Off the record: Qualcomm sees octa-core chips as meaningless marketing play, committed to fewer cores

Off the record: Qualcomm sees octa-core chips as meaningless marketing play, committed to fewer cores

The Snapdragon 820 features a couple of Qualcomm's custom 64-bit Kryo CPU cores paired with the new Adreno 520 GPU. It uses a Hexagon 680 digital signal processor (DSP), the Spectra camera block, and sports the fast new X12 4G LTE modem. 

Qualcomm says the Snapdragon brings power consumption down by about 30% when compared to the current top-chip, the Snapdragon 810, while at the same time delivering more performance in every aspect. The Kryo CPU core - the first custom 64-bit Qualcomm core - brings twice the single-threaded performance over pure Cortex A57 cores, such as the ones in the 810.

There is one particularly interesting move on Qualcomm's part with the Snapdragon 820, though: it has cut the total number of cores down from eight in the 810 to four in Snapdragon 820. The 820 comes with two performance-driven Kryo cores and another two, battery-savvy Kryo cores, arranged in a big.LITTLE configuration.


These are the official details that Qualcomm gave during its presentation, but what's even more interesting is unofficial talk that has reportedly taken place after the event. The gist of Qualcomm's narrative is that the company is committed to fewer, but faster cores. This is important. Why? Simple, while other chip makers like MediaTek push octa- and deca- (that's 10!) core chips as its top-performing products, Qualcomm is effectively saying that having so many cores is not the way to get the best performance out of a chip, according to SemiAccurate's Thomas Ryan who was at a Qualcomm roundtable after the event.

Paradoxically, Qualcomm also admits that it now feels - unfortunately - forced to release octa-core chips (and possible ones with even more cores) because of marketing reasons. What it boils down to is that Qualcomm feels that consumers are now fooled by the false assumption that 'the more cores, the better'.

Qualcomm is convinced that core count is a nearly meaningless measure of a system chip performance, while in fact it is Stream count - the number of concurrent LTE connections a cellular modem can make - that provides a much better measure of a phone's performance, since data rates have a huge impact on user experience.

We would have loved to see Qualcomm actually bring out some numbers and stats to prove its point that an octa-core chip is often sub-par to a chip with less, but more powerful cores. Instead, the company is now somewhat sheepishly admitting that marketing has won over reason, at least when it comes to lower-end chips.

source: SemiAccurate

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31 Comments

1. NoToFanboys

Posts: 3231; Member since: Oct 03, 2015

Finally! Quad custom cores FTW!

16. FoneAddict

Posts: 263; Member since: Jul 05, 2011

SD810 was a total disaster and simply not fit for purpose.

19. zeeBomb

Posts: 2318; Member since: Aug 14, 2014

>Sees them meaningless >Used Octa cores for 810 >Overheats OK Qualcomm, okay...

29. jessyi

Posts: 325; Member since: Jan 08, 2015

Does more CORES = more power consumtion??

31. Niva.

Posts: 440; Member since: Jan 05, 2015

For identical cores, yes.

2. hung2900

Posts: 966; Member since: Mar 02, 2012

Nice alternative excuse for the failure a.k.a flagship killer Crapdragon S810. Hopefully the new Kyro core can deliver the same comperative quality as Krait core.

10. Shocky unregistered

Indeed, It's just an excuse.

3. carlemillward unregistered

Just because they cannot get it right. They wouldn't make Xeon processors with 14 cores if it were meaningless.

4. Victor.H

Posts: 1026; Member since: May 27, 2011

It's all in the context of mobile where one cannot speak just about supercharged performance without taking into account power efficiency. That's a stark difference from desktop usage where the game is all about extreme and absolute performance, no matter the power cost.

6. carlemillward unregistered

Point taken, but if the Samsung S7 8890 edition endures longer than the 820 edition, then it's a whole different ball game. Looking forward to S7 launch and hopefully 2016 will be a year of battery improvement. Nice having a PA author replying, thank you.

8. hung2900

Posts: 966; Member since: Mar 02, 2012

The thing Qualcomm is right: - Performance is not paralleling with the number of cores. The thing Qualcomm is not either right nor wrong - Not all customers are fooled by the number of cores, just some. Basic customers don't care, but high-tech customers understand it very well. Just somebody with mediocre knowledge are fooled by it. The thing Qualcomm is wrong (or is hiding on purpose) - The more cores with the right implementation (right big.LITTLE implementation, not the S810 failure) can bring the better efficiency (which means better). Actually the real purpose of more cores in mobile nowadays is efficiency (and somewhat marketing), not performance at all. If reading the informative review of AndreiLux - Anandtech, we can see it well.

21. alex3run

Posts: 715; Member since: May 18, 2014

Shame on you! PA wrighter does not know how Android manages threads. How can you then write articles if you're technically incompetent? Now you should go to Anandtech and read some interesting and useful information.

5. plasteek

Posts: 265; Member since: Jun 07, 2015

2+2 cores should be better for battery life ...i hope

7. Zack_2014

Posts: 677; Member since: Mar 25, 2014

Not always :)

9. cezarmed2

Posts: 71; Member since: Jul 22, 2014

So you need fact that what Qualcomm is saying is true? Wait a minute, I'm confused, is this not iphonearena? What another proof do you need? Apple does it with 2 core CPU.

11. Guaire

Posts: 850; Member since: Oct 15, 2014

Samsung didn't screw up octa-core design at even Exynos 5433 so Mediatek. Though not that spectacularly like the SD810, these guys even screwed up the SD615. Moreover nobody asked from them an octa-core. They could make it hexa-core flagship chips similar to the SD808 without crippling its GPU, RAM and storage supports with higher clocked big cores. And they could make nice quad-core mid range chips with high clocked A53 cores plus a more powerful GPU. They fooled everybody with their adds about that Android apps rarely needs more than 3 cores for years. If less core is better why not dual core? Why we should believe them now? Lastly competitors of Kryo is A72 and Mongoose, not old A57, worse their SD810 chip isn't a good example to comparison at all.

12. toyds123

Posts: 29; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

I can see you point. But one thing's mistaken for sure. The SD810 is a great, if not perfect, candidate to compared to. It was their last SOC which obviously failed. I think failure could jumpstart something great. I'm sure qualcomm would do anything so everything would fall into place again. If 820 is a success, then comparing it to the 810 would bring back qualcomm to the great game again.

18. nodes

Posts: 1150; Member since: Mar 06, 2014

it's Samsung, they need to look impressive on paper. they even need to add "Octa" to their upcoming SoC name.

13. lallolu

Posts: 729; Member since: Sep 18, 2012

I always wondered about the octa-cores that can only use quad cores anyway. Mediatek processors using all the 8 cores are very battery inefficient and I can definitely say that my quad SD801 is very good in terms of usability and power efficiency.

14. pmugghc

Posts: 44; Member since: May 11, 2014

The previous theory was that fewer faster cores are better. But then Anandtech did an interesting study and found that many cores might be better. You have apps like Chrome that uses many threads.

24. Fellwalker

Posts: 518; Member since: Apr 04, 2014

You said it. It depends on the apps (and on the OS allowing it) .

15. Cslfiero

Posts: 68; Member since: Jun 29, 2015

Of course they would say this after releasing a 4 core flagship chip in the midsts of its octocore competition. Obviously there is a marketing aspect to cores, that's clear. But core count means there is options for your apps and os. Take for example heliox30. It's 10 cores means it can use 4 performance cores if there is an app that can utilize it. But it also can sip energy when all that is needed is a pair of a35s. There is some residual loss, sure.. But giving your phone more scalable power structure is the whole point of multi core and indeed why Qualcomm choose quad core over dual core.

25. SYSTEM_LORD

Posts: 1168; Member since: Oct 05, 2015

Qualcomm's custom quad-core have always been highly scalable... Apple's cores have been, too. That's a great seeing point, that they can scale with the best of them. I prefer a few, highly optimized, highly scalable cores to a bunch of core clusters. Once the highly efficient A35 hits the scene, then it's up in the air. I felt like the A53 wasn't as low power and efficient as needed for the LITTLE cluster. It would be great as a standalone mid-range option, but high end needs something as advantageous and compensating as the A35

17. igy_tech

Posts: 19; Member since: May 15, 2015

Said on TV that will come winter. Maybe will buy S810. What to buy, HTC M9? Need something to warm my heart.

20. alex3run

Posts: 715; Member since: May 18, 2014

Blah blah blah. Qualcom realizes that it is not competitive so the PR move goes out.

22. Shocky unregistered

It seems Qualcomm does not understand Octacore, which makes sense considering they screwed it up on pretty much all their 2015 SoC's. Claiming performance doesn't scale is pretty stupid, it's about a combination of efficiency and performance. .

23. itsdeepak4u2000

Posts: 3718; Member since: Nov 03, 2012

I think it's a good idea, if processor with less cores is optimized for more performance than double the cores and yet power efficient then there is no need of extra cores.

26. Khyron

Posts: 397; Member since: Sep 28, 2015

Qualcomm must prove with his sd820 tht is better of a9 soc and exynos and compare only with sd810 wt was a big fail for them if 820 is superior than 810 and subpared with the new exynos and A9 socs the game had changed and qualcomm left behind

27. Khyron

Posts: 397; Member since: Sep 28, 2015

Someone tell me if in your very own words it is is SD820 superior than the other socs on the game ?

28. dazed1

Posts: 776; Member since: Jul 28, 2015

hey Qualcomm, M1 says hi, now keep comforting yourself, the only meaningless thing from all of this are your recent chips, you should check out the X10 multi-core/Android test which was done by Anandtech.

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