Zenvolution is coming to town next week! And if you know what it is, you would know what comes with it. ASUS fans everywhere rejoice for the next generation ZenFone is here. The ZenFone 3 will be ASUS’ latest and greatest flagship. There is going to be different versions priced at different price points of course. The top of the line ZenFone 3 Deluxe though comes with a party trick of its own. It is the first smartphone that will come into Malaysia with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 SoC. As a matter of fact, it is the first smartphone in the world to fit an run on that particular SoC. Interestingly though the Snapdragon 820 SoC is still a very relevant top-of-the-line SoC today and was introduced not too long before the 821. So question here is; what is the difference between these two dragons?
Before we continue though I must warn you that this article can be a little technical, so bare with me. Also before we get into Snapdragon 821 and 820, we have to get acquainted with the Snapdragon family made by Qualcomm.
Qualcomm was found in 1985 with the goal of creating and providing better communications to the public. Its branding is derived from Quality Communication; the ultimate goal for the company. The company first started making communication chips for several industries. These chips’ function was purely for communication only. That is, up until they started the Snapdragon project. The Snapdragon mobile processing chip was introduced in 2007 with Google’s breakthrough product; Google Nexus One. That was the first ever smartphone to equip the Qualcomm Snapdragon chip with processing speed of 1.0GHz, faster than anything in the market for mobile phones.
Ever since Google’s Nexus One the Snapdragon SoC platform has been the go to SoC for Androids and developers. It is a truly global and universal SoC for all sorts of smartphones. Even Google develops new Androids mostly on Qualcomm’s line of processors. The architecture of Qualcomm’s finest has evolved and change throughout the years depending on ARM’s Cortex designs. The evolution of the Snapdragon made it faster every year. But faster also means more heat and more power hungry. Of course Qualcomm knows that power is limited to battery capacity and there is only so much you can do to improve the current battery technology. So with every new Snapdragon there are incremental improvements to lower its power consumption improving battery life and efficiency.
The Snapdragon SoC is also something of a historical piece. It is the first chip that made High Speed Packet Access Plus (HSPA+) calling possible. If you do not yet know, HSPA+ is still 3G technology. The difference between this and regular 3G is that data transfers over mobile networks could reach up to 21Mbps, 3G turbocharged in simpler terms.
In 2009, Qualcomm introduced the first chipset that comes with multimode 3G/LTE. The world has yet to embrace 4G LTE at the time due to cost and poor implementation. The new communication technology allows mobile networks to achieve download speeds up to 300Mbps and upload speeds up to 75Mbps. Of course true usage never hit that sort of number so far. But it was supposed to be fast. The downside though was that the signals required for LTE was on a totally different frequency unlike that of 2G and 3G. This means that as soon as you lose 4G signals, you get no data. With Qualcomm’s solution though you will not have that issues.
The Snapdragon chipset became the first dual-core SoC in the market late 2010 and by 2011 Qualcomm started seeing speeds up to 2.5GHz with the Snapdragon chips. Of course we did not see any sort of consumer version of those processors at the time. Fast forward to 2015, Qualcomm introduced the Snapdragon 820.
What was unique about Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 is that it was a vast improvement over the underwhelming 810 of the past year. It could run much faster, and solved the power hungry issue that was plaguing the Snapdragon 810 devices. The older predecessor of the 810 had severe heating issues when running heavy processors. Countless reports of smartphones heating up made the public second guess Qualcomm’s ability to make the processors. The Snapdragon 820 though had none of that issue.
The baseline numbers for the quad-core Snapdragon 820 is clock speed of up to 2.15GHz for two high performance cores and 1.6GHz on the other two cores for low power consumption modes. Cores turn on and off as and when it is needed of course to save on battery life. The 820 SoC comes with the Adreno 530 that is clocked at 624MHz for super smooth graphics and gaming. The chipset architecture was based on the ARM’s latest Kryo platform capable of supporting 64-bit systems. So now, what is the 820 and how is it different?
First of all, the Snapdragon 821 is a minor update of the Snapdragon 820. Very much like the 801 and 800 pair. It is based on the same chipset architecture as the 820 but clocked differently. The two-plus-two cores Kryo is the exact same cores as the 820. The two high-performance cores in the 821 though is clocked at 2.4GHz while the two low power consumption ones are clocked at 2.0GHz. Graphics comes in the form of a faster Adreno 530 chipset too clocking in at 650MHz.
That is all the difference between the two SoC actually: 10% speed bump. The other features are very similiar. Both even pack X12 LTE modems that could support Cat 12 4G LTE connection with speeds up to 600Mbps; no speed bumps there.
The Snapdragon 821 though is not really a replacement of the 821 in anyway. It is not meant to solve existing issues with the 820 SoC as well, not like there are many issues anyway. Qualcomm commented that the Snapdragon 821 is built and designed to complement and expand the current 800 series of processing chips. This 821 chipset will also make its way to upcoming devices like the Samsung Galaxy Note 7, LG V10’s unnamed successor, and most probably the upcoming HTC made Nexus Marlin or Sailfish, whichever is the higher end.
So in terms of difference, they are technically the same sort of things. The real question now is whether or not we need so much processing power? Then again, more power is better right? What do you think? Was Snapdragon 821 a necessity? Or is it just some pointless update? Would you spend that extra money to get a Snapdragon 821 device? Let us know from the comments below.