back to article Qualcomm lifts lid on 7nm Arm-based octo-core Snapdragon 855 chip for next year's expensive 5G Androids

Yesterday, Qualcomm teased its Snapdragon 855 processor, which is aimed at next year's top-end 5G Android phones. Today, we've got hold of more details of its insides. Qualy reckons these specifications will set a high benchmark for next-gen devices from Apple and other gadget manufacturers using non-Snapdragon chipsets to …

  1. bazza Silver badge

    I'm Confused...

    ...I thought this was supposed to be a mobile phone chip. Every single spec point seems to be better than my current desktop machine.

    BTW who has got the eyes to do justice to a 4k display on a phone? Superman?

    1. fuzzie

      Re: I'm Confused...

      I have a Sony Xperia XZ Premium with 4K, ~800ppi, HDR screen. Sure, it's overkill for most cases. By default only select (generally the video/gallery) ones run at 4K, the rest stick to 1080p so no noticeable battery impact. Professional photographers love the 4K for pixel peeping on the go. Just select Professional/sRGB mode.

      Even at 1080p "effective" resolution, the 800ppi dot pitch means small details, like serifs on text, flourishes on graphics, or detailing in notification bar icons, look painted. The same for e-Reader pages or text heavy web content. It seems to cross the same uncanny valley we experienced when laser printers crossed ~600dpi and print "grain" just disappeared.

      tl;dr: Yes, mostly an indulgence, but a very satisfying one :)

    2. druck Silver badge

      Re: I'm Confused...

      You may not notice a 4K screen on a phone normally, but the resolution is very apparent when using a 3D headset like a Samsung VR.

  2. Chz

    Interesting that they've gone with one higher clocked Big core, and three that are barely much slower. Huawei went with 2/2 and clocked the slower ones a fair bit less. Will be good to see the real world upshot of it, or whether there's even a noticeable difference to the Kirin chip.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Does it underclock/burst?

      No idea how reliable it is on battery consumption, but the latest Intel chips, running on mobile, are suppost to ramp up/down with workload, and get compute done quickly, then idle back down to a lower powerstate. If I've understood it right.

      So can these chips do likewise? Idle/sleep cores, lower speed/power draw between user/wake calls?

      1. Martin an gof Silver badge

        Re: Does it underclock/burst?

        So can these chips do likewise?

        Because downvotes without explanation are pointless (no,I am not one of your downvoters) - yes, of course they can. Arm has been doing this kind of stuff for years, and so has Intel.

        There is a difference, though - this chip seems to be a refinement of a refinement of the idea. Not only can individual cores have their clocks ramped up and down to meet demand, and be switched into near-zero power hibernation modes at a whim, but workloads can be switched from the 'simpler', power-sipping cores to the 'complex' cores when a task is either speed-critical or the scheduler calculates it would actually use less power overall to finish a task quickly on a very fast, but hungry processor than to take longer on a more frugal one.

        Arm call this idea 'big.LITTLE' and I don't think (though I'm willing to be corrected) that Intel has anything quite equivalent - it would be like putting an Atom on the same chip as an i7 and deciding which one to use according to workload.


  3. Richard 12 Silver badge

    Very interesting.

    One wonders about pricing on those chips, they'd make for a reasonably decent Linux laptop.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Only if they put appropriate drivers into the public domain. Otherwise you'll be using frame buffer 2d graphics and end up running your browser on one of the 4 tiny cores.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RF front ends

    At fist glance they support all forms of communications short of smoke signals. A closer look shows FM is missing, is this too old fashioned? Also no mention of GPS L5 but instead a vague line about dual frequency GNSS.

    1. CAPS LOCK

      FM radio?

      The carriers don't like it. Uncle Sam wants it enabling if it's fitted, Emergency Alerts dontchakno', so it had to go.

  5. mark l 2 Silver badge

    "The hardware can, therefore, record and render video and images with more than a billion shades of color thanks to the 30 bits-per-pixel range."

    Since scientists think most humans can only recognise around 1 million colour shades. Offering a billion colours sounds like marketing hype to me. Even 24-bit colour with 16 million colours has 15million more shades than most people are able to differentiate between.

    1. Glen 1

      We might well be able to display an unnecessary number of increments between colours, but the extreme ends (eg pinkest pink) are not typically available on a consumer device.

      Better gamuts are a good thing.

  6. Aladdin Sane

    But can it run Crysis?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Why the reference to the vintage NE555 timer IC in the sub heading?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: NE555?

      I've no idea (other than it ends in "55"), but personally I'm grateful to the author for the momentary nostalgic frisson it provided me!

    2. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: NE555?

      855 reminded me of the old 555 [triv]


      1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

        Re: NE555?

        There was a Power PC processor called 555.

        And a cheap and nasty audio amplifier called 386. Very fitting.

  8. _LC_

    This is gonna be HUGE!

    This chip is so magnificent, that we just had to arrest the competition. ;-)

  9. Chris Evans

    A76 L1 cache size?

    "Each A76 has 128KB of L1 cache (64KB four-way instruction cache with four-cycle load-use latency, 64KB for data), 256 or 512KB of 1280-entry five-way L2 cache, and shares up to 4MB of L3."

    I've often wondered why the L1 cache size on modern CPU's are so small. ARM3 back in 1989 had a 4K cache I'd have expected more than a 32 fold increase in nearly thirty years. Later CPU's now have two extra levels of cache and I understand a little bit about cache coherency. I'm sure there must be a good reason. Anyone know what it is?

    How much slower is L2 and L3 I wonder?

    1. _LC_

      Re: A76 L1 cache size?

      The reason is physics. The further you get away from the actual computation cores, the bigger the latencies become. Therefore, you can assume that the small caches "run really fast".

      What you observed is basically the dilemma of shrinking dies vs. increasing clock frequencies. ;-)

      As there are no fixed/standardized sizes/clock freqs. for caches, your question is hard to answer. Nonetheless, here's a links with a few examples (AMD Ryzen and Intel Core i7):

      [AMD's Ryzen Cache Analyzed - from 2017]

    2. Martin an gof Silver badge

      Re: A76 L1 cache size?

      I've often wondered why the L1 cache size on modern CPU's are so small.

      To answer the size question, L1 cache is fast because it is effectively part of the processor, but that means it is built on the same die, and space taken up by RAM is space that cannot be used for computing functions, and L1 cache is a completelt different beast to he DDR RAM used for main memory - it takes up more die per bit, especially when you include the lookup tables. It's a trade-off and a case of diminishing returns.

      At least, that's the way I have always thought of it. I can't find an image now, but I have a (possibly wrong) memory of seeing a micrograph of the ARM3, and the 4k cache took up as much die space as the whole of the rest of the processor.


  10. RosslynDad

    Important Reflectivity Data

    "This relies a library of pretty much every known material on Earth, and details on how light scatters when it hits their surfaces."

    Clearly the Commentards are interested in the world's most important materials' reflection properties: beer and, the $Deity's personal favo(u)rite: red wine. I'd be happy to validate their models - please send a case of Chateau Lafite 1961.

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