy phones. Chances are, then, that your next phone will be powered by the Snapdragon 835 or a slower variant of it.

Low power is key

Though smartphone makers like to tout the performance of their phones, more and more consumers are demanding longer battery life. Since 80 percent of the time spent by a typical CPU is spent in the low-power state, the four “little” cores have become increasingly important. Qualcomm is apparently saying that the Snapdragon 835 will consume about 50 percent of the power of the Snapdragon 801—three generations before the 835, and the chip that powered 2014’s LG G3, among others. 

Qualcomm is prioritizing image quality as well. Inside the 835 is the Adreno 540 GPU, which Qualcomm isn’t saying too much about. But it combines the GPU—with the ability to run DX12 apps, thanks to its Windows 10 partnership with Microsoft — as well as a display processor that supports 10-bit, 4K video at 60 frames per second and a video processing unit that can process 10-bit 4K HEVC video as well.

Other features include Qualcomm’s Haven security with a “full biometric suite,” the slides say, as well as a new Spectra camera processor with “true to life colors.” We’ll have to see what Qualcomm means by this, hopefully in a press conference the company is scheduled to hold on Tuesday afternoon.

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