Qualcomm moves to 4K with Snapdragon 805 - Adds console features and new LTE companion modem

Posted: 11.21.13

The mobile world is moving at lightning speed as it adds features for movies, gaming, and even content creation. As JPR has been saying, 4K and console quality graphics for mobile is not the new frontier, it’s next gen, and Qualcomm Technologies’ latest chip is poised to deliver.

Qualcomm Technologies has introduced the new Snapdragon 805, expanding the already widely popular Snapdragon applications processor SoC family, and promises to change the landscape of mobile entertainment systems and communications.

The new SoC has an advanced Adreno GPU, the 420, which Qualcomm says delivers 40 percent more performance than its last generation GPU. The new Adreno 420 GPU supports OpenGL ES 3.0 and is the first AP GPU to offer hardware tessellation and geometry shaders for 4K rendering.

The 805 introduces a new 2.5 GHz Krait 450 CPU based on the ARMv7 instruction, however, like Apple and Nvidia, the CPU’s architecture is Qualcomm’s unique design. Unlike other SoC builders, however, the Krait cores dynamically adjust the clock and voltage as system demands change. This manages power consumption for longer battery life, while being able to kick into overdrive if an application demands it. Additional performance enhancements include a new memory manager that doubles memory bandwidth to 25.6 Gigabytes per second making it capable of delivering 4K images and video smoothly and continuously.


The Snapdragon 805 will include two high-bandwidth high color depth image signal processors (ISPs). That will enable the 805 to capture with 4K images at high frame rates (and/or high-speed stereo images), dual camera (front and back) images for video conferencing, and super-fast sports photos.

In order to handle the new 4K images the 805 will be one of the first production processors to support H.265/HEVC CODECs.

Qualcomm acquired the assets of IDT’s Silicon Optics Hollywood Quality Video (HQV) and Frame Rate Conversion (FRC) Video Processing product lines back in 2011 and incorporated the technology into its video processing engine. The HQV and FRC processos handle de-interlacing and scaling and can smoothly upscale a Blu-ray file to 4K UHD.

The new Hexagon V6 DSP can multi task, and run video conversions, and/or Enhanced HD multi-channel audio (encoding, decoding, transcoding, noise cancellation, bass boost, virtual surround and other enhancement functions).
When the Snapdragon 805 goes into full production, it will use the TSMC’s new  20nm production node, which will reach commercial capacity in early 2014.

Using Qualcomm’s fusion-paring, the Snapdragon 805 can be combined with the new Gobi 9×35 LTE CAT 6 modem supporting 4K streaming and transfer. The 9x35 is smaller and allows an OEM to realize a thinner and more power efficient part than the current 9×25 modem (introduced in February 2013) while still supporting LTE Category 4— also known as LTE Advanced. CAT6. LTE, however will reach speeds of 300 Mbps (compared to CAT4’s150Mbps). The dual band HSPA+ Gobi MDM 9x35 is the industry’s first modem manufactured in a 20nm process technology.

Qualcomm is shipping samples of the Snapdragon 805 and Gobi 9x35 to ODMs and OEMs now. You can expect to see them in amazing new mobile devices second half of 2014.  (Qualcomm Technologies is a subsidiary of Qualcomm Incorporated).

What do we think?

With the built-in hardware tessellation and hull shaders, the 805 should be sable to easily support OpenGL ES 3.1 and Google’s extensions when they become available. That would make the 805 obsolete proof if Qualcomm can pull it off. And if they can, then the 805 becomes a candidate for the next gen hand held consoles.

Sony is almost due for a new handheld release, the Vita arrived with Imagination Technologies GPU design in February 2012, so 2014 would be a good refresh associated with the PS4. Nintendo is really ready for a new handheld gaming machine, and Microsoft has been looking for an entry point into handhelds for years. The Snaprdragon 805 could be their ticket to Androidville and a competitive positioning against Apple iPhones with snap-on controllers from Logitech and Moga, and Nvidia’s Shield.