An unannounced Google SoC for image processing is sleeping inside the Pixel 2

A custom eight-core Image Processing Unit (IPU) is sitting idle inside the new Google Pixel 2 phones, just waiting for Android 8.1 to wake it up. Google already claims that the Pixel 2 cameras are the best on any smartphone, so the fact that a Google-designed SoC will soon dedicate itself to image processing is […]

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Qualcomm reveals its 5G reference smartphone design as it achieves first 5G data connection

 With 4G coverage being available pretty wherever we go these days, Qualcomm is one of the companies working hard to crack 5G, the next generation data connection. Back at MWC in February, Qualcomm was showing off a 5G modem that was around the same size as a standard motherboard for a desktop computer. Today, the […]

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Qualcomm Announces the Snapdragon 636 with Kryo 260 CPU Cores

Five months after launching the Snapdragon 630 and Snapdragon 660 platforms, Qualcomm has now expanded their mid-range SoC lineup in the 600 series of SoCs by announcing the Snapdragon 636. This new chipset is a direct successor to the Snapdragon 630.

The Snapdragon 630 has a list of major new features which will have an impact on the performance of mid-range phones. While the upper mid-range now has the Snapdragon 660, the lower mid-range segment of the smartphone market has had to use the stock ARM Cortex-A53 cores which were used in the Snapdragon 625, 626 and 630 SoCs. With the Snapdragon 636, this changes as Qualcomm has moved to the Kryo 260 CPU core, which is the same one used in the upper mid-range Snapdragon 660. This results in a 40% improvement in performance over the last generation, according to Qualcomm.

Here is a quick table comparison between the Snapdragon 636 and its predecessor, the Snapdragon 630 as well as the Snapdragon 660:

Snapdragon 636 Snapdragon 630 Snapdragon 660
CPU 8x Kryo 260, clocked at up to 1.8GHz 8x ARM Cortex-A53, clocked at up to 2.2GHz 8x Kryo 260, clocked at up to 2.2GHz
GPU Adreno 509 Adreno 508 Adreno 512
Maximum on-device display support FHD+ (18:9) 1920×1200 2560×1600 WQXGA, QHD

The CPU core arrangement is octa-core, with 8x Kryo 260 cores, which are 64-bit and are clocked up to 1.8GHz. These CPU cores are fabricated on a 14nm process. The GPU in the Snapdragon 636 is the Adreno 509, which is said to result in 10% better performance over the Adreno 508 used in the Snapdragon 630.

The improvements to the CPU and GPU aren’t the only changes made in the Snapdragon 636. The platform now supports wide aspect ratio FHD+ (2160×1080) displays, a first for the Snapdragon 63x line. This means mid-range phones can now have full-screen 18:9 aspect ratio displays, to help achieve feature parity with flagship smartphones.

The Snapdragon 636 has support for Bluetooth 5.0. It has the Snapdragon X12 LTE modem, which can achieve up to 600Mbps downlink and up to 150Mbps uplink. On the modem side, it also supports 3x20MHz carrier aggregation and up to 256-QAM for downlink, and 2x20MHz carrier aggregation up to 64-QAM for uplink.

The Snapdragon 636 has the dual 14-bit Spectra 160 ISP, and it can support up to 24MP single / 16MP dual cameras. It can capture 4K video at 30FPS, and 1080p video at up to 120FPS. It has support for the H.265 (HEVC) video codec. It also has the Hexagon 680 DSP with support for Qualcomm’s All-Ways Aware technology, the Snapdragon Neural Processing Engine SDK, and caffe/caffe2 plus TensorFlow for machine learning applications.

On the audio side, the Snapdragon 636 supports the aptX codec. In terms of charging, it supports Qualcomm Quick Charge 4. Also, the maximum memory supported is 8GB of dual-channel LPDDR4/4x RAM at 1,333MHz.

The Snapdragon 636 is pin compatible with the Snapdragon 630 and the Snapdragon 660. It should start shipping in November 2017, so we can expect new phones to use this SoC in the first quarter of 2018.

Source: Qualcomm

Qualcomm Successfully Trials 5G Data Connection on Its Snapdragon X50 Modem

At its 2017 Qualcomm 4G/5G summit yesterday, Qualcomm Inc. has announced that they have successfully trialed a 5G data connection on their X50 5G modem. Carriers and hardware partners across the world have been conducting field trials of 5G networks for a while now but this marks the first time a 5G data connection was successfully tested on a single-chip 5G modem that could fit in a smartphone.

The testing was done in Qualcomm’s San Diego lab using multiple 100MHz 5G carriers. Qualcomm says during their trial they were able to successfully establish a 5G data connection on the X50 modem using 28GHz mmWave frequency band, with download speeds reaching over a gigabit per second.

“Achieving the world’s first announced 5G data connection with the Snapdragon X50 5G modem chipset on 28GHz mmWave spectrum is truly a testament to Qualcomm Technologies’ leadership in 5G and extensive expertise in mobile connectivity,” said Cristiano Amon, executive vice president, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and president, QCT.

Additionally, Qualcomm has also announced its first 5G smartphone reference design, which the company says will enable them to test various 5G technologies including the X50 5G in a mobile form factor. On top of that, Qualcomm’s 5G smartphone reference design will also serve as a guide for other smartphone OEMs working on their first 5G-enabled smartphone.

The Snapdragon X50 modem was officially unveiled last year alongside the X16 LTE modem at Qualcomm’s 4G/5G summit and was supposed to start arriving in smartphones in the first half of 2018. But it now appears that won’t be the case as the company is now aiming for the commercial availability in 2019.

The Snapdragon X50 is designed to support the first wave of 5G-enabled smartphones. The modem is capable of hitting download speeds of up to 5 Gbps on 28 GHz millimeter wave frequency band. Moreover, the X50 can also be paired with a Snapdragon processor with a Gigabit-class LTE modem to provide multi-mode 4G/5G capability via dual connectivity.

The Snapdragon X50 5G modem is expected to commercially available in smartphones in the first half of 2019.

Source: Qualcomm Blog

Qualcomm leaps closer to 5G, boosts 600 MHz LTE support too

Qualcomm’s mmWave antenna module for use with the X50 modem.

At the company’s 4G/5G Summit taking place in Hong Kong, Qualcomm has announced the first successful test of a 5G data connection on its 5G modem chip-set for mobile devices – the X50. The chipset provider is also continuing to beef up its support for today’s 4G networks, with expanded front end to support low frequency implementations like T-Mobile’s 600 MHz Band 71 roll out in the US.

Qualcomm initially announced its X50 5G modem back in October 2016. But now paired up with the SDR051 mmWave module and making use of data over a test 28 GHz mmWave radio frequency band, Qualcomm has been able to hit speeds in excess of 1 Gbps in its San Diego laboratories, and is on the way to its 5 Gbps target speed. To achieve this speed, Qualcomm aggregated data from two 100 MHz 5G carrier bands. At full spec, the X50 supports carrier aggregation from eight 100 MHz bands.

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Qualcomm states that the achievement has accelerated the industry’s timetable by about 6 months. The development should help enable meaningful 5G trials sometime in 2018, with the first network launch possibly ready as early as 2019. To prove that this date isn’t just an idealistic prediction, Qualcomm also showcased a 5G smartphone reference design, complete with mass antenna layout for high frequency 5G waves. Although this is not a reference design for OEMs, more a proof of concept showcasing that all the necessary components can fit together in a commercial phone form factor.

Speaking of smartphone use cases, Qualcomm also tells me that power performance for its 5G modem is comparable to today’s 4G modems thanks to intelligent antenna design. Data rates are expected to increase five fold, yet power consumption should be comparable due to efficiency gains from power amplifier summing for multiple antennas. Component size is also expected to shrink by 50 percent by the time commercial smartphones roll out, which is more good news for increasingly cramped smartphones.

Qualcomm’s 5G reference design shows that all the necessary components for faster networking can already fit in a smartphone.

While new high frequencies bands are necessary for 5G, improving the coverage and performance offered by low frequency 4G networks is equally as important for us users. T-Mobile has been rolling out its 600 MHz (Band 71) LTE extension in the US but the LG V30 is the only phone to support the band at the moment. To improve support in future phones, Qualcomm is extending its radio front end portfolio to provide OEMs with access to 600 MHz and similar spectrum.

Qualcomm’s antenna tuner allows for OEMs to support frequency bands below 800 MHz without having to redesign their phone antenna layouts, which is an expensive and labor intensive process. The company’s RF front end portfolio also includes power amplifier, duplexer, and filter components which are all required to tune antennas for new frequency bands. Fortunatley most of these components are supported across Qualcomm’s range of Snapdragon mobile platforms, meaning that mid range and low end handsets should quickly be able to benefit from 600 MHz spectrum too.

The end result is that companies looking to sell into the US market, and others that roll out their own low frequency bands in the future, will be able to make full use of 600 MHz network capabilities. In the US, this means that we can expect many more phones to support T-Mobile’s Band 71 next year.

Faster 4G and the first 5G products just a couple of years away? Sign me up.