Qualcomm hits top gear in first week of 2017

The Qualcomm team has been keeping everyone busy with a flurry of announcements at CES in Las Vegas focused around autonomous vehicles and the growing world of virtual and augmented reality.

Jamie Davies

January 4, 2017

5 Min Read
Qualcomm hits top gear in first week of 2017

The Qualcomm team has been keeping everyone busy with a flurry of announcements at CES in Las Vegas focused around autonomous vehicles and the growing world of virtual and augmented reality.

Central to all the announcements is its new flagship Snapdragon 835 processor, which is in production now and is expected to ship in commercial devices in the first half of 2017. The focus of the marketing here is beyond smartphones however, with the team concentrating on the emergence of next generation technologies such as VR and AR, as well as autonomous vehicles, the power demands of which will strain current technologies.

“Our new flagship Snapdragon processor is designed to meet the demanding requirements of mobile virtual reality and ubiquitous connectivity while supporting a variety of thin and light mobile designs,” said Cristiano Amon, EVP at Qualcomm Technologies. “The Snapdragon 835 has an unprecedented level of technology integration that supports superior battery life, improved multimedia, and exceptional photography with gigabit class speeds for fast, immersive experiences.”

According to the team, the development of the technology was focused on five key pillars, all of which were underpinned by its machine learning proposition, Snapdragon Neural Processing Engine software framework. We’ve outlined the pillars below, but there is also a full list of the specifications at the bottom of the article if that’s your thing.

The first pillar focuses on battery life as the team claim the processor is 35% smaller in package size and consumes 25% less power compared to its predecessors. With the inclusion of the ungraded Quick Charge 4 technology, Qualcomm claims charging is 20% faster and 30% more efficient than its previous poster-boy, the Quick Charge 3.0.

This pillar appears to be the most central to the teams marketing campaign, and while it may seem boring in comparison to other technological advancements, it is paramount in the upcoming IoT-driven world. Power consumption and short recharging cycles will be one of the most import factors when considering what devices to use, primarily due to the promise IoT will be everywhere, not just within reach. It may not be the most glamourous of specifications, but it is arguably one of the most important.

The second pillar looks at enhancing visual quality, sound quality and intuitive interactions, specifically to meet the demands of VR and AR experiences. Snapdragon 835 supports 4K Ultra HD premium, and the team believe it can support up to 60 more colours with an Adreno 540 visual processing subsystem integrated into the processor.

The third pillar is entitled ‘Capture’ with upgrades the team says improves both still and video capture experience, and fourthly the team focus on connectivity. Connectivity is starting to turn into another repetitive industry buzzword, as the importance of connectivity in the digital era goes without saying.

The final pillar is the all-important security one. Security has been a focus for almost every company for years, and it will continue to be purely because it hasn’t been cracked yet. The digital era brings about many opportunities to innovate, but also many opportunities for cyber criminals to take advantage. Qualcomm’s answer is its Haven security platform, which provides support for fingerprint, eye and face-based biometrics, as well as device security for mobile payments, enterprise access, and personal data, for example.

Putting all of this into context, Qualcomm and Osterhout Design Group (ODG) also announced the launch of Augmented Reality smartglasses, which will be powered by the Snapdragon 835 processor.

The R-8 product is ODG’s first consumer mobile AR/VR smartglasses, targeted at early adopters in the consumer world, where as the R-9 is for a wide variety of wide field-of-view experiences from light enterprise to prosumer media consumption. The R-9 will also act as a development platform for more advanced mobile AR/VR use-cases and smartglasses applications.

“The premium Snapdragon 835 processor was designed from the ground-up to support new and innovative products and experiences beyond mobile phones, and it’s great to see that the first announced Snapdragon 835 devices will be ODG’s smartglasses,” said Raj Talluri, SVP of Product Management at Qualcomm Technologies.

On the autonomous vehicles side of things, the team announced various chipsets will be integrated into Volkswagen cars as it moves towards the connected car. The Snapdragon 820A processor, as well as the X12 and X5 LTE modems, will be integrated into Volkswagen vehicles, available in 2019 for the 820A processor, and 2018 for the modems.


The Snapdragon 835 specifications:

  • Kryo 280 CPU with four performance cores running at up to 2.45 GHz and four efficiency cores running up to 1.9GHz;

  • Integrated Snapdragon X16 LTE modem with support for Category 16 LTE download speeds up to one Gbps, and Category 13 LTE upload speeds up to 150 mbps;

  • Integrated 2×2 11ac MU-MIMO with up to 50% reduction in size and up to 60% reduction in Wi-Fi power consumption, compared to the Snapdragon 820;

  • 11ad Multi-gigabit Wi-Fi, offering up to 4.6 Gbps peak speed;

  • Bluetooth 5 commercial technology offering up to two mbps speed and a suite of features that enable many new use cases (Bluetooth, FM radio,Wi-Fi and RF offered through companion WCN3990 solution);

  • Adreno 540 GPU with support for OpenGL ES 3.2, full OpenCL 2.0, Vulkan and DX12;

  • Hexagon 682 DSP with HVX;

  • Qualcomm All-Ways Aware™ technology with support for the Google Awareness API;

  • Dual-channel LP DDR4x memory at 1866MHz;

  • Qualcomm Location with support for GPS, GLONASS, BeiDou, Galileo, and QZSS systems, which in combination with LTE/Wi-Fi/Bluetooth connectivity to provide “always-on” location and context awareness;

  • Up to 32 MP single and 16 MP dual-camera with Qualcomm Spectra 180 ISP, 2x ISP, 14-bit, hybrid autofocus (laser/contrast/structured light/dual-phase detection AF), Qualcomm Clear Sight, optical zoom, hardware accelerated face detection and HDR video recording;

  • 4K Ultra HD video capture at 30 fps, up to 4K Ultra HD video playback at 60 fps, support for H.264 (AVC) and H.265 (HEVC);

  • Maximum On-Device and External Display Support including Ultra HD Premium ready, 4K at 60fps, wide colour gamut support, 10-bit colour depth;

  • Quick Charge 4 technology;

  • Snapdragon security platform including the Qualcomm SecureMSM hardware and software and the Qualcomm Haven security suite;

  • Qualcomm Aqstic WCD9341 audio codec combined with Snapdragon 835 supports an audiophile grade DAC with 32-bit/384kHz support with an SNR at 115dB and ultra-low -105dB THD+N and native DSD hi-fi audio playback. Additionally, the Snapdragon 835 supports Qualcomm aptX and aptX HD Bluetooth audio with 2x improved power for wireless connectivity;

  • Manufactured on 10nm FinFET technology.

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