After months of testing, and pre-release teasers, Qualcomm has finally taken the wraps off its next generation flagship Snapdragon processor. The Snapdragon 820 has a number of capabilities and features which should mean all parts of your phone experience are fast and efficient. Surprisingly, the chip features half the number of cores found in the 810 chip, but promises to boost performance across the board…

At the heart of the new Snapdragon 820 processor is a new Kryo CPU. Qualcomm describes it as its first custom-designed 64-bit quad-core chip, using the company’s Symphony System Manager which spreads control of task and power management across the entire processor. You read right the first time, this is a quad-core chip and can be clocked up to 2.2GHz. But it has a number of features to ensure it’s faster and more efficient than its predecessor, despite having fewer cores.

The 64-bit Kryo CPU is built using a 14nm FinFET process, it also has a new Hexagon 680 DSP. This new DSP lets the CPU offload some low-power tasks for faster processing, including ‘always-on’ low power-sensors and ultra low power advanced imaging. From the description, it sounds as though the main Kryo CPU will push any low-power tasks to the Hexagon DSP to ensure it stays focussed on the more intensive tasks that require more power.

Adding to its imaging and graphics performance is the new built-in Adreno 530 graphics. It’s the company’s highest performing GPU and — according to Qualcomm — can deliver photorealistic computer generated graphics, and up to 40% improvement to the graphics performance offered by the current flagship Adreno 430 GPU. Even pictures taken with an onboard smartphone camera will be improved by the SD 820, thanks to the Advanced Spectra Camera ISP. It supports a wider range of colors, and is supported by the latest 14-bit image sensors.

The Snapdragon 820 processor also supports Cat 12 LTE with a possible max cellular download speed of 600Mbps. As a bonus, it also supports LTE-U, meaning it can access LTE connections on unlicensed spectrum. Carriers like T-Mobile have been testing LTE-U for a little while now, and will be rolling it out in busy arenas like malls and sport stadiums in the near future. LTE-U acts as a backup to the main LTE connection to provide a faster and more consistent data connection using frequencies similar to Wi-Fi. As a kicker, the SD820 also supports 802.11ad Wi-Fi, and 802.11ac MU_MIMO which can give speeds two to three times faster than regular Wi-Fi ac.

As if that wasn’t enough, the Snapdragon 820 also supports Quick-Charge 3.0, which is four times faster than regular smartphone charging and 38% more efficient than Quick-Charge 2.0. As previously detailed, it features a number of security features like the Snapdragon Smart Protect feature Qualcomm recently announced.

Key specs:

  • Up to 2.2GHz quad-core custom 64-bit Kryo chip
  • Adreno 53o (up to OpenGL ES 3.1+)
  • Qualcomm Hexagon 680 DSP
  • Spectra ISP – Supports cameras up to 28MP
  • Supports 4K capture, 4K resolution playback on device and 4K output to external displays
  • Quick-Charge 3.0
  • X12 LTE – Up to 600Mbps downloads, 150Mbps uploads
  • Carrier aggregation – 3x20MHz DL/2x20MHz UL
  • Wi-Fi 802.11ac with 2×2 MU-MIMO
  • LPDDR4 memory
  • 14nm process technology
  • USB 3.0/2.0 support
  • Bluetooth 4.1 and NFC support

We’re yet to see which devices will ship with the Snapdragon 820. If previous rumors are anything to go by, Samsung will use it in the next generation Galaxy S phones in specific regions. Whether it does is yet to be seen. Recent speculation suggests that the SD820 is experiencing heating issues, just like the 810 did. Qualcomm, of course, denied that. The bigger question is whether this new silicon can save Qualcomm from its slip. Only time will tell.

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