Today Qualcomm is making a big step towards enabling wide-spread adoption of 5G through the announcements of the new Snapdragon 480 low-end 5G SoC. The company had already alluded a few months ago that it would be releasing a Snapdragon 400-series design with 5G compatibility, bringing the new connectivity standard to the lowest-cost devices of the market, targeting the very high volume $250 price range.

The new Snapdragon 480 is an extremely impressive SoC not merely because of its 5G feature list, but also because it’s a major performance upgrade in many aspects, including the use of two Cortex-A76 cores as its main performance CPUs – a very large jump in the 400 series family, likely representing a major leap in performance for millions of low-cost devices in the market.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 400-Range SoCs
SoC Snapdragon 439 Snapdragon 450 Snapdragon 460

Snapdragon 480

CPU 4x CA53
@ 2.2GHz 

4x CA53
@ 1.7GHz
8x CA53
@ 2.3GHz
4x Kryo 240 (CA73)
@ 1.8GHz
 
4x Kryo 240 (CA53)
@ 1.8GHz
2x Cortex-A76
@ 2.0GHz

 
6x Cortex-A55
@ 1.8GHz
GPU Adreno 505 Adreno 506 Adreno 610 Adreno 619
DSP Hexagon 536 Hexagon 546 Hexagon 683 Hexagon 686
ISP/
Camera
Spectra 

21MP single
8MP dual
 
Spectra 

21MP single
13MP dual
 
Spectra 340

36MP single
22MP dual
 
Spectra 345

64MP single
25+13MP dual
13MP triple
Encode/
Decode
1080p30
H.264
1080p60
H.264 & H.265
Memory 1x 32-bit @ 933MHz
LPDDR3
7.4GB/s
2x 16-bit @ 1866MHz
LPDDR4X
14.9GB/s
2x 16-bit @ 2133MHz
LPDDR4X
17.0GB/s
Integrated Modem Snapdragon X6 LTE
(Category 4/5)

DL = 150Mbps
2x10MHz CA, 64-QAM

UL = 75Mbps
1x10MHz CA, 64-QAM
Snapdragon X9 LTE
(Category 7/13)

DL = 300Mbps
2x20MHz CA, 64-QAM

UL = 150Mbps
2x10MHz CA, 64-QAM
Snapdragon X11 LTE
(Cat 12/13)

DL = 390Mbps
2x20MHz CA, 256-QAM

UL = 150Mbps
2x20MHz CA, 64-QAM
Snapdragon X51

LTE
DL = 800Mbps
UL = 210Mbps

5G NR
sub-6 + mmWave
(100 + 200MHz)

DL = 2500Mbps
UL = 660Mbps
Mfc. Process 12nm LPP 14nm LPP 11nm LPP 8nm LPP

Starting off with the CPU configuration, the new Snapdragon 480 is pretty exciting for a SoC in the low-end, as it ditches the older Cortex-A73 cores of the previous generation Snapdragon 460 for a pair of newer Cortex-A76 cores, running at 2.0GHz. This isn’t the newest CPU IP on the market, however the jump from an A73 to an A76 is extremely large in terms of single-threaded performance, and is set to bring significant user experience benefits for new devices using the Snapdragon 480. The new SoC is a 2+6 CPU design, unlike the 4+4 setup of its predecessor – multi-threaded performance might not see as large a bump, but for this class of SoC I don’t see that as being an issue. The CPU configuration actually looks almost identical to what we’ve seen on the Snapdragon 675 – those parts would be good indicators of what to expect from the new 480 design.

On the GPU side of things, we’re seeing an upgrade from an Adreno 610 to an Adreno 619 – Qualcomm here promises a 100% increase in performance over its predecessor in the Snapdragon 460.

On the memory side of things, this is still a low-cost 2x16b LPDDR4X SoC, however we’ve seen a slight boost in frequencies to 2133MHz.

AI performance is said to be increased by 70%, partly due to the upgrade to a new Hexagon 686 DSP block with vector and tensor extensions. Interestingly on the camera side of things, Qualcomm quotes that they’ve actually implemented a triple-ISP system, a feature that was only recently announced in the flagship Snapdragon 888 a few weeks ago. The maximum sensor resolutions lie in a 64MP for a single module, 25+13MP in dual-camera mode, or 13+13+13MP in triple-sensor capture mode.

Oddly enough even though the ISP capabilities have grown this generation, the video encoder is still only limited to 1080p60 H.264/H.265. Qualcomm also discloses that the display controller maxes out at 1080 x 2520, although it supports refresh rates up to 120Hz.

5G in the low-end

Although the Snapdragon 480 would have been impressive just with the aforementioned specification upgrades, the big feature of the new generation SoC is its new modem subsystem which fully supports 5G NR.

The integrated X51 modem supports LTE up to 800Mbps downlink and 210Mbps uplink, as well as combined 5G sub-6 and mmWave throughput of up to 2500Mbps downlink and 660Mbps uplink. Sub-6GHz spectrum capability falls in at 100MHz, but what’s very surprising to see is that even though the chipset is a low-end low-cost design, it still features mmWave capabilities – albeit with a much smaller spectrum bandwidth compared to the larger flagship modems, falling in at only 200MHz. Given that currently in the US mmWave plays an important marketing role in 5G deployments, having any support for the new technology is a must to be able to get device design wins, even though it’s a bit of a contradictory feature to have in low-end cost-sensitive devices.

The X51 modem is capable all new important 5G technologies, supporting FDD and TDD standalone (SA) and non-standalone (NSA) 5G networks, as well as DSS (Dynamic Spectrum Sharing).

Then new chip is manufactured on Samsung’s 8nm process node, which should give it very good power efficiency.

Partner vendors included in Qualcomm’s announcement included HMD Global, OPPO and Vivo, endorsing the new chipset. More interestingly, OnePlus was also amongst the vendors to be note the new chipset - maybe that signals the arrival of a new low-end OnePlus device?

Qualcomm expects the first Snapdragon 480 devices to be announced this month.

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  • michael2k - Monday, January 4, 2021 - link

    https://www.anandtech.com/show/16271/qualcomm-snap...
    X1 on the 888 only estimated to be 13% faster than the 865+, 25% over the 865

    https://www.anandtech.com/show/16192/the-iphone-12...
    The 865+ scored 36 vs the Firestorm's 63, and a 13% boost means the 888 still only scores 40 vs the Firestorm's 63.

    The 865 scored 34, and a 25% boost means the 888 might go as high as 42, which is still 21 SPECSpeed lower than the Firestorm.

    And this is single threaded; Apple has a pair of Firestorms while the 888 has only 1 Cortex X1
    Reply
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Monday, January 4, 2021 - link

    Due to Verizon, MediaTek isn't a viable option for devices in the US. Reply
  • Mobile-Dom - Monday, January 4, 2021 - link

    now that i think about it, does Samsung fab every modern/current Qualcomm chip? Reply
  • akmittal - Monday, January 4, 2021 - link

    Apple probably bought almost all production capability for M1 Reply
  • ksec - Monday, January 4, 2021 - link

    Mostly yes. Part of the deal when Qualcomm and Samsung settle their patent dispute.

    And no, it is not because of M1 because the volume are comparatively small. You could blame A14 though.
    Reply
  • fishingbait - Monday, January 4, 2021 - link

    They fab the latest 8xx and 7xx chips. These use the 8nm process, which neither Apple or AMD has use for at the present to TSMC is still making them. Reply
  • Spunjji - Monday, January 4, 2021 - link

    Looks like a decent upgrade to the low-end, especially if the GPU actually gets the promised performance boost. Nice to see that they've finally stopped dragging their feet in this part of the market. Reply
  • XDA-Developer - Monday, January 4, 2021 - link

    Qualcomm has never dragged its feet in GPU performance. The "performance boost" to which you are referring has no real-world impact on what the end-user experiences in terms of graphics performance. Most of this is actually handled by the CPU. The integrated GPU is called into play only when the CPU has reached its threshold as set by the CPU governor. On any lower end device, such as those powered by the Snapdragon 480, such a minor upgrade to the GPU won't be noticed by the user. In fact, the jump to an Adreno 619 from the predecessor 610 will most likely not even make a difference on GPU benchmarks. Reply
  • hemedans - Monday, January 4, 2021 - link

    this soc is huge improvements in low end category, Adreno 619 is already used in sd 750 which is upper midrange. most benchmarks shows 80% to 120% increase in gpu power. also cpu wise kryo 460 (cortex A76) with 8nm manufacturing process will beat many midrange soc. Reply
  • iphonebestgamephone - Monday, January 4, 2021 - link

    Xda developer huh, username checks out. Reply

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