Qualcomm has had a rough patch these past months, which started when word about its overheating Snapdragon 810 flagship chip first got out. That would eventually be verified by some and refuted by others. Needless to say, the Snapdragon 810 has been mud on Qualcomm’s face. It’s salvation, however, might be coming soon. The world’s most high profile mobile chip maker has been steadily building up the hype around its upcoming Snapdragon 820, and this time its shedding some light on what its fresh new custom Kryo cores would bring.
In light of the Kryo, it would seem that some of Qualcomm’s recent chips, particularly the 808 and 810, are just fillers for its ultimate plans. These three in particular used ARM’s off-the-shelf 64-bit Cortex-A57 and Cortex-A53 cores, bridging the lull between Qualcomm’s previous 32-bit Krait generation (801 and earlier) and this new 64-bit Kryo core for the 820. Qualcomm says that engineering their own cores allows them to better fine tune their processors to customers’ needs, delivering higher performance but not at the cost of battery life and heat. It’s a subtle way of laying the blame of the SD810’s failures on someone else’s feet.
What makes the Kryo different from both the Cortex’s and the Kraits of the past is, other than being Qualcomm’s first custom 64-bit chip, is that it was designed from the ground up for Heterogeneous Computing, Qualcomm’s new battler cry. In a nutshell, heteregeneous computing means being able to utilize all of a system’s processors instead of limiting each one to just a single purpose. For example, instead of just loading everything on the CPU or only graphics display on the GPU, the graphics processor’s number crunching abilities as well as the DSP’s media processing functionality can be tapped into when appropriate.
This type of computing, especially the reuse of the graphics processor for things not directly related to graphics, is something that desktops have been doing for some time now, particular through General Purpose GPUs. Qualcomm is now trying to bring that paradigm to mobile through the Snapdragon 820 in order to achieve performance, two times better than that of the Snapdragon 810 says Qualcomm, but without the faults that the older chip had.
This is definitely a lofty and ambitious goal, and a laudable one too, if Qualcomm manages to pull it off. While it still sits at the top of the food chain, it has seen its position greatly challenged by Samsung’s Exynos, bad publicity, and even lawsuits in some markets. Perhaps the Snapdragon 820 is really the miracle that Qualcomm needs. But sadly we won’t get to see that until sometime next year.