All the flagship Android phones you hear about on an almost daily basis run the fastest mobile chips available, usually a Snapdragon 800-series system-on-a-chip (SoC). Midrange phones that aren’t pricey enough to justify those chips have lost out on some advanced features, but the latest design from Qualcomm closes the gap. The Snapdragon 670 brings an unusual octa-core design with an upgraded graphics core to cheaper phones. Well, some cheaper phones.
The Snapdragon 670 replaces the slightly older 660, but odds are you’ve never used a 660 phone. The mid-range phone space (priced around $300-500) is rather sparse in North America because most phones are purchase direct from carriers on installment plans. That makes it easier to justify buying a phone that costs $800 overall because you only pay a little every month. So, we’ve rarely seen the Snapdragon 660, with one notable exception being the Blackberry Key2.
Like the old 660, the 670 will have eight CPU cores. However, they’re newer and in a different configuration. The 670 has two high-power Kryo 360 Gold CPU cores and six low-power Kryo 360 Silver cores. The Gold cores are based on the Qualcomm A75 design, and the Silver is a modified A55. These are both newer and faster than the cores in the 660, but there are only two high-performance cores in the 670 compared to four in the 660. The added low-power cores could make background processing much more efficient with well-threaded applications.
Despite the shift toward more low-power cores, Qualcomm says CPU performance is 15 percent higher in the new chip. That’s all thanks to the improved core design. The Snapdragon 670 also runs the new Adreno 615 GPU, which is about 25 percent faster. A new DSP allows for 25MP single-camera and 16MP dual-camera setups, and 4K video uses 30 percent less power.
The Snapdragon 670 will start appearing in phones this quarter, but don’t expect them to appear much in North America. This SoC seems aimed squarely at phones that launch in Asia made by companies like Oppo and Xiaomi. These devices need to appeal to a broad segment of consumers with a competitive price because they are usually purchased unlocked with no carrier subsidy. Having solid specs is also a necessity, but you can get away with a mid-range SoC as long as it still has eight CPU cores. The Snapdragon 670 helps Qualcomm remain competitive with budget chip-maker MediaTek in the overseas market.
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