Gears & Gadgets

Qualcomm repackages last year’s flagship SoC as the “Snapdragon 870”

A stylized promotional image of a computer chip on a motherboard.

Qualcomm is repackaging a chip from last year into the “Snapdragon 870.” Last year’s flagship SoC was the Snapdragon 865, and then Qualcomm released the slightly up-clocked Snapdragon 865+. The Snapdragon 870 seems to be a 865++. It’s another clock bump.

Qualcomm has a totally impenetrable product lineup, so it’s hard to know if any single non-flagship SoC announcement from the company is significant. It sounds like this chip will be picked up by some of the more interesting Android OEMs, though. The press release says it will “power a selection of flagship devices from key customers including Motorola, iQOO, OnePlus, OPPO, and Xiaomi.” The real flagship SoC is the Snapdragon 888, so Qualcomm’s use of “flagship” here definitely belongs in scare quotes.

Like the 865, this is a 7nm, eight-core chip. The Prime Cortex A77 core is now clocked at 3.2GHz, and hold on to your benchmark apps, because that’s 3 percent faster than the 3.1Ghz Snapdragon 865+! Qualcomm doesn’t say anything, so we’ll assume all the other cores are the same as the Snapdragon 865. That means three more A77 cores at 2.4Ghz and four A55 cores at 1.8Ghz. Like on the 865+ model, it sounds like there is still the option for Qualcomm’s latest connectivity chip, giving you the possibility of an 870 with Wi-Fi 6E.

The Snapdragon 870 isn’t just similar in spec to the 865—Qualcomm describes it as “building upon the success of Snapdragon 865 and 865 Plus” indicating it’s another plain clock bump with no design changes. The 865+ and 870 datasheets also look identical. If these are the exact same chip, this is an odd decision since the Snapdragon 865 SoC design was a stopgap design. It was created to rush 5G out to consumers as quickly as possible, and it came with the 4G/5G modem on a separate chip. Since the 865 was a big, expensive two-chip solution, you would think Qualcomm would want to let it die as quickly as possible. If we assume the previous-generation chips are dead, the 870 is now the only chip in Qualcomm’s modern lineup to feature a 4G and 5G modem on a separate chip. Every Qualcomm smartphone SoC more expensive than this has an onboard 4G/5G modem, and every SoC cheaper than this has an onboard modem. Heck, onboard 5G now goes all the way down to the Snapdragon 4 series.

The upcoming OnePlus 9 Lite, a phone that would reportedly be behind the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro, was supposed to come with the Snapdragon 865, but now there is some speculation that it will come with this “Snapdragon 870” instead. In the land of marketing logic, I guess Qualcomm’s new model number will stop casual observers from calling this “last year’s chip.” Unfortunately for Qualcomm, marketing has no power here.

As for timing, Qualcomm says “Commercial devices based on Snapdragon 870 are expected to be announced in the first quarter of 2021.”

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Tech – Ars Technica

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