News: Flagship Performance at Midrange Prices — Qualcomm Announces the Snapdragon 710

Flagship Performance at Midrange Prices — Qualcomm Announces the Snapdragon 710

There's always been a clear divide between flagship and midrange phones. Flagships will run you at least $700, while midrange typically falls between $250 and $550. The main difference is the processor, with midrange phones sporting a 600-series Snapdragon and flagships rocking the 800-series. Now, Qualcomm may have just created another smartphone tier with their newly-unveiled 700-series chip.

The Snapdragon 710 is the first 700-series chipset. While most of Qualcomm's press release focuses on how it's more powerful than the latest 600-series chip, after reviewing its specifications, this doesn't paint the best picture.

The Snapdragon 710 is more of a slightly underpowered Snapdragon 845, the chipset that will be used by most Android flagship phones in 2018. While it is clear Qualcomm made some decisions to separate the two products, it appears the company overachieved with this SoC.

The Snapdragon 710 is not cutting many corners. At 10 nm, this chipset uses the same fabrication size as the 845 to assist in battery consumption. It also uses some components that were previously exclusive to the 800 series, and most importantly, it comes with the X15 modem for comparable performance to the X20 found in the Snapdragon 845. All of this will be sold to OEMs at a lower cost than Qualcomm's flagship SoC, which could easily blur the lines between midrange and flagship.

Price

While there are a number of factors that determine the overall cost of a device (build material, RAM amount, battery size, display type, etc.), we can still make a rough estimate of how much Snapdragon 710-powered phones will be priced. The latest 600 series chipset released by Qualcomm is the Snapdragon 660. The price for phones using this SoC ranges from $250–$550.

For devices using the latest iteration of the 800-series processor, the Snapdragon 845, prices range from $529–$800 or more (with the exception of the OnePlus 6, this range would be $700 and up).

To properly segregate their products, we can reasonably assume Qualcomm will price the 710 at a cost that will allow OEMs to sell their phones between these two ranges, perhaps overlapping a little. Based on this information, we expect phones to be priced around $400–$650. At this price, we will be returning to 2016 when this was the cost of flagship performance.

Top-Notch Specs

The Snapdragon 710 is composed of an octa-core processor using Kryo 360 cores. Kryo is the name of the semi-custom ARM CPU used in Qualcomm's SoCs. The 710 is the only chipset outside of the 800-series Snapdragons to use 300 series Kryo cores (the 845 uses Kryo 385 cores).

The major difference comes in their arrangements. Unlike the 845's four "Gold" high-performance cores and 4 "Silver" efficiency cores, the 710 uses only 2 "Gold" cores and 6 "Silver." Both cores are clocked at a lower frequency and have less L2 caches.

The X15 modem in the 710 is also comparable to the X20 found in the Snapdragon 845. While the X20 is capable of higher download speeds (1.2 Gbps vs. 800 Mbps), the upload is the same and offers almost identical performance on Wi-Fi.

To manage your camera is the second-generation Qualcomm Spectra ISP (Image Signal Processor), the first time this generation has appeared outside of the 800 series. Although it uses a lower-binned model, it still benefits from the advantages that come from having a 200-series ISP, including the ability to manage up to a single 32 MP camera or a 20 MP dual camera. It also supports all major enhancements such as bokeh effect and smooth zoom.

Image via Qualcomm

This SoC is the first non-800 series chipset to support 4K HDR playback. This includes videos that you capture with the device's camera, as the 710 supports Ultra HD Video Capture while consuming 40% less power than the previous generation.

Understanding the push toward AI enhancement, the Snapdragon 710 integrates a multi-core AI Engine that is used for camera enhancements, voice recognition, and gaming applications. The new SoC relies on the new Hexagon 685 DSP, Kryo CPU, and Adreno GPU working together to run AI applications effectively.

The latest fast charging technology, Qualcomm Quick Charge 4+, is included as long as you are using a compatible charger.

A Look to the Future

To get you even more excited, we also know a good deal of accurate information in regards to next year's 700-series chipset, the Snapdragon 730. Earlier this year, a slide was leaked by SuggestPhone, revealing the specs of both the Snapdragon 710 and the 730.

Now that Qualcomm announced the Snapdragon 710, we were able to confirm this leak, and it's pretty accurate. Except for the wrong model number for the GPU (Adreno 616 not Adreno 615), everything else is correct, which leads us to believe the Snapdragon 730 specs are accurate too.

According to the slide, the Snapdragon 730 will use an 8 nm process. It'll have a dedicated NPU (separate from the current AI engine found in the 710) similar to what we've seen in Huawei's Kirin processor. Instead of the Kryo 360 cores, this will use new 400-series Kryo cores with a higher clock speed for both the "Gold" and "Silver" cores. Additionally, it would use a new third-generation ISP, the Spectra 350.

The latter two upgrades make me skeptical about a 2018 release. Both enhancements would introduce components not even found in the Snapdragon 845. That leads me to one of three possible conclusions. First, this could a typo and they will use the same Kryo cores and ISP as the 710. Second, it will be arriving next year after the Snapdragon 855. The final option would be Qualcomm releasing a second 800-series chipset (similar to 2016's Snapdragon 821) that will add the new generation components found in the Snapdragon 730 to ensure it remains the best option.

This new series of processor could potentially be a lifeline that many OEMs desperately need. With Samsung dominating the Android market, for struggling companies such as HTC and LG, offering lower-priced phones with top-tier performance could go a long way toward reacquiring lost market share.

We don't have to wait too much longer for more details, as Qualcomm announced that the first set of devices using the 710 will start shipping Q2 2018, which ends next month. What do you think about the Snapdragon 710? Let us know in the comment below.

Cover image via Karlis Dambrans/Flickr

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