Understanding Qualcomm's Snapdragon Chipsets

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Understanding Qualcomm's Snapdragon Chipsets

Qualcomm has a slew of new chipsets available now, with the Snapdragon 710, 850 and XR1 all having been announced in recent weeks. It does add quite a few more chipsets to the already crowded lineup that Qualcomm had for mobile devices. The Snapdragon 710 is made for premium mid-range smartphones, while the Snapdragon 850 is made exclusively for Windows laptops and the Snapdragon XR1 is for high-quality standalone virtual reality headsets. It can all be very confusing, but let’s take a minute to explain it all.

 

Snapdragon 845 vs 850

The Snapdragon 845 and Snapdragon 850 chipsets are virtually the same. The only real difference on paper is the fact that the Snapdragon 850 is overclocked to 2.98GHz versus the 2.8GHz clock speed on the Snapdragon 845. Both of these use eight Kryo 385 cores, the Adreno 630 GPU, and the Spectra 280 ISP. The only real difference besides clock speeds is the fact that the Snapdragon 850 is exclusively for Windows laptops, and not Android smartphones.

 

Meanwhile the Snapdragon 845 can theoretically power Windows laptops just as the Snapdragon 835 did, but none of Qualcomm’s partners have used the Snapdragon 845 for Windows laptops just yet – likely because the Snapdragon 850 was on the way. It’s an interesting approach for Qualcomm to take here, considering the Snapdragon 835 was able to power both smartphones and Windows laptops.

 

Snapdragon 845 vs 710

Back in February, Qualcomm announced the Snapdragon 700 Mobile Platform as a new platform of processors that would be slightly more premium than the 600-series, but not quite on the level of the 800-series. This was likely to compete with MediaTek’s new Helio P60 chipset that was targeting “premium mid-range” smartphones. The Snapdragon 710 is, at least on paper, a step between the Snapdragon 835 and 845 chipsets. The Snapdragon 835 chipset had eight Kryo 280 cores, with Adreno 540 GPU, Spectra 180 Camera ISP, and the Snapdragon X16 LTE modem.

 

While the Snapdragon 710 has eight Kryo 360 cores, the Adreno 616 GPU, Spectra 250 Camera ISP and the Snapdragon X15 LTE Modem. While the Snapdragon 845 chipset offers eight Kryo 385 cores, Adreno 630 GPU, Spectra 280 Camera ISP, and the Snapdragon X20 LTE modem. As you can see from the specs here, the Snapdragon 710 sits between the two most recent 800-series processors. Which is a bit confusing here, but it is a way for Qualcomm to push higher-end performance down to mid-range smartphones.

 

The Snapdragon 710 is basically replacing the Snapdragon 660, that was a bit out of place in the Snapdragon 600 Mobile Platform, since it was closer to the 800-series than the 600-series. The Snapdragon 710 is the processor you’ll see (or at least Qualcomm is hoping you’ll see) in the higher-end of mid-range smartphones. Those that are priced closer to $400-500, with the Snapdragon 845 being in the premium lineup, those that are over $700. There’s not much different there, though the Snapdragon 845 does sport a better GPU and ISP as well as faster and more efficient Kryo cores. But in real-world usage, there won’t be much difference between the two.

 

Snapdragon 845 vs XR1

Now the Snapdragon XR1 was announced as an “Extended Reality” chipset for “high-quality” virtual reality headsets. There are some small differences here between the Snapdragon XR1 and 845. For example, the Snapdragon XR1 does 3DoF (though it can technically do 6DoF, it is not intended to do so). The Snapdragon XR1 is also made for 360-degree viewing and not room and position tracking like the Snapdragon 845 is able to do.

 

Another difference is that the Snapdragon XR1 is able to do simple controllers, while the Snapdragon 845 can do hand tracking, and thus don’t need to use a controller. The Snapdragon XR1 is destined for high-quality headsets, while the Snapdragon 845 will continue to power premium headsets here.

 

Between the Snapdragon 845 and XR1, things get really fuzzy, as these both sport the same specs. Both are sporting eight Kryo 385 cores, with the Adreno 630 GPU, Spectra 280 Camera ISP and the Snapdragon X20 LTE Modem. So spec-wise these are essentially the same. However, Qualcomm is still pushing the XR1 as being an option for high-quality headsets, and the Snapdragon 845 for premium headsets. Many companies have already announced that they’ll be using the Snapdragon XR1 including Vive, Vuze and Pico.

 

While the Snapdragon 845 VR development kits began shipping in February, there have been no real announcements from companies that will be using this chipset. But think of the Snapdragon 845 powering experiences like the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift, and the Snapdragon XR1 more for products like the Oculus Go and HTC Vive Focus, which are all-in-one headsets with slightly lower quality graphics and processing, but have a cheaper price tag.

 

Wrap Up

Qualcomm has always had quite a few different chipsets available in its lineup, and now it has something for virtually every product out there. The Snapdragon 710 is essentially a higher-end successor to the Snapdragon 660, while the Snapdragon 850 is a Windows-exclusive chipset and the Snapdragon XR1 for virtual reality headsets. The interesting thing here is that the Snapdragon 850 and XR1 are essentially the same as the Snapdragon 845, making the Snapdragon 710 really the only new chipset here.

 

Which is going to make people question why their new VR headset is sporting the Snapdragon XR1 and not the Snapdragon 845, even though these are essentially the same chipset. Having a two-tier system for high-quality and premium devices is definitely going to confuse Qualcomm’s customers, and it’s likely something that Qualcomm won’t be continuing in the future.

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