Qualcomm is bringing some premium experiences to its mid-tier lineup with the addition of the Snapdragon 660 and Snapdragon 630 Mobile Platforms. Improved connectivity, enhanced imaging, faster charging, and even machine learning features, in addition to the usual CPU and GPU improvements, help make these 600-series parts particularly interesting.

Qualcomm has been aggressively pushing more advanced LTE modems throughout its product portfolio recently, giving at least some of the SoCs in the 600 and even 400 tiers a minimum of Category 7 LTE performance (300Mbps DL / 100Mbps UL) with a Snapdragon X8 LTE modem. But after the debut of Qualcomm’s first gigabit LTE modem—the Snapdragon X16 (1.0Gbps DL / 150Mbps UL)—in the Snapdragon 835 SoC this year, along with its successor the Snapdragon X20 (1.2Gbps DL / 150Mbps UL), Qualcomm is ready to bring even higher performance to its new 600-series platforms. Both the Snapdragon 660 and Snapdragon 630 get the same Snapdragon X12 LTE modem that appeared in last year’s flagship Snapdragon 820/821 SoCs. This is a Category 12/13 modem capable of up to 600Mbps throughput on the downlink (3x20MHz CA, 256-QAM) and 150Mbps on the uplink (2x20MHz CA, 64-QAM).

Both the Snapdragon 660 and 630 platforms also support Qualcomm’s suite of RF front-end components too, including TruSignal adaptive antenna tuning with carrier aggregation, which dynamically optimizes signal quality to deliver better voice and data, and envelope tracking technology, which improves battery life and lowers skin temperature by improving power amplifier efficiency. There’s also support for high-power user equipment (HPUE) that helps extend network coverage, and is currently being used by Sprint.

Qualcomm Snapdragon Upper Mid-Range SoCs
SoC Snapdragon 650
(MSM8956)
Snapdragon 652
(MSM8976)
Snapdragon 653
(MSM8976 Pro)
Snapdragon 660
CPU 2x Cortex-A72 @ 1.80GHz
4x Cortex-A53 @ 1.44GHz
4x Cortex-A72 @ 1.80GHz
4x Cortex-A53 @ 1.44GHz
4x Cortex-A72 @ 1.95GHz
4x Cortex-A53 @ 1.44GHz
4x Kryo 260 Performance
@ 2.2GHz
4x Kryo 260 Efficiency
@ 1.8GHz
GPU Adreno 510 Adreno 512
DSP Hexagon DSP
All-Ways Aware Hub
Hexagon 680 DSP
All-Ways Aware Hub
ISP/
Camera
Dual ISP
21MP
Dual 14-bit Spectra 160 ISP
24MP
Memory 2x 32-bit @ 933MHz
LPDDR3
14.9GB/s
2x 32-bit @ 1866MHz
LPDDR4
29.9GB/s
Integrated Modem Snapdragon X8 LTE
(Category 7)
DL = 300Mbps
2x20MHz CA, 64-QAM
UL = 100Mbps
2x20MHz CA, 16-QAM
Snapdragon X9 LTE
(Category 7/13)
DL = 300Mbps
2x20MHz CA, 64-QAM
UL = 150Mbps
2x20MHz CA, 64-QAM
Snapdragon X12 LTE
(Category 12/13)
DL = 600Mbps
3x20MHz CA, 256-QAM
UL = 150Mbps
2x20MHz CA, 64-QAM
Encode/
Decode
2160p30, 1080p120
H.264 & H.265
2160p30, 1080p120
H.264 & H.265
Mfc. Process 28nm HPm 14nm LPP

Another shared component between the Snapdragon 660 and 630 is the Spectra 160 ISP. While a step down in processing performance from the Spectra 180 ISP in Snapdragon 835, it still supports many of the same features, including hybrid autofocus systems, dual photodiode phase-detect autofocus (2PDAF), better electronic image stabilization for video, and enhanced low-light processing for still images. It can also handle dual-camera setups with Qualcomm’s smooth “optical zoom” feature when using two cameras with different focal lengths. It can also integrate data from both cameras to produce bokeh effects or to improve image quality. 

Another advanced feature supported by the Snapdragon 660 and 630 is Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 4 fast-charging technology, which was previously only available with Snapdragon 835. Quick Charge 4 promises up to 20% faster charging and 30% higher efficiency than the previous generation Quick Charge 3.

The Snapdragon 660, which is a replacement for the Snapdragon 653, is now the highest performing SoC in the 600-series. Like the Kryo 280 in Snapdragon 835, the Snapdragon 660’s Kryo 260 CPU uses four semi-custom Cortex-A73 cores in the “performance” cluster and four semi-custom Cortex-A53 cores in the “efficiency” cluster in a big.LITTLE arrangement. The Kryo 260, however, does not hit the same peak frequencies as Kryo 280, and Kryo 260 uses 1MB/1MB of shared L2 per cluster instead of 2MB/1MB of L2 for Kryo 280. We’ve already seen how well Snapdragon 835 performs, and Snapdragon 660 should not be too far behind.

Alongside the Kryo 260 CPU is the Adreno 512 GPU that delivers up to 30% better performance on average than the Adreno 510 GPU in Snapdragon 653, according to Qualcomm. Some of the gain likely comes from a frequency increase (perhaps a lot of it), but it’s still a pretty significant jump, although it should still fall below the peak performance of the Adreno 530 GPU in Snapdragon 820. It supports the latest 3D graphics APIs, including Vulkan, and can power displays with up to 2560x1600 resolution.

Another significant addition to Snapdragon 660 is Qualcomm’s Hexagon 680 DSP, which made its debut last year in the Snapdragon 820 SoC and features Hexagon Vector eXtensions (HVX) specifically designed for advanced photo and video processing, virtual reality, and computer vision workloads. This DSP can work on two vector threads in parallel, each containing four 1024-bit SIMD pipelines (a typical ARM CPU core contains two 128-bit SIMD NEON vector pipelines for comparison), allowing each HVX context to work on 4,096 bits/cycle compared to 256 bits/cycle for a single CPU core. The Hexagon 680 also contains four threads for scalar instructions too, each with 4 VLIW pipelines. Using up to two scalar threads and two vector threads in parallel allows concurrent execution of audio and imaging tasks.

The Snapdragon 660 supports Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Neural Processing Engine SDK, along with TensorFlow and Halide frameworks on the Hexagon 680 DSP, bringing advanced machine learning and computer vision capabilities to the 600-tier for the first time.

Qualcomm Snapdragon Mid-Range SoCs
SoC Snapdragon 615 / 616
(MSM8939)
Snapdragon 617
(MSM8952)
Snapdragon 625 / 626
(MSM8953 / MSM8953 Pro)
Snapdragon 630
CPU 4x Cortex-A53 @ 1.70GHz
4x Cortex-A53 @ ?
4x Cortex-A53 @ 1.50GHz
4x Cortex-A53 @ ?
4x Cortex-A53 @ 2.00GHz / 2.20GHz
4x Cortex-A53 @ 2.00GHz / 2.20GHz
4x Cortex-A53
@ 2.2GHz
4x Cortex-A53
@ 1.8GHz
GPU Adreno 405 Adreno 506 Adreno 508
DSP Hexagon DSP Hexagon DSP
All-Ways Aware Hub
Hexagon 642 DSP
All-Ways Aware Hub
ISP/
Camera
21MP Dual ISP
24MP
Dual 14-bit Spectra 160 ISP
24MP
Memory 1x 32-bit @ 800MHz
LPDDR3
6.4GB/s
1x 32-bit @ 933MHz
LPDDR3
7.46GB/s
2x 16-bit @ 1333MHz
LPDDR4
10.66GB/s
Storage eMMC 4.51 eMMC 5.1 eMMC 5.1 eMMC / UFS
Integrated Modem Gobi 4G LTE / Snapdragon X5 LTE
(Category 4)
DL = 150Mbps
1x20MHz CA, 64-QAM
UL = 50Mbps
1x20MHz CA, 16-QAM
Snapdragon X8 LTE
(Category 7)
DL = 300Mbps
2x20MHz CA, 64-QAM
UL = 100Mbps
2x20MHz CA, 16-QAM
Snapdragon X9 LTE
(Category 7/13)
DL = 300Mbps
2x20MHz CA, 64-QAM
UL = 150Mbps
2x20MHz CA, 64-QAM
Snapdragon X12 LTE
(Category 12/13)
DL = 600Mbps
3x20MHz CA, 256-QAM
UL = 150Mbps
2x20MHz CA, 64-QAM
Encode/
Decode
1080p30 H.264 / 1080p60
H.264 & H.265
2160p30
H.264 & H.265
2160p30, 1080p120
H.264 & H.265
Mfc. Process 28nm LP 14nm LPP

The Snapdragon 630 SoC uses a familiar octa-core Cortex-A53 CPU configuration. Unlike the Snapdragon 625/626 that it replaces, the Snapdragon 630 has a more distinct big.LITTLE arrangement with four A53s running at up to 2.2GHz (the same as the S626) sharing a 1MB L2 cache and four more A53s only reaching up to 1.8GHz and sharing a smaller 512KB L2 cache. While there should not be much difference in CPU performance and power compared to the Snapdragon 626, the Snapdragon 630’s Adreno 508 GPU performs 30% better on average than the S626’s Adreno 506 GPU. It also supports Vulkan and all of the latest 3D graphics APIs at resolutions up to 1920x1200. The Hexagon 642 DSP still supports Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Neural Processing Engine SDK for machine learning and TensorFlow, but does not share the Hexagon Vector eXtensions (HVX) microarchitecture of the more powerful Hexagon 680 and 682 DSPs.

Both of the new Snapdragon 660 and 630 platforms include features and capabilities previously seen only in the premium 800-tier, and also add new technologies like Bluetooth 5 and LPDDR4 RAM support (up to 8GB), which reduces power consumption and improves bandwidth compared to LPDDR3. The Snapdragon 660 sounds particularly compelling, because it appears to deliver a very similar experience to last year’s Snapdragon 820 but, presumably, at a lower price point.

The Snapdragon 660 and 630 platforms are pin and software compatible, and they both use the same 14nm LPP FinFET process from Samsung. The Snapdragon 660 is available to partners now and should appear in devices during the second quarter, while the Snapdragon 630 will become available at the end of May and is expected to appear in devices during the third quarter.

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  • MrSpadge - Tuesday, May 09, 2017 - link

    Peak performance helps responsivity. Reply
  • Meteor2 - Tuesday, May 09, 2017 - link

    That's latency, not throughput. Reply
  • sherifhanna - Tuesday, May 09, 2017 - link

    This is Sherif from Qualcomm.

    There's a direct relationship between increase in peak rates and the corresponding increase in real world speeds. Watch this if you're interested in learning more: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EyLL8BO-HRg
    Reply
  • Skywax9016 - Monday, May 08, 2017 - link

    Kinda sad that Qualcomm maintains in using A53 cores for the 630. I was hoping they could use slower clocked Kyro 260 or something like that. Reply
  • Meteor2 - Tuesday, May 09, 2017 - link

    I suspect it's because the A53 has the best performance/power ratio. Other chips are more powerful (A72 and A73) but use disproportionately more power (on the same manufacturing process); others are more efficient (A35) but are slower.

    Why ARM hasn't updated it is a bit of a mystery. As it's their oldest 64-bit chip now, perhaps they'll replace it soon.
    Reply
  • LiverpoolFC5903 - Wednesday, May 10, 2017 - link

    To be fair, A53 cores clocked at 2.2-2.5 are more than adequate for a vast majority of CPU related tasks. At 10nm, you could even get away with 2.5-3.0 Ghz for A53 cores, which should give it a single threaded performance close to a Cortex A57, which is pretty good for the midrange. Reply
  • UtilityMax - Wednesday, May 10, 2017 - link

    Looking at Geekbench scores, A53 cores built on 14nm process (like SD625) are on the same level of performance as SD800. (Yes, SD800 is old, but its level of performance is adequate for a cheap smartphone today). Reply
  • Suraj tiwari - Wednesday, May 10, 2017 - link

    @ LiverpoolFC5903
    What about OoO execution and better branch predictor. No matter how much higher you clock the A53, it will still be behind, if compared to bigger (A57, A72, A73) cores...
    Reply
  • LiverpoolFC5903 - Friday, May 12, 2017 - link

    The Geekbench scores, arent they inclusive of these things? Reply
  • UtilityMax - Wednesday, May 10, 2017 - link

    A53 is not that bad when it's built on 14nm process. The smartphones using the 625 (built in the same architecture) have certainly punched above their height in terms of performance while having very good battery life (e.g. Moto Z Play). I wouldn't really mind a 630 in my smartphone. The crappy A53 cores were the ones built on the 28nm process. Reply

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