Qualcomm’s Snapdragon SoCs — or mobile platforms, as the company calls them — are the most common chips in the Android smartphone space. Despite having its own Exynos chipsets, Samsung uses Snapdragon for its Galaxy line in the U.S., as do global models from LG, HTC, Sony, OnePlus, and pretty much everyone else. Chances are you’re reading this on a device using a Qualcomm processor right now.
Snapdragon chips aren’t just found in expensive flagship smartphones. There’s a whole portfolio of products built for handsets at various price points. Performance and features differ a fair bit between these models, so let’s break down how the company’s latest SoCs compare.
While the Snapdragon 850 is a more powerful model — reserved exclusively for connected PC products —the Snapdragon 845 is Qualcomm’s current flagship smartphone SoC. It’s the first Qualcomm product to utilize Arm’s DynamIQ architecture, granting it improved multitasking performance and energy efficiency and a shared L3 cache. The Cortex-A75s and A55s are included for high performance balanced against energy efficiency, and the company’s proprietary Adreno 630 offers the fastest graphics performance around.
|Snapdragon 845||Snapdragon 835||Snapdragon 821|
|CPU||4x 2.8GHz Kryo 385 (Cortex-A75)
4x 1.7GHz Kryo 385 (Cortex-A55)
|4x 2.45GHz Kryo 280 (Cortex-A73)
4x 1.9GHz Kryo 280 (Cortex-A53)
|2x 2.35GHz Kryo
2x 1.6GHz Kryo
|GPU||Adreno 630||Adreno 540||Adreno 530|
|RAM||LPDDR4X||LPDDR4X @ 1886MHz||LPDDR4 @ 1866MHz|
|DSP||Hexagon 685 with HVX||Hexagon 682 with HVX||Hexagon 680|
|Cameras||32MP single or 16MP dual||32MP single or 16MP dual||28MP single or 13MP dual|
|Process||10nm LPP FinFET||10nm LPE FinFET||14nm LLP FinFET|
The 800 series is Qualcomm’s flagship tier and big.LITTLE CPU designs have been common here for quite a while. The company used to heavily customize its Kryo CPU cores a few years ago inside the Snapdragon 821, but this has been scaled back to tweaking and optimizing off-the-shelf Arm Cortex cores in the last couple of generations. Instead, proprietary silicon work has focused on the company’s integrated GPUs, DSPs, ISPs, and 4G LTE modems. These top-tier SoCs also include the latest features like Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 4, Bluetooth 5, and support for TrueWireless headphones.
Qualcomm’s 800 series also showcases the best of the company’s heterogeneous compute and machine learning capabilities. Qualcomm utilizes its Hexagon DSP to run 16- and 8-bit neural networks, as well as accelerating various other mathematically heavy algorithms, like encoding its aptX Bluetooth codec. The latest 845 and 835 models include additional HVX extensions designed to specifically accelerate these emerging use cases. Qualcomm’s DSP has a considerably different architecture to the NPU inside Huawei’s Kirin processors. The DSP is more versatile, but it’s not quite as fast at dedicated vision processing tasks.
Qualcomm’s mid-tier mobile platforms are a little trickier to get your head around, partly due to the sheer number of products that have accumulated over the years and also because of the introduction of the Snapdragon 710, which doesn’t fit into the usual 600-series moniker.
|Snapdragon 710||Snapdragon 670||Snapdragon 660|
|CPU||2x 2.2GHz Kryo 360 (Cortex-A75)
6x 1.7GHz Kryo 360 (Cortex-A55)
|2x 2.0GHz Kryo 360 (Cortex-A75)
6x 1.7GHz Kryo 360 (Cortex-A55)
|4x 2.2GHz Kryo 260 (Cortex-A73)
4x 1.8GHz Kryo 260 (Cortex-A53)
|GPU||Adreno 616||Adreno 615||Adreno 512|
|RAM||LPDDR4X @ 1886MHz||LPDDR4X @ 1866MHz||LPDDR4 @ 1866MHz|
|DSP||Hexagon 685||Hexagon 685||Hexagon 680|
|Cameras||32MP single or 20MP dual||25MP single or 16MP dual||25MP single or 16MP dual|
|Process||10nm LPP FinFET||10nm LPP FinFET||14nm LPP FinFET|
The Snapdragon 710 and 670 closely resemble one another, and in turn, both share a surprising number of features with Qualcomm’s high-end Snapdragons, including identical Quick Charge and Bluetooth capabilities. The 2x Cortex-A75 and 6x Cortex-A53 DynamIQ CPU design is clearly different from the 800 series, offering comparable single thread performance but weaker results in rarer instances where multiple high-performance cores would be required. This stands in contrast to the older 4+4 Snapdragon 660, which offers higher multi-core performance capabilities. However, the 2+6 design is arguably better for real world use cases and kinder on battery life.
Similar compromises appear in the GPU department. The 710 and 670 boast 600-series Adreno parts that are strong gaming performers, but clock in a tad behind the Snapdragon 845. It’s the same situation when looking at the modem configuration too. Although the fast LTE speeds will still provide a decent connection when hovering near the cell edge or in areas of questionable quality.
It’s not all downgrades compared to the 800 series. The Snapdragon 710 and 670 both support fast Hexagon DSPs for enhanced machine learning capabilities. They also feature the latest Quick Charge 4 and Bluetooth 5.0 standards and are built on a highly efficient 10nm FinFET process. Qualcomm’s 710, 670, and 660 chips offer a good chunk of the company’s best features at just a slightly lower price and performance point. They’re definitely solid SoCs.
Slightly older popular chips in the Snapdragon 600 series include the Snapdragon 630 and 625. These chips utilized the previously popular octa-core Cortex-A53 CPU clusters and lower end Adreno 509 and 506, so there have been major boosts to performance all around compared with just a couple of years ago. On the plus side, the 630 still boasts the same powerful X12 LTE modems, Hexagon DSP support, and Bluetooth 5. The 625 drops this down to a X9 LTE modem and Bluetooth 4.2 support.
Budget and low end
This year saw a major rejuvenation in Qualcomm’s less expensive SoC options. The big win for consumers has been the gradual ditching of those sluggish octa-core A53 CPUs towards big.LITTLE combinations that offer superior single thread performance. This is important for quickly launching applications, multi-tasking, and running more demanding games.
|Snapdragon 636||Snapdragon 632||Snapdragon 439|
|CPU||4x 1.8GHz Kryo 260 (Cortex-A73)
4x 1.6GHz Kryo 260 (Cortex-A53)
|4x 1.8GHz Kryo 250 (Cortex-A73)
4x 1.8GHz Kryo 250 (Cortex-A53)
|4x 1.95GHz Cortex-A53
4x 1.45GHz Cortex-A53
|GPU||Adreno 509||Adreno 506||Adreno 505|
|RAM||LPDDR4X @ 1333MHz||LPDDR3||LPDDR3|
|DSP||Hexagon 680||Hexagon 546||Hexagon 536|
|Cameras||25MP single or 16MP dual||24MP single or 13MP dual||12MP single or 8MP dual|
|Process||14nm FinFET||14nm FinFET||12nm FinFET|
Much like the Snapdragon 710 and higher end 600 series models, the latest mid-tier Snapdragon 636 and 632 offer plenty of CPU performance via their big.LITTLE designs. However, the graphics department is more notably cut down at this end of the portfolio, with lower end Adreno 500-series chips in place. The Snapdragon 636 continues to offer powerful DSP and fast modem capabilities, while also providing the benefits of Quick Charge 4.0.
The Snapdragon 632 keeps up in the CPU department, but scales back further with cheaper and slower LPDDR3 RAM slots in tow, an older X9 LTE modem, and Quick Charge 3.0 support. This technology is at least a couple years behind current flagship chips and as a result, the Snapdragon 632 straddles the line between the mid-tier and the truly budget range of Snapdragon 400 processors.
The Snapdragon 450 and 439 are the latest chips in Qualcomm’s budget category. Both offer lower levels of CPU, GPU, and modem performance to keep them cost effective. An older but popular chip in this series is the Snapdragon 425. It features a similar Cortex-A53 octa-core design, slower X4 LTE modem, lower display resolutions capped at just 720p, and just single camera support. The 400 series is the last bastion of the sluggish octa-core Cortex-A53 CPUs in Qualcomm designs.
For a barebones smartphone experience, these configurations are good enough. They aren’t recommended for power users, those who like to game on the go, or those after the latest fast charging or Bluetooth technologies.