What’s the deal with all these Snapdragon 820 variants?

Thomas Wellburn
June 7, 2016

We’ve heard plenty of rumours that the Snapdragon 820 will get a number of upgraded variants, but what exactly is going on?

The Snapdragon 820 is a pretty new chip from Qualcomm and only released in Q4 2015, so the idea of a new variant already is pretty unfeasible. The subtle number jumps of 821 and 823 indicate a core clock jump rather than an entirely new architecture; this will be reserved for the 830 series when Samsung begins to mass produce the company’s’ upcoming 10nm micro-architecture.

Small jump for a big chip

The 823 was expected to appear in the Asus Zenfone 3 Deluxe after leaked marketing material showed the specifications, though it’s now more likely that the device will carry a 821. This has been quoted to have clock speeds of 2.3GHz, which is only a subtle jump over the current 2.15GHz found in the current 820. Meanwhile the 823 jumps up to 2.6GHz which is a pretty significant boost and should see some solid gains… if mostly on benchmarking applications.

Things are not all cut-and-dry however, as earlier leaks of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 pointed to a revamped 10nm architecture for the Snapdragon 823, which would be contradicting what Samsung themselves said as the company was prepared to roll out said chips by Q1 2017 at the earliest. Now, fresh renders released today suggest an 820 will be included in the Note 7 instead, which raises the question of why all these manufacturers are opting against the 823. The Note 6 isn’t even out yet, so the idea of them holding out that long with the 823 seems bizarre.

Confused yet? So are we.

Snapdragon 823 < 821

While everyone waits for Qualcomm to confirm the identity of this 823 chipset, it’s worth noting just how many manufacturers are ‘reportedly’ jumping on board with it. We’ve already mentioned Asus and Samsung, but there’s plenty of Chinese OEM firms who are also planning to include them in their devices. Xiaomi could be putting it in their upcoming curved edge screen handset, while LeEco is expected to announce a Snapdragon 823 powered device next month.

Our take on this is that the 823 will be a higher clocked version of the existing 820, simply because it seems to be in the wild already. Fabrication processes typically change on a yearly/ bi-yearly basis, so it’s way to soon for them to start manufacturing 10nm chipsets. Since the 820 was so well received this year, with pretty much every flagship device sporting one, it makes sense for the company to capitalise on this by releasing a faster version.

Who knows, maybe the ‘Pro’ series could be making a comeback again like the good ol’ days.

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