We’re just beginning to see phones with Qualcomm’s latest and greatest Snapdragon 835 SoC in them, but these days you don’t need to buy the best, fastest chip to get a decent phone. The new Snapdragon 660 and 630 are midrange chips that balance useful features with a lower price, and they’ll both begin showing up in lower-end phones soon. The 660 and 630 are replacements for the Snapdragon 653 and 626, respectively, so when Qualcomm talks about speed boosts, these are the yardsticks it’s measuring against.
Let’s start with the improvements shared by both chips. The 660 and 630 both include Qualcomm’s X12 LTE modem, which is capable of download speeds of up to 600Mbps and upload speeds of up to 150Mbps. Both support Quick Charge 4.0, a new revision of Qualcomm’s standard that’s also compatible with the vanilla USB Power Delivery standard. Both support LPDDR4 memory instead of LPDDR3—up to 1866MHz in the 660 and 1333MHz in the 630—and both are built on a 14nm FinFET manufacturing process instead of a 28nm process. Both support USB-C, Bluetooth 5, and 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and both include a new Spectra 160 ISP that supports a range of camera improvements including better low-light photos and better video stabilization.
The chips diverge from there. The 660 includes better CPU cores based on the “Kryo 260” architecture—there are four “performance” cores running at 2.2GHz and four “efficiency” cores running at 1.8GHz. It also has an Adreno 512 GPU that’s “up to” 30 percent faster than the Snapdragon 653’s Adreno 510, though both support the same basic APIs and capabilities and the same maximum display resolution of 2560×1600.
Qualcomm didn’t go into many details about what separates the 630’s Kryo 260 from the Snapdragon 835’s Kryo 280, which is itself a customized version of ARM’s Cortex A73 rather than an all-new CPU architecture. What we do know is that the Kryo 260 cores are a couple hundred MHz slower than the Kryo 280 cores and that the “performance” cores include just 1MB of L2 cache compared to 2MB in Kryo 280. The end result is a processor that’s up to 20 percent faster than the 1.95GHz Cortex A72 cores and 1.44GHz Cortex A53 cores in the Snapdragon 653.
Qualcomm says the 630 should provide up to 10 percent better CPU performance than the 626, despite the fact that both use eight ARM Cortex A53 cores running at up to 2.2GHz; since the new chip is built on a newer manufacturing process, it’s possible that the increase is coming from reduced throttling or increased memory bandwidth rather than any other improvements. The chip’s Adreno 508 GPU promises 30 percent better GPU performance than the older Adreno 506, but its maximum display resolution stays at 1080p (more than good enough for midrange and budget phones, as we’ve seen with things like the Moto G5).
The Snapdragon 660 is available now, and devices that use it are expected to ship this quarter; the Snapdragon 630 will be available at the end of May, and devices are expected next quarter. Both chips are pin- and software-compatible, so it ought to be easy for OEMs to use them interchangeably in the same design to serve different parts of the midrange phone market.