Qualcomm has announced three new Snapdragon 400 & 600 SoCs for entry-level and mid-range LTE smartphones that share Quick Charge 3.0 and dual camera support, as well as an a Snapdragon X9 LTE CAT 7 modem capable of 300Mbps downlink, 150Mbps uplink.
Snapdargon 427 quad core Cortex A53 processor is a pin-to-pin compatible update to Snapdragon 425 processor with a faster Cat 7 modem. The Snapdragon 427 is also the first in the Snapdragon 400 family to offer TruSignal antenna tuning for 802.11ac WiFi, includes a 16MP dual ISP, and supports displays up to 1280×800 resolution.
Snapdragon 626 octo-core ARM Cortex A53 processor up to 2.2 GHz features a “PC-class” Adreno Adreno 506 GPU, a 24MP dual ISP, also supports TruSignal, 4K @ 30 fps video recording, and displays up to 1920×1200 resolution. It’s a pin-to-pin compatible upgrade to Snapdragon 625 with about 10% performance improvement.
The faster processor out of the three SoCs, Snapdragon 653 quad core Cortex A72 @ up to 1.95 GHz + qua core ARM Cortex A53 is a pin-to-pin compatible update to Snapdragon 652 & 650 processors with up to 10% performance improvement compared to the latter. The dual ISP supports camera sensors up to 21 MP, records 4K @ 30 fps video using H.264 or H.265 video codecs, and the SoC an be used in smartphone with displays up to 2560×1600 resolution. The addressable memory has also doubled compared to 652, which means Snapdragon 653 smartphones with up to 8GB RAM are feasible.
Snapdragon 653 and 626 processors will be available to Qualcomm customers before the end of the year, and Snapdragon 427 will be found in devices early next year.
NETGEAR MR1100 LTE Modem Router Connected to a Laptop
The NETGEAR Mobile Router MR1100 leverages 3x carrier aggregation, 4×4 MIMO, and 256-QAM, to achieve download speeds up to a peak of 979 Mbps. The device also integrates Qualcomm 802.11ac solution with 2×2 MIMO and dual-band support for overall Wi-Fi throughput of up to 1Gbps.
Qualcomm Technologies has recently conducted a simulation of a Gigabit Class LTE network, using a mix of LTE devices (LTE Category 4 to 16), and found average throughput to be between 112 Mbps and 307 Mbps for Cat.16 devices depending on traffic type, but speeds up to 533 Mbps should be possible for 90th percentile users. Beside shortening download speeds, this kind of performance will enable new applications such as 4K 360 degrees VR videos up to 60 or 120 fps, and possibly change the way apps operate, as opening files from the cloud might be faster than from internal storage…
Telstra is expected to offer NETGEAR MR1100 to its customers in the next few months, to operate on Telstra’s Gigabit-ready network, managed by Ericsson. Snapdragon X16 LTE modem will also be integrated into the next Snapdragon 8xx processor, with Gigabit Class LTE smartphones expected sometimes in 2017.
Looking further ahead, Qualcomm also introduced Snapdragon X50 modem for 5G networks operating in millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum in the 28GHz band, and designed to support peak download speeds of up to 5 gigabits per second. The 5G modem will sample in H2 2017, and the first commercial products for 5G networks are expected in H1 2018.
Qualcomm processors are found in mobile devices and wearables selling in large quantities, some boards and modules from embedded systems companies such as Inforce Computing and Intrinsyc, as well as it own 96Boards compliant DragonBoard 410c and DragonBoard 600c development boards, but it’s hard to find them in many other products, and few crowdfunding campaign feature Snapdragon processors, as Qualcomm may not be willing to work with smaller companies and startups. The company has made some progress in that regards with their partnership with Allwinner to allow smaller Chinese companies to manufacture Snapdragon based Tablets, and their newly introduced Snapdragon 410E and 600E processors targeting embedded systems and IoT applications, available from Arrow Electronics without questions asked, and with long term availability for 10 years, i.e. until 2025 based on available of Snapdragon 410 mobile version.
Snapdragon 410E (APQ 8016E) specifications:
CPU – Quad ARM Cortex A53 @ up to 1.2GHz per core with both 32-bit and 64-bit support
GPU – Adreno 306 GPU with support for OpenGL ES 3.0/2.0/1.1, OpenCL 1.1e (Android only), DirectX 9.3 (Windows 10 only)
System Memory I/F – LPDDR2/3 @ 533MHz single channel
Storage I/F – SDIO 3.0 (UHS-I), eMMC 4.5
Connectivity – 802.11 b/g/n/ Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1LE, GPS
Display Support – 1x MIPI-DSI up to 1920×1200 for LCD display; up to 1080p for external display
Camera Support – MIPI-CSI interface and integrated ISP support up to 13MP camera
Multimedia – 1080p @ 30 fps H.264 playback and capture
USB – 2x USB 2.0 host interfaces
Security – Qualcomm Snapdragon StudioAccess technology and Qualcomm SecureMSM platform
Package – 12mm x 14mm (760NSP, 0.4mm pitch)
The processor is said to support Android, Linux and Windows 10. Potential target applications include connectivity for the smart home, industrial and home appliances, smart video camera systems, and digital media players and TV sticks.
Snapdragon 600E processor supports Android and Linux, and targets advanced robotics applications, connectivity for industrial and home applications, smart surveillance cameras (with up to 3 cameras), and media players & TV dongles.
Display – 1440×1440 resolution per eye, AMOLED panel that supports up to 70Hz
Audio – 4x microphones with Fluence HD noise filtering and active noise cancellation
Video – 360° 4K video playback processing with HEVC compression and display refresh rates at 70 FPS
Cameras – Integrated eye tracking with two cameras, dual front facing cameras for six degrees of freedom (6DOF)
Sensors – gyro, accelerometer, and magnetometer sensors
The reference platform, developed in collaboration with Goertek, leverages Qualcomm’s Virtual Reality SDK, and is expected to be available in Q4 2016 to manufacturers, with retail products likely showing up sometimes in 2017. More details may be available in the press release.
Snapdragon 820 4K Media Box
We don’t have that many details for the TV box reference platform, but the company still made it clear it is based on Snapdragon 820 processor, and designed for fanless small form factor 4K Ultra HD media boxes with support for Gigabit Ethernet and 802.11ac WiFi and Bluetooth Smart connectivity from Qualcomm.
The 4K Ultra HD media box reference platform from Qualcomm Technologies is available now, with commercial devices expected to be available by the end of 2016. A few more details may be found in the press release, which also covers QCA9379 combo chip with support for dual-stream Wi-Fi 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.2.
Qualcomm has just introduced an upgrade to its Snapdragon 820 processor, with Snapdragon 821 (MSM8996 Pro) with basically the same features, but the CPU frequency boosted from 2.2 GHz to 2.4 GHz for the performance cores, and from 1.6 to around 2.0 GHz for the low power cores, as well as a likely boost to the GPU clock, resulting to about 10% improvement in performance.
The new SoC with feature the same Snapdragon X12 LTE modem delivering up to 600 Mbps. It’s unclear at this point which smartphone models will feature Snapdragon 821 processor.
Allwinner, a leading tablet SoC vendor, and Qualcomm have decided to collaborate, and introduced three new LTE tablet reference designs based on Qualcomm Snapdragon 425, 430, and 435 available to Chinese OEMs, on top of Snapdragon 210, 212 and 410 designs released last year.
The full technical technical details about the reference designs are only available to OEMS who signed an NDA, but the key specifications are as follows:
The tablet will run Android, but Windows 10 is also being worked on. The agreement only covers tablets, so Allwinner will not be involved in LTE smartphones.
Since both Allwinner and Qualcomm are silicon vendors, and competitors, you may wonder why they’ve partnered. Allwinner only provides WiFi and Bluetooth tablets with their own processors, so partnering with Qualcomm allows then to offer LTE tablets. Many Chinese manufacturers don’t have a license agreement with Qualcomm, so those will be able to provide Qualcomm tablets solution through Allwinner.
The responsibilities of each stakeholders is well explained in the first chart: Qualcomm will provide the chips, global marketing, and technical support, Allwinner will design the reference designs and work on the SDKs, both to be released to design houses such as Emdoor, working for manufacturers.
The only Snapdragon tablets currently offered on Aliexpress are made by Huawei, and certainly not designed through this program. But the tablets based on the first generation of reference designs, such as the ones made by Cube, have been showcased at Mobile World Congress Shanghai 2016 last week, so we should be expecting low cost Snapdragon based LTE tablets to competing with Mediatek ones in the near future.
A few weeks ago, I was informed that some code about DB600c board powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 processor (APQ8064T) was making it into mainline Linux, and more recently I found a website listing DragonBoard 600c with a low resolution picture of the board. While we don’t have the complete specifications yet, the form factor of the board is quite interesting, as we’ll find the typical 96Boards CE form factor on the right, and some extra interfaces on the left with Ethernet and SATA. It turns out, as we’ll see below, it’s perfectly compliant (hardware wise) with 96Boards CE “Extended Version” specifications.
DragonBoard 600c vs DragonBoard 410c
Preliminary specifications of DragonBoard 600c board:
Connectivity – Gigabit? Ethernet via PCIe . I can’t see WiFi and Bluetooth on the board, but since “Wi-Fi 802.11g/n and Bluetooth 4.0 LE” are required by 96Boards the specs, it could be on the back of the board.
USB – 2x USB 2.0 host ports, 1x micro USB port
1x 40 pin low speed expansion connector – UART, SPI, I2S, I2C x2, GPIO x12, DC power
Power Supply – 6.5 – 18V DC input (based on 96Boards specs)
Dimensions – 100 x 85 mm
The board should support the latest version of Android as well as Debian 8, based on the work done by Linaro on DragonBoard 410c.
Click to Enlarge
I’ve included the mechanical drawing for 96Boards Consumer Edition Extended Version as it should that designer can pretty much do whatever they want in the extended area, except for the position of mounting holes and power jack, and the maximum height of components limited to 6.5mm for Extended A, and 15 mm for Extended B.
I’m not sure when the board will be formally introduced and available, but considering there are working samples for developers, and most features have been found to work, it might not be too far away. There’s also a DragonBoard 820c with APQ8096 processor in the works, but I could not find pictures, nor code commits about DB820c, so the launch is likely many months away, or possibly early next year.
I purchased Qualcomm DragonBoard 410c development board last year, and first tested it and run some benchmark on the 96Boards compliant hardware with Android. I found that it was still work-in-progress, and decided to wait before trying Debian on the board. I’ve now done so, and will report by experience installing Debian Linux, playing with the board, and running Phoronix benchmarks to compare it to other ARM Linux boards.
Installing Debian on DragonBoard 410c
The first challenge is to navigate through the documentation that is not always clear or up-to-date. I eventually ended up on DragonBoard 410c Wiki on Github.
You then have to decided which image you want. While there are two official operating systems with Android and Debian, you can three “entities” releasiong their own images. For Debian specifically, you have the Linaro image, and Reference Platform Build (RPB) image. I could not find any changelog or known issues with the former, but the latter as its own Wiki with the latest release being RPB 16.03 (March 2016), and the next one scheduled to be RPB 16.06 in June.
That’s the current list of known issues
bug 285 USB host doesn’t detect any plugged devices
bug 121 [RPB] Cannot soft power off or shutdown db410c
bug 284 [RPB] Dragon board Display sleep not working
bug 289 [RPB] USB devices don’t work after reboot
bug 207 [RPB] Bluetooth does not work on Dragon board debian
bug 153 [RPB] Missing information about hwpack usage
USB host not working did not inspire confidence, so I first tested the Linaro image. The (other) Wiki points to the “latest version”, but the link would point to Linaro Debian 16.02 release, while I could find a more recent Linaro Debian 16.04 which I downloaded in a terminal:
I used a micro SD card to install it. If you use Windows, simply use Win32DiskImager, but in computer running Linux or in Windows via Windows subsystem for Linux, you may want to do it in the terminal. First check the SD card device with lsblk. Mine was /dev/sdb, but your may be different, and I use /dev/sdX in the command below tp flash the Debian installer to a micro SD card:
Now remove the micro SD card from your computer and insert it in to the board, set the jumper to boot from SD card on the DragonBoard 410c, and connect the power. I could see LED 1 blinking, but nothing on my HDMI TV. Last time, I did not manage to make the serial console (requiring a 1.8V USB to TTL board or cable) using Hardkernel ODROID board, so I went to the support forums, and after several minutes of reading, I found that the RPB image is recommended, as well as a clear explanation between the Linaro and RPB images:
Use the Reference Platform Build instead of the Linaro release. The Reference Platform is an integrated build with support for multiple boards, and that is where all engineering effort is going. The Linaro build is the old single-platform image that we’re not working on anymore.
The reference platform will run on all 96boards CE (Consumer Edition) and EE (Enterprise Edition), while the Linaro image is built specifically for a given board, and they are not really working on it. [Update: This answer was specific to Hikey board, and for DragonBoard 410c there are two images provided by Qualcomm Landing Team and the Reference Platform team]
So let’s start again from scratch using the RPB image, and download the bootloader, Linux kernel and rootfs to my Ubuntu computer:
That was a lot of commands to install the operating system… Now you can unplug the board, remove the micro USB cable, and connect the power again. After a few seconds, you should see the kernel log, and eventually LXDE desktop environment.
Click to Original Size
You’ll be asked to configure WiFi, and you’re basically done.
DragonBoard 410c Debian System Info
I’ve then run a few command to learn more about the image and system:
Linux linaro-alip4.4.0-104-arm64#1 SMP Debian 4.4.0.linaro.104-1.linarojessie.1 (2016-03-01) aarch64 GNU/Linux
FilesystemSizeUsed Avail Use%Mounted on
Features:fp asimd evtstrm crc32
Features:fp asimd evtstrm crc32
Features:fp asimd evtstrm crc32
Features:fp asimd evtstrm crc32
One of the main advantage of 96Boards should be recent Linux version,and that’s exactly what we have here with Linux 4.4 running on the board. Out of a total of 866MB reported RAM, 64MB is free, and the 6.9GB rootfs has 4.8 GB available to the user. Snapdragon 410 SoC is correctly reported as being a quad core Cortex A53 (0xd03) processor.
I used file utility to make sure a 64-bit rootfs is being used here:
The thing that often do not work on ARM Linux board are 3D graphics and hardware video decoding, so I’ve specifically tested these two, and also played with the pre-installed Chromium browser.
If I understand correctly the debian image comes with Freedreno open source graphics driver, and if that’s the case I have the first ever platform with working open source 3D graphics drivers:
vertex shader info:
fragment shader info:
vertex shader info:
fragment shader info:
So that means both framebuffer and X11 3D graphics acceleration are working. Nice !
I also tried to play Tuxracer as it was part of the board’s test results provided by Linaro.
sudo apt-getinstall extremetuxracer
It works, but it’s so slow that it’s barely playable (see video below).
I installed VLC to play 1080op h.264 videos, but based on the CPU usage the system is clearly using software decoding, and there’s no audio via HDMI. I’ve asked about those two issues on the forums about 24 hours ago, but I have yet to get a reply.
Chromium loads OK, but I did notice some freezes during use, and YouTube will struggle at full screen at 1080p, in similar way to many other low end ARM Linux platforms.
After over 3 hours the results are in. Bear in mind that the board does not have heatsink, just a metallic shield, and this may affects the performance. It’s also running an OS with a 64-bit ARM rootfs, while platforms like Raspberry Pi 3 features a 64-bit processor running 32-bit code.
Click to Enlarge
I like to check John the Ripper for multi-threaded performance.
While FLAC audio encoding is nice to single threaded performance.
In theory the CPU performance of Snapdragon 410 and Broadcom BCM2837 (as found in RPi 3) should be equal since both are quad core Cortex A53 processors @ 1.2 GHz, but for some reasons DragonBoard 410c is a little slower in the multi-threaded benchmark, and quite faster during FLAC audio encoding likely due to software differences (Aarch64 vs Aarch32).