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Snapdragon 835 First to 10nm

January 10, 2017

Author: Linley Gwennap

Qualcomm’s next-generation flagship processor will be the first mobile chip to reach the 10nm node, thanks to the company’s choice of Samsung instead of TSMC as its fab. (Samsung’s 10nm Exynos processor will likely be available at the same time as the 835, making it a tie for first availability.) The smaller transistors use about 25% less power than the 14nm transistors, improving battery life on standard tasks and allowing the processor to deliver 25% greater performance when operating at full power. The chip will enter production this quarter; we expect it to appear first in the Galaxy S8 around March.

The 835 makes some big changes to the CPU complex. Qualcomm has abandoned its custom ARMv8 CPU design, which serves in the Snapdragon 820, and instead adopted a microarchitecture from ARM. Qualcomm cut a unique deal allowing it to modify and rebrand ARM CPUs. At least initially, however, the company is apparently using Cortex-A73 and Cortex-A53 cores with minimal modifications. Whereas the 820 has four cores with the same microarchitecture, the 835 has four big cores and four little cores, matching the Big.Little approach that all other premium mobile processors now use, including the Apple A10.

The next-generation Snapdragon also integrates Qualcomm’s X16 modem design, which supports LTE downlink speeds of up to 1.0Gbps. Unlike previous high-end Snapdragons, the new chip integrates an 802.11ac Wi-Fi baseband, reducing power for that function. The remainder of the Snapdragon 835 is quite similar to that of its predecessor. Qualcomm continues to evolve its broader platform, adding new capabilities such as TensorFlow support and dual-camera modules. These new features will keep the Snapdragon 835 and its customers on the leading edge of smartphone design.

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