Qualcomm adds fastest ever 64-bit Snapdragon mobile chip

Qualcomm's fastest Snapdragon 810 chip supports 4K video, LPDDR4 memory, and will be in mobile devices in the first half of next year

Qualcomm is getting high on 64-bit chips with its fastest ever Snapdragon processor, which will render 4K video, support LTE Advanced and could run the 64-bit Android OS.

The new Snapdragon 810 is the company's "highest performing" mobile chip for smartphones and tablets, Qualcomm said in a statement. Mobile devices with the 64-bit chip will ship in the first half of next year, and be faster and more power-efficient. Snapdragon chips are used in handsets with Android and Windows Phone operating systems, which are not available in 64-bit form yet.

The Snapdragon 810 is loaded with the latest communication and graphics technologies from Qualcomm. The graphics processor can render 4K (3840 x 2160 pixel) video at 30 frames per second, and 1080p video at 120 frames per second. The chip also has an integrated modem that supports LTE and its successor, LTE-Advanced, which is emerging.

The 810 also is among the first mobile chips to support the latest low-power LPDDR4 memory, which will allow programs to run faster while consuming less power. This will be beneficial, especially for tablets, as 64-bit chips allow mobile devices to have more than 4GB of memory, which is the limit on current 32-bit chips.

The quad-core chip has a mix of high-power ARM Cortex-A57 CPU cores for demanding tasks and low-power A53 CPU cores for mundane tasks like taking calls, messaging and MP3 playback. The multiple cores ensure more power-efficient use of the chip, which helps extend battery life of mobile devices.

The company also introduced a Snapdragon 808 six-core 64-bit chip. The chips will be among the first made using the latest 20-nanometer manufacturing process, which is an advance from the 28-nm process used to make Snapdragon chips today.

Qualcomm now has to wait for Google to release a 64-bit version of Android for ARM-based mobile devices. Intel has already shown mobile devices running 64-bit Android with its Merrifield chip, but most mobile products today run on ARM processors. Qualcomm licenses Snapdragon processor architecture and designs from ARM.

Work for 64-bit Android is already underway, and applications like the Chrome browser are already being developed for the OS. Google has not officially commented on when 64-bit Android would be released, but industry observers believe it could be announced at the Google I/O conference in late June.

Qualcomm spokesman Jon Carvill declined to comment on support for 64-bit Android. But the chips are "further evidence of our commitment to deliver top-to-bottom mobile 64-bit leadership across product tiers for our customers," Carvill said in an email.

Qualcomm's chips are used in some of the world's top smartphones, and will appear in Samsung's Galaxy S5. A Qualcomm executive in October last year called Apple's A7, the world's first 64-bit mobile chip, a "marketing gimmick," but the company has moved on and now has five 64-bit chips coming to medium-priced and premium smartphones and tablets. But no 64-bit Android smartphones are available yet, and Apple has a headstart and remains the only company selling a 64-bit smartphone with its iPhone 5S.

The 810 supports HDMI 1.4 for 4K video output, and the Adreno 430 graphics processor is 30 percent faster on graphics performance and 20 percent more power efficient than the older Adreno 420 GPU. The graphics processor will support 55-megapixel sensors, Qualcomm said. Other chip features include 802.11ac Wi-Fi with built-in technology for faster wireless data transfers, Bluetooth 4.1 and a processing core for location services.

The six-core Snapdragon 808 is a notch down on performance compared to the 810, and also has fewer features. The 808 supports LTE-Advanced, but can support displays with up to 2560 x 1600 pixels. It will support LPDDR3 memory. The chip has two Cortex-A57 CPUs and four Cortex-A53 cores.

The chips will ship out to device makers for testing in the second half of this year.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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