Qualcomm has made an update in its “High-Tier”* market chip offering with two upgrades in the form of the Snapdragon 630 and 660 chip, which will replace the former 626 and 653 processors in this segment of the Snapdragon Platform line up.

Those processors are aimed at the ~$300 phone market, which has some significant volume. Typically, buyers want a great experience but aren’t willing or able to shell the $600-$800 amount that the high-end devices sell at. To that end, hardware platforms are carefully tailored to provide a very good experience, without killing the budget.

The new Snapdragon 630 and 660 bring capabilities previously reserved to high-end chips, such as 4K video encoding, or drive 2560×1440 high PPI displays. The 4G LTE speed will also double, thanks to the inclusion of the Qualcomm X12 modem (vs. X9 previously).

All computing units get an upgrade with the new chips. For instance, the image processing unit (ISP) now supports dual-cameras at higher resolution and the Hexagon DSP (digital signal processing) is better as well. The CPU and GPU units are 20% and 30% faster (relative to last-gen), according to Qualcomm, and looking at the technical specs, we think that it is believable.

Part of the performance comes from higher clock speeds made possible by the 14nm semiconductor manufacturing process (was 28nm previously). The smaller transistor size also brings higher power-efficiency, and Qualcomm predicts that Snapdragon 660 phones can have as much as two hours more battery life when compared with Snapdragon 653 phones (assuming everything else is equal). There’s real user value here.

Overall, and despite the relatively mild name change, the new Snapdragon 630 and 660 do bring a lot of values in that price category, and we expect it to be quite popular with phone-makers. Qualcomm says that there are about 1000 designs shipping or in-progress, with the 6xx series of chips (current and just-released).

*High-tier is a one of four categories of phones that Qualcomm and the industry often references. The list is as follow, from the most expensive, to the most affordable:

  1. Premium Tiers (high-end)
  2. High Tiers (mid-high)
  3. Mid Tiers (mid-low)
  4. Entry Tiers (entry-level/cheap)

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