Qualcomm's Next Mobile Chip Will Be Faster, Support VR Efforts

The Snapdragon 821 will feature a faster CPU and GPU, load apps 10 percent faster and support Qualcomm's VR SDK and Google's Daydream platform.

mobile chips

Qualcomm's upcoming Snapdragon 821 mobile processor will offer improvements in CPU and graphics speeds, support the chip maker's virtual reality technology and likely begin appearing in new smartphones later this year.

Company officials first unveiled the Snapdragon 821 in July, saying the new system-on-a-chip (SoC) will be more of a complement than a replacement for the current popular Snapdragon 820. In a post on the company blog Aug. 31, Qualcomm Marketing Director Mark Shedd released more details about the chip, including the improvements in CPU performance and support for Google's upcoming Android "Nougat" mobile operating system release.

"Between major technology introductions, Qualcomm Technologies always looks for additional opportunities to innovate," Shedd wrote. "We regularly introduce new functionality and optimize performance, respond to customer feedback, and refine existing features—all with the aim of improving Snapdragon processors so OEMs can build new features as well as innovative or improved user experiences into their next round of premium tier devices."

The Snapdragon 820 launched earlier this year, and marked the company's return to building custom ARM-based CPU cores following problems last year with the 810, which used off-the-shelf ARM CPUs. The Snapdragon 820 included Qualcomm's new Kyro CPU and a wide range of integrated components, including the Adreno GPU, a digital signal processor (DSP) and machine learning capabilities. The chip powers more than 115 premium smartphones and tablets from such OEMs as Xiaomi, LG Electronics, HTC and Samsung, which had passed on the Snapdragon 810.

The 820 also is part of the company's push into emerging markets like connected cars and virtual reality.

As an incremental upgrade between the Snapdragon 820 and the next major architecture, the 821 brings with it some improvements in several areas, including the overall user experience, according to Qualcomm officials. It can boot up to 10 percent faster than the 820 and can reduce the time needed to load applications by 10 percent. In addition, the user interface includes enhancements to make scrolling and browsing easier and more responsive, they said.

While the Snapdragon 821 shares the same Kyro CPU as the 820, it can run at speeds up to 2.4GHz, a 10 percent improvement from its predecessors. In addition, Qualcomm has boosted the speed of the Adreno GPU by 5 percent, and has delivered a 5 percent improvement in power savings over the 820, which officials said can lead to longer battery life and enable device makers to offer thinner smartphones with smaller batteries.

Also included with the Snapdragon 821 is support for the Snapdragon VR software development kit (SDK), which the company launched in March, and compatibility with Google's Daydream VR platform. The SDK is designed to give developers the tools they need to quickly build VR software with Snapdragon-based devices and upcoming Android-based VR headsets.

There also is dual PD functionality (phase detection autofocus, or PDAF) to enable device cameras to more quickly focus than those with single PDAF solutions, and improved laser focal accuracy.

According to Qualcomm's Shedd, Asus' ZenFone 3 Deluxe will be the first premium smartphone to use the Snapdragon 821 SoC.