Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 could launch with a dedicated NPU
The last time we heard news on the upcoming Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 was back in March, when Roland Quandt from WinFuture found that the SoC would be branded the Snapdragon 855 Fusion Platform and would come with the SDX50 5G modem. Previous reports have stated that TSMC would be manufacturing the SoC on its 7nm process. Now, Mr. Quandt is back with a series of leaks about the Snapdragon 855, which may even end up being called a different name. Let us go through them one-by-one:
Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 will have a dedicated Neural Processing Unit (NPU)
Firstly, the Snapdragon 855 will probably come into the market as the Snapdragon 8150 (more on this below). It will have a dedicated Neural Processing Unit (NPU). This is said to be similar to the NPU that is included in Huawei’s HiSilicon Kirin 970, which was announced at IFA last year.
The Kirin 970’s NPU has shown itself to be significantly faster than the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 with its Hexagon DSP for performing AI operations. In the real world, its potential hasn’t been used to its full extent, apart from features such as accelerated offline translation, AI scene detection in the camera app, and more. WinFuture states that Qualcomm will use a NPU for the first time in one of its chips.
The LinkedIn profiles of Qualcomm employees show that the employees have continued to fine-tune the hardware design of Qualcomm’s upcoming flagship chip. The employees’ statements demonstrate that this is a separate part of the system-on-chip. According to the statements, the employees have worked on routing the data streams between the CPU, NPU, and main memory.
WinFuture states that the Neural Processing Unit should help to relieve the CPU and other parts of the SoC when processing AI data. The analysis of image information or voice queries that is currently done by the CPU or the DSP will be shifted to the NPU for better performance. The exact range of functions implemented on this basis is undetermined, but it’s likely that it will be in the usual range of other neural processing units.
Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 may have a special automotive variant
The second part of today’s leak is that Qualcomm apparently wants to offer the Snapdragon 855/8150 for the first time in years in a special variant for automotives. WinFuture found references to a “SDM855AU,” which points to use in the automotive field. The production will be at 7nm. It’s the first time that Qualcomm will re-launch a dedicated SoC for automaker integration after the launch of the Snapdragon 820 Automotive. WinFuture notes that this is a logical step considering the importance of AI and upcoming 5G technologies.
Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 to be named the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8150
Qualcomm will unveil the Snapdragon 855 and the Snapdragon 1000 in December as part of its annual Tech Summit. The Snapdragon 855 will be intended for smartphones, while the Snapdragon 1000 will be intended for Windows laptops and tablets. However, according to WinFuture, both platforms will actually come to market under different names.
The Snapdragon 855 (“Hana”) is being developed internally under the name SDM855, but its name has changed since several months according to third-party documents seen by WinFuture. The chip is now known as the SDM8150—-meaning that it will come to market as the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8150—but it still has the same “Hana” code-name. Qualcomm is apparently switching to a new naming scheme. A possible reason for this may be to make it easier to distinguish smartphone SoCS from those that are intended for laptops and other Windows 10 and Chrome OS PC systems.
According to WinFuture, the evidence for this naming change can be found in import/export databases as well as on the LinkedIn profiles of some Qualcomm employees. In the latter case, the Snapdragon 855 appears under its new name in direct succession to the current Snapdragon 845 (SDM845) chip.
It is a 12.4×12.4 mm SoC, and it will probably come without an integrated 5G modem. Instead, it will have the integrated Snapdragon X24 modem that supports Cat.20 LTE in order to reach 2Gbps down link speeds. The 5G-enabled Snapdragon X50 modem will likely be installed separately on 5G devices.
Similarly, the change in naming also affects the ARM-based laptop processor that was being developed as the SDM1000 “Poipu.” This will be 20×15 mm larger than smartphone SoCs, which indicates a higher core count. The overall package of the SoC will work with a maximum TDP of 12W.
The Snapdragon 1000 is listed in recent documents as the “SCX8180” while having the same code-name and retaining the same components. Qualcomm’s test platforms have up to 16GB of RAM and 256GB of UFS 2.1 storage on board, and Asus has been working with Qualcomm on these platforms.
The Snapdragon SDM8150 for smartphones and the Qualcomm SCX8180 for PCs running Windows 10 on ARM will both be manufactured by TSMC at its 7nm process. This is confirmed by several LinkedIn profiles of Qualcomm employees.
WinFuture notes that the final name of the new SoCs may not be determined yet, as these names may still be internal designations. The publication speculates that the “SM” in SM8150 stands for Snapdragon Mobile, while the SCX in SCX8180 could stand for Snapdragon Computing.
Qualcomm is also planning to implement the new naming scheme for its lower-tier processors. WinFuture found several mentions of chips with internal model numbers SM7150 and SM7250, which will used by OPPO (among other manufacturers). OPPO will also be making a Snapdragon 855/Snapdragon 8150 device, while Lenovo has previously stated that the company would be the first to launch a 5G phone with the Snapdragon 855. It’s unknown whether the SM7150 and SM7250 are re-brands of existing SoCs such as the Snapdragon 670 and the Snapdragon 710, but according to WinFuture, it’s quite likely.
So there we have it: this has been a fairly massive leak on Qualcomm’s upcoming flagship chipsets. It should be noted that none of this is officially confirmed information, so it’s always possible that any of the leaks could turn out wrong. With Mr. Quandt’s great track record in leaks, however, we have no reason to doubt that they are legit. We expect to learn more about Qualcomm’s new chips in the coming months.