Qual­comm’s Snap­dragon 835

Chris Martin in­tro­duces the pro­ces­sor that’s set to power this year’s flag­ship smart­phones

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In Novem­ber 2016 Qual­comm an­nounced that its next-gen­er­a­tion flag­ship pro­ces­sor would be the Snap­dragon 835 – not the Snap­dragon 830 as ex­pected – and that it would be man­u­fac­tured us­ing the 10nm process in part­ner­ship with Sam­sung, which also made the Snap­dragon 820 and 821 as part of a decade-long col­lab­o­ra­tion

be­tween the two com­pa­nies. Few de­tails were avail­able at the time, but at CES 2017 Qual­comm has of­fered new in­for­ma­tion, which we have out­lined below. See also: Best smart­phones 2016.

Now in pro­duc­tion and ex­pected to make it to de­vices by the first half of 2017, the Snap­dragon 835 is ex­cit­ing be­cause it’s the pro­ces­sor ex­pected to be used in the up­com­ing Sam­sung Galaxy S8 smart­phone, and likely a whole host of other flag­ship phones in 2017 in­clud­ing the HTC 11, OnePlus 4 and LG G6.

It’s the first Qual­comm pro­ces­sor to be made with a 10nm process, which will bring var­i­ous im­prove­ments in­clud­ing per­for­mance and ef­fi­ciency, which in turn will re­sult in bet­ter bat­tery life for de­vices.

“Us­ing the new 10nm process node is ex­pected to al­low our pre­mium tier Snap­dragon 835 pro­ces­sor to de­liver greater power ef­fi­ciency and in­crease per­for­mance while also al­low­ing us to add a num­ber of new ca­pa­bil­i­ties that can im­prove the user ex­pe­ri­ence of to­mor­row’s mo­bile de­vices,” added Kressin.

Com­pared to its 14nm process, Sam­sung 10nm method of­fers up to 30 per­cent in­crease in area ef­fi­ciency with 27 per­cent higher per­for­mance or up to 40 per­cent lower power con­sump­tion.

Specifications and fea­tures

Since this is Qual­comm’s first 10nm pro­ces­sor, it’s ex­tremely small and fits 3 bil­lion tran­sis­tors. It’s smaller than an av­er­age hu­man fin­ger­nail in sur­face and 1000x thin­ner than a strange of hair. This should re­sult in thin­ner phones, space for big­ger

bat­ter­ies, bet­ter ef­fi­ciency and there­fore longer bat­tery life. (The above im­age shows it be­side the larger Snap­dragon 820.)

The Snap­dragon 835 specs most peo­ple will want to know in­clude that the pro­ces­sor Kryo 280 CPU is octa-core with a clock speed of up to 2.45GHz. The big.LIT­TLE ar­chi­tec­ture means that four of the cores are a lower 1.8GHz. One clus­ter is for per­for­mance and the other is for ef­fi­ciency.

Head­line per­for­mance fig­ures in­clude 25 per­cent faster graph­ics ren­der­ing and half the power con­sump­tion com­pared the Snap­dragon 801. It’s also got 20 per­cent ex­tra per­for­mance vs the 820.

“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, ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of Qual­comm.

“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.”

We’ll go into more depth below as Qual­comm has high­lighted ‘five key ex­pe­ri­ence pil­lars’ re­lat­ing to the new chip.

Bat­tery life

This is prob­a­bly top of most peo­ple’s fea­ture re­quest list for gadgets and Qual­comm says the Snap­dragon 835 is its most ef­fi­cient Snap­dragon pro­ces­sor to date – as you’d hope.

It’s 50 per­cent more ef­fi­cient than the Snap­dragon 801 via a com­bi­na­tion of things. Partly the 10nm process but also a clever way of send­ing tasks to the right parts of the chip – ei­ther the CPU, GPU or DSP – us­ing the Sym­phony Sys­tem Man­ager. Check out Qual­comm’s bat­tery life fig­ures for dif­fer­ent tasks:

• 1+ day talk time

• 2+ hours VR gam­ing

• 3+ hours con­tin­u­ous 4K video cap­ture

• 5+ days mu­sic

• 7+ hours 4K video stream­ing

• 11+ hours 4K video play­back

Also re­lated to bat­tery life is the fact the 835 comes with Quick Charge 4 for up to 20 per­cent faster charg­ing com­pared to ver­sion 3.0.


This is all about live en­ter­tain­ment and gam­ing in vir­tual and AR worlds, ac­cord­ing to Qual­comm.

What we’re talk­ing about mainly is a beefed up GPU with 25 per­cent faster graph­ics ren­der­ing and ad­di­tional fea­tures in this area like HDR10 (10-bit)/4K UHD Pre­mium and jit­ter free dis­play. Specif­i­cally on the VR side of things Qual­comm has en­sured the Snap­dragon 835 can sup­port 15ms mo­tions to pho­ton la­tency, which is cru­cial for not feel­ing ill. The chip is also Google Day­dream ‘ready’. The Adreno 540 GPU sup­ports OpenGL ES 3.2, full OpenCL 2.0, Vulkan and DX12.


Pho­tog­ra­phy and video cap­ture is top of many smart­phone users wish lists and the Snap­dragon 835 prom­ises to bring im­prove­ments in this area.

Qual­comm said at the Snap­dragon Sum­mit that the firm has worked on fea­tures such as smooth zoom with low power IS (im­age sta­bil­i­sa­tion). The Spec­tre ISP (im­age sig­nal pro­ces­sor) is split for wind an­gle and tele­photo, and you can also ex­pect EIS 3.0 (elec­tronic im­age sta­bil­i­sa­tion) which brings 2160p, gyro based pitch, yaw and roll cor­rec­tion.

“At the core of the cap­ture ex­pe­ri­ence is the Qual­comm Spec­tra 180 cam­era ISP, fea­tur­ing dual 14-bit ISPs that will en­able up to 32Mp sin­gle or dual 16Mp cam­eras for the ul­ti­mate pho­tog­ra­phy and videog­ra­phy ex­pe­ri­ence,” said the firm.

On auto fo­cus the phase de­tec­tion AF is us­ing paired pho­to­di­odes on ev­ery pixel rather than five per­cent for bet­ter re­sults. The 835 also

sup­ports next gen large 1.4μm pixel split into two pho­to­di­odes. A hy­brid auto fo­cus uses con­trast, 2PD or laser/IR. ‘True to life video’ comes with the 835 con­sist­ing of HDR 4K with EIS, HDR10 play­back and Per­cep­tual Quan­ti­za­tion (im­proves qual­ity with scene anal­y­sis, lower bi­trate and file size by 30 per­cent).


Qual­comm says that LTE will be the key to un­lock­ing fu­ture ap­pli­ca­tions such as VR, Cloud and En­ter­tain­ment so con­nec­tiv­ity is a key pil­lar of the Snap­dragon 835. It’s the first chip to have X16 gi­ga­bit speeds and also fea­tures 11ad multi-gi­ga­bit Wi-Fi. With av­er­age speeds of 114Mb/s on Cat 16 LTE, users can get a 20MB In­stant App in just 1.4 sec­onds. 3x car­rier ag­gre­ga­tion al­lows for faster speeds and 4x4 MIMO can dou­ble the traf­fic.


There are al­ready plenty of se­cu­rity mea­sures around al­ready and the Qual­comm Haven se­cu­rity plat­form sup­ports so­lu­tions such as finger­print scan­ners, eye based sys­tems (iris or retina) and fa­cial us­ing cam­era (need IR and cam­era).

“It also in­cludes hard­ware-based user au­then­ti­ca­tion, de­vice at­tes­ta­tion [au­then­ti­ca­tion via things like ID, soft­ware ver­sion, lo­ca­tion, time, apps, OS in­tegrity], and de­vice se­cu­rity for use cases such as mo­bile pay­ments, en­ter­prise ac­cess, and users’ per­sonal data,” says Qual­comm.

The firm also men­tioned that ‘voice print’ can be used as part of multi-fac­tor (not for pri­mary but good as sec­ondary) and can be al­ways on.

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