Qualcomm Snapdragon 835: What do the Kryo 280, Adreno 540, Spectra 180, X16, and Hexagon 682 mean for business?

We don't often think much about the internal components powering our mobile devices, but it turns out this is where the real innovation is taking place in the mobile space. Let's take a closer look at the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 835.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer
Image: Qualcomm

At CES earlier this month Qualcomm revealed all the details of the Snapdragon 835 processor previously announced back in November 2016. How do each of the major features of the Snapdragon 835 benefit us?

I met with several folks from the Qualcomm mobile team in Seattle last week and those conversations prompted me to take a closer look at the Snapdragon 835. When I conduct smartphone reviews, I list the processor in the spec list, but other than noting that the number of the processor generally increases I've never really looked into all of the technology packed into such a small package.

Twenty years ago I was using a US Robotics Pilot 1000 that was powered by a Motorola DragonBall MC68328 16 MHz single-core 32-bit processor. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 is an octa-core processor with clock speeds up to 2.45 GHz and 64-bit architecture. We've come a long way in 20 years.

The Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 is 27 percent faster while consuming 40 percent less energy, with the overall size being 30 percent smaller than the previous generation Snapdragon 821. Key features of the Snapdragon 835 include:

  • Kryo 280 octa-core CPU
  • Adreno 540 GPU
  • Spectra 180 ISP
  • Snapdragon X16 LTE modem
  • Hexagon 682 DSP
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • Quick Charge 4.0

Kryo 280 octa-core CPU

This year Qualcomm went back to an octa-core configuration for its central processing unit. The Snapdragon 835 is comprised of four performance Kryo 280 cores running at up to 2.45 GHz K and four efficiency Kryo 280 cores running at up to 1.9 GHz.

This type of configuration means that tasks will be optimized for the appropriate core and hopefully result in optimized power savings. This setup is similar to what Qualcomm did with the Snapdragon 810 and what Apple is doing with the A10 Fusion quad-core chip.

For people like me who don't play many games and rely upon my phone for communications, camera, and fitness tracking I may not have to use the high power, low efficiency cores too often.

Adreno 540 GPU

The integrated GPU is used to support high end graphics with the new Adreno 540 delivering up to 25 percent faster graphics rendering and 60 times more display colors, as compared to previous Adreno GPUs. It supports real-life quality visuals for immersive experiences, such as with AR and VR.

There are countless ways that AR and VR can be used in the enterprise and I am excited to see the technology continuing to advance. As a professional engineer who designs commercial ships, I would love to have a client put on a VR headset and "walk" around the ship before we finish designing it and before a single piece of steel is cut to build it.

Spectra 180 ISP

Smartphones have become the primary camera for many of us and it is rare to see people pull out a standalone camera to capture the moments. The latest integrated signal processor in the Snapdragon 835 supports dual cameras to help you capture moments in high resolution, even when you are far away.

Electronic image stabilization is included, with manufacturers often providing additional optical image stabilization in the camera hardware.

Snapdragon X16 LTE modem

Wireless carriers continue to provide more robust and faster networks for our devices and with the Snapdragon 835 you won't be missing out on the available speeds. It supports 1 gigabit per second downloads, which is 10 times as fast as first generation 4G LTE. Multi-gigabit 802.11ad and 2x2 11ac MU-MIMO WiFi is also provided in the Snapdragon 835.

While devices come with some integrated storage, the media we create, the media we consume, and the apps we use also grow in size. With fast wireless support, we can access and backup content on the go so that storage concerns disappear.

Hexagon 682 DSP

In addition to visual advancements, Qualcomm includes a digital signal processor in the Snapdragon 835 that provides real-world 3D sound. This includes support for object and scene-based audio, positional 3D and audiophile-grade Direct-Stream Digital (DSD) audio with Qualcomm Aqstic audio technologies and crystal-clear voice and noise cancellation.

Bluetooth 5

Bluetooth continues to be an essential wireless technology for communication between your phone and wearable, headset, automobile, and other gear. Bluetooth 5 brings two times the speed, four times the range, and eight times the data capacity over Bluetooth 4.x. It will continue to also work with other existing versions of Bluetooth-enabled products too.

Quick Charge 4.0

Battery technology hasn't changed much over the last few years, but optimizing the processors and provided means to quickly charge are devices are helping us get to that second day. The Snapdragon 835 shares the workload to help you get more out of your phone's battery and we've seen great results with the Snapdragon 821 in the Google Pixel XL.

With the new Qualcomm Quick Charge 4.0 technology in the Snapdragon 835, it is advertised that you can get five hours of battery life in just five minutes. That's an incredible claim that I look forward to testing out.

There's more coming in the Snapdragon 835, including support for the Google Awareness API, Qualcomm Location, and security support. It's clear that the new processor is beneficial for the enterprise and it is possible the first device we will see launch with it is the Samsung Galaxy S8.

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