Snapdragon 805 hands-on at CES, the processor in your next smartphone

Fire up your Windows Phone and you’re running on silicon from Qualcomm. Every Windows Phone in existence has been powered by Qualcomm’s system-on-a-chip. Recent phones, like the Nokia Lumia 1520, are powered by Qualcomm’s latest chip – the Snapdragon 800 processor. While the first batch of Windows Phone 7 handsets were powered by earlier Snapdragon processors. Last week at CES we spent some time looking at the Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 processors, the latest and greatest chip from the San Diego-based company. Here’s what you can look forward to in future Windows Phone devices.

Snapdragon 805 at CES

The Snapdragon 805 processor is currently available to OEMs for sampling and expected to commercially become available sometime in the first half of 2014. Which also just so happens to be the time that the next version of Windows Phone will drop. Don’t color us surprise if the first wave of flagship devices running Windows Phone 8.1 are powered by the Snapdragon 805 processor. We wanted to see what makes the Snapdragon 805 processor so special, so we swung by the Qualcomm booth at CES. Let’s go over the raw specs and notable features first:

  • Krait 450 quad-core CPU running at up to 2.5 GHz
  • 16 KiB / 16 KiB L1 cache per core
  • 2 MiB L2 cache per core
  • 4K UHD video upscale and play
  • Dual camera image signal processor
  • Adreno 420 GPU
  • 25.6 GB/s memory bandwidth
  • gpsOne Gen 8B with GLONASS
  • USB 2.0 and 3.0 support
  • 28 nm manufacturing process

Specs are fun and all, but to the average consumer it’s nothing but gobbledygook. What really matters about the Snapdragon 805 processor is what’s new and different about it in the real world. Thankfully, we took some videos of the various features and improvements the Snapdragon 805 will bring to the mobile landscape and to Windows Phone. Let’s check the demos below.

Snapdragon 805 camera demo

The Snapdragon 805 is bringing some impressive features to smartphones. One of the demonstrations that Qualcomm was presenting focused on the camera improvements available at the hardware level to OEMs. The Chromeflash camera feature in the Snapdragon 805 processor allows for the multiple images to be taken at once and combined to created balanced images. It’s a mix of HDR and photo merging, at the hardware level. You’ll have scenes with competing levels of brightness balanced to create natural looking photos. The next feature we saw was called Opti-Zoom, which is a bit like the technology used by Nokia to retain zoom in images from the Lumia 1020 and Lumia 1520. Again, available at the hardware level to all OEMs from Qualcomm. Omni-Focus was the other feature that will be available to OEMs in the Snapdragon 805 chipset. This allows for multiple planes of focus in one image, again something we’ve seen from Nokia.

Nothing wowed us about the new camera and imaging experiences available in the 805, this is stuff we’ve all seen from Nokia at one point or another during the past year. What’s special about it in the 805 is that all OEMs will have access to these features out of the box, so Nokia (eventually Microsoft) will need to further innovate to standout from all smartphones now that this will become a base level of experience.

Graphics Demo

Surprise! The Snapdragon 805 processor packs even more graphics power than its predecessors. In the 805 you’ll find the Adreno 420 GPU that has 40% better graphics performance than the Adreno 330 found inside the Snapdragon 800 chipset. It also includes DirectX 11.2, which is great because you get tessellation support at the hardware level in games.

4K Demo

The Snapdragon 805 chipset will be found in both smartphones and tablets. 4K is the future video content and something that the 805 processor will support from the get go. You’ll get the first commercially available hardware with support for HEVC (H.265) decoding that will help push the 4K content. It was pretty amazing to seeing a processor that will be in our smartphones in a few months handling 4K content with no problem.

Display Demo

Some of the tech seen in this demo is already shipping in some Snapdragon 800 series, like the Lumia 1520 and Lumia 2520. The display controller in the chipset is separate from the GPU and responsible for producing the video signal. You’ll see colors corrected at the hardware level in chipsets running the tech from Qualcomm.

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 805 processor isn’t due in smartphones for quite some time. Maybe we’ll see new devices powered by the chipset at Mobile World Congress, but that’s still more than a month away. Those phones will probably be running Android, with the first batch of Windows Phone 8.1 hopefully being powered by this incredible system.

Sam Sabri
  • The Nvidia K1 is what im most excited about. It blows anything out of the water and I really hope Nokia or someone decided to put it in their phones. It would be an excellent idea.
  • But does it have DX11.2? Can it run Crysis?
  • Well played, well played.
  • I really don't expect it to best the 805. From the (very limited) benchmarks I've seen, it's gpu is about 25% faster than the 800's, likely similar performance to the 805.
  • I agree if anything I expect the 805 to best the K1 slightly.
  • Dude it tripled the 800 in benchmarks, if not more.
  • | where? edit: just to be clear, I'm not saying the K1 is bad or anything, it could very well be the highest performer next gen, but until I see comparison benchmark with two similar devices with K1 and 805 in them, I'll withhold judgement.
  • Have you seen this as well?  
  • or this?
  • Thx for the benchmark links, but I'll still wait and see before saying one is better than the other.
  • Yes it does have dx11
  • I wonder if any of the new processors will be able to run Solitaire, with lava spewing from the phone. Biggest resource hog ever.
  • Oh! Are you talking about the Microsoft Solitaire Collection? I thaught the problem was in my phone. My Lumia 920 got hotter and drained more bettery than when I'm playing 3D games like Real Football, Asphalt or Modern Combat. Thats is wierd for such a simple game like solitaire. I mean, it just needs to draw 2D cards and move them arround. I think Solitaire is in Windows since the 98 or XP so it should be simple for Microsoft to do it...
  • Yep. There is a forum post for it. The thing uses more charge than I can put in my phone. Can't believe it. Seems to be doing a lot of background stuff.
  • It was even in Windows 3.1 (and maybe earlier) at least as far back as 1991.
  • Nvidia is always playing catch up. Everything else will leapfrog the K1.  Nvidia probably times their cycles intentionally to increase their potential sales.  To be fair, we're essentially reaching critical mass for the power we can actually tap into on a smart phone. The real innovation we need now is 4x battery life.
  • You are mistakenly using induction here. NVidia already released benchmark results that astounded everyone. If you were to guess before there was actual data available (K1 benchmarks) you could say "according to our experience, NVidia can't outperform others". But when you have the actual data, there is no need to guess. K1 is a beast, and that's a fact.
  • It was not compared to the 805. The 805 is and will be the highest integrated SoC for mobile phones and K1 doesn't change that. Nvidia still lags in integration, power consumption and functionality. So yes, the K1 lags still behind especially since we can't expect any hardware based on the K1 until 2H 2014.
  • The 1520 has an 805? I thought it had an 800?
  • Too many numbers. 1520 is 800. Fixing. 
  • Nokia 1520 run on the 800 not the 805 right?
  • hey sam , i think you meant something else here : Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 processor isn’t due in smartphones for quite some time. i think you meant 805 :)
  • I didn't know the 1520 was powered by the latest snapdragon 805. How did I miss that
  • 1520 has a 800 i believe, and at the end you mention the 800 won't be available for some time, though it has been out for a while. :) no big
  • oohohoho running Crysis on mah next Nokia! Can't wait for the next Lumia 920
  • Yes he messed up.. It runs the 800 not 805
  • Hey.. Just want WP apps to be more responsive, I mean the loading time for restoring an app can be shorter. WHATSAPP and App Folder of Nokia are two examples of ages of loading time
  • Yeah youre absolutely right. After the gdr3 new update which rolled out to developer preview.Windows phone have become Pretty fast. Watsapp needs a big update as minor update wont fix the problems and Im sure that developers will update watsapp smooth b4 build
  • I hope to see far cry on L1520 with SD805...
  • Monster specs apart, what is required is more efficient devices. The strength of wp8 right now is how lightweight the os is which means the battery life is great even with tiny batteries (compared to android devices)
  • With low end devices like Lumia 520 to Lumia 720 basically having 90% of Windows Phone 8 market share, I doubt many developers will bother to harness the power of these high end CPUs.
  • The restriction is the RAM. when low end 525 is flooding the market, it would be easier for any developer to develop new apps
  • Count me in for an atom.
  • Looking forward to something with these in. What does the 920 have, is it the 800?
  • Haha I wish
  • 920 has the the S4
  • Thanks. Incidentally, does anyone know why I now get a different email when someone replies? It no longer opens the app, no matter which link I use. The old notification always worked.
  • Unless the 805 runs more efficiently than the 800 I see little point for it at least until 2015. The 800 is already more than fast enough than anything in the marketplace and I doubt there will be any new games that will push it to its limits any time soon.
  • Exactly. And by the time 2015 comes they'll have the 900 or something.
  • a) it probably is more efficient b) in mobile, you need to have the latest and greatest (or the cheapest) constantly
  • I hope Nokia Goldfinger will use snapdragon 805
  • Me too, with a camera similar or better to that of 1020, 
  • Given how outdated all WP devices are in terms of specs (apart from the Nokia L1520) I highly doubt you'll see the 805 in any WP anytime soon.
    And truth be's not really needed. The 800 is fast enough for the OS demands.
    These faster and faster chips are more important to have in Android devices than in WP, really.
  • It's not all about speed, the chip offers an incredible feature set as well.
  • Not necessarily just android. It definitely allows better gaming for high demand processing on WP as well as power consumption. Everyday use not so much. But I agree the 920 with S4 has always outperformed my Nvidia quad N7 2012. Kit Kat has improved dramatically as I'm noticing on my wife's 2013 N7 with the Snap 600, but definitely WP uses alot less resources and power to function the OS. I honestly see no benefit of the 1520 having the 800 other than to say it has the specs.
  • Its funny, I see lag on Kit Kat with the S4Pro Quad (600) in the 2K13 Nexus 7 but the 800 is a fucking BEAST in my Lumia 1520. Man. I want the 2520 now! :-)
  • I'd expect to see these in WP phones quite soon actually, not that it is needed from anything other than marketing perspective (and perhaps future proofing). Next autumn at the latest.
  • That Optizoom looks just like a hardware interpolation. That is actually misleading information what the guy says - he says they increase number of pixels thus increasing amount of information. Well if they don't have captured the actual pixels there is no way to increase the amount of information because once it's not captured it cannot be retained by any means. At best they can have an algorithm to guess what was supposed to be there but that's about it.
  • KiB? MiB?
  • Those are intended to distinguish between true units (where K = 1000) and binary units (where Ki = 1024). You use the new units if you want to look hip. Don't even think about using the proposed new names for kilobytes and megabytes!
  • Copyeditor much?
  • Sam, another correction: your article states that the camera improvements run "at the hardware level", when these features are in fact no more "hardware based" than any other software that runs on the DSP. Nokia or anyone else could develop similar software. The difference is not software/hardware related, but simply that Qualcomm is delivering this software to all OEMs together with the S805 SoC, like you said, meaning these will soon become widespread, almost standard features.
  • Question. Will this allow minimum 60fps/1080p video recording? I was shocked that the 1520 only does 30fps on BOTH 720p and 1080p.
  • I just want improved Battery life!  I want to be able to run applications without having to worry about overheating my device.  Give me 2 DAYS!  Currently my 920 loses 30% if i use an application for 20 minutes that needs a lot of juice. and it gets scorching HOT.    
  • Yeah right! Like when the Snapdragon 800 was available and they still using the old generation of Snapdragon until the 1520. I don't know why they waited so long.
  • As of now there are no apps on Windows phone that are even demanding enough for the 800. Everything is made for the s4 krait. Check out this post on Lumia Black Hidden changes
  • WOW just wasted two first minutes describing what they have copied from Nokia Refocus as if it's something qualcomm came up with, pathetic.  
  • Sam, can Qualcomm's Chroma Flash on the Snapdragon 805 shoot with xenon as well as LED flash and no-flash, and then combine the three?