Qualcomm is going to make budget phone buyers very happy.
Qualcomm is back with two new 600-series chips to power the next generation of mid-range phones. The company has announced the Snapdragon 630, a successor to the wildly popular Snapdragon 625 (and little-used 626), along with the Snapdragon 660, a completely revamped and more-efficient sequel to the Snapdragon 650 (and 653).
Let’s start with the basics.
The Snapdragon 630 is the more minor of the updates, keeping much about what made the popular Snapdragon 625, which quickly became a battery darling in phones like the Moto Z Play and Huawei Nova Plus (and the upcoming BlackBerry KEYone). It maintains the eight-core Cortex-A53 breakdown of four high-speed cores and four lower-clocked cores, though they are up to 30% faster across the board. And while the graphics chip has also been updated from the Adreno 506 in the Snapdragon 625 to a faster Adreno 508, the fundamental architecture hasn’t changed — both are still built on a 14nm process — and improved performance isn’t the priority.
Instead, the Snapdragon 630 brings the platform into 2017, with support for LTE speeds up to 600Mhz with 3x carrier aggregation; Bluetooth 5.0, Quick Charge 4.0, and USB 3.1 with USB-C; and a better camera experience with the new Spectra 160 image signal processor.
The Snapdragon 630 will be powering mid-range devices starting in Q3 of this year, and it’s definitely going to help devices in the $300 to $400 range reach their potential — aside from the older CPU architecture and anemic GPU, most of the improvements in the platform come directly from the Snapdragon 820 and 835 line.
The Snapdragon 660 is the biggest announcement of the day, making massive improvements over the current Snapdragon 650, 652 and 653. The most important takeaway is the additional battery savings from the switch to a 14nm manufacturing process from the aging and inefficient 28nm process that reached maturity in 2013. That, coupled with the move to Qualcomm’s Kryo cluster, based on the custom CPU design that debuted with the Qualcomm 820 last year, means that the Snapdragon 660 should be one of the most-coveted upper-midrange chips on the market.
Coming to devices as early as June — expect the first announcement within the next few weeks — the Snapdragon 660 has eight Kryo cores, four performance cores at 2.2GHz and four at 1.8GHz, and promises a 30% improvement in speeds over the Snapdragon 653. There’s also a new Adreno 512 GPU, which is a nice bump over the 510 in the previous generation, and support for Qualcomm’s 2016-era X12 baseband, which includes 3x carrier aggregation for speeds up to 600Mbps. Quick Charge 4.0, Bluetooth 5 and USB 3.1 are also included, too.
Aside from the new features, Qualcomm is making perhaps the biggest noise about the improved camera experience inside the Snapdragon 660. While it has the same Spectra 160 ISP as the Snapdragon 630, better support for 4K capture and the same electronic image stabilization that was popularized in high-end phones from 2016 has filtered down to this mid-range line.
Finally, the battery savings that people saw in the Snapdragon 625 are also included in the 660, which is promising; Qualcomm says that users will see an average of two additional hours when moving to a Snapdragon 660 from a 653 using the same hardware (which obviously won’t happen, but they’re looking for an apples-to-apples comparison).
These chips are going to be very interesting, especially given the success of the Snapdragon 625 and the relative failure of the 650 lineup. For the 630, this is very much an evolution, sticking with what works while shoring up on auxiliary features like cellular speed and camera performance.
The Snapdragon 660 is revelatory, largely because it will bring most of the Snapdragon 835’s best features to the $400 to $500 range, and will allow manufacturers to get away with offering a mid-range chip for their flagships.
What do you think of these new chips? Will you be holding out for one or the other? Let us know in the comments!