Snapdragon SoC guide: All of Qualcomm’s smartphone processors explained!


Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor in hand front

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processors are the most ubiquitous SoCs in the Android smartphone space. Samsung uses Snapdragon for its Galaxy S line in the US and Korea, and it also powers devices from LG, OnePlus, and essentially every OEM making flagship-grade phones that doesn’t also make its own silicon. There’s a very high chance that you’re reading this on a device using a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor right now.

Snapdragon chips aren’t just found in expensive flagship smartphones though. There’s a whole portfolio of processors built for handsets at various price points. Performance and features differ a fair bit between these models, so let’s break down how the company’s latest SoCs compare and what capabilities you should expect.

Snapdragon 800 series — Premium tier

Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 in plastic case

Looking for the very best Qualcomm smartphone processor? Then you want the Snapdragon 865, the firm’s latest and most powerful chipset. Much like its predecessor, the new chipset sports a tri-cluster semi-custom CPU arrangement, featuring one powerful 2.84Ghz Cortex-A77 core, three less powerful but still very capable 2.4Ghz Cortex-A77 cores, and four low-powered but efficient Cortex-A55 cores. Qualcomm’s Adreno graphics hardware also tends to lead the industry in terms of sheer power and capabilities, and the 865’s Adreno 650 continues that trend.

  Snapdragon 865 Snapdragon 855 Plus Snapdragon 855
CPU 1x 2.84GHz Kryo 585 (Cortex A77)
3x 2.4GHz Kryo 585 (Cortex A77)
4x 1.8GHz Kryo 585 (Cortex-A55)
1x 2.96GHz Kryo 485 (Cortex A76)
3x 2.42GHz Kryo 485 (Cortex A76)
4x 1.8GHz Kryo 485 (Cortex-A55)
1x 2.84GHz Kryo 485 (Cortex A76)
3x 2.42GHz Kryo 485 (Cortex A76)
4x 1.8GHz Kryo 485 (Cortex-A55)
GPU Adreno 650 Adreno 640 Adreno 640
DSP Hexagon 698 Hexagon 690 Hexagon 690
Modem X55 5G & RF system
7500 Mbps down
3000 Mbps up
2000 Mbps down
316 Mbps up
2000 Mbps down
316 Mbps up
Cameras 200MP single / 64MP single with Zero Shutter Lag
24MP dual camera
Hybrid AF, HDR video, multi-frame noise reduction
48MP single / 24MP dual
Hybrid AF, HDR video, multi-frame noise reduction
192MP snapshot
48MP single / 24MP dual
Hybrid AF, HDR video, multi-frame noise reduction
192MP snapshot
Quick Charge 4+ 4+ 4+
Bluetooth 5.1 5.1 5.1
Process 7nm FinFET 7nm FinFET 7nm FinFET

The 800 series is Qualcomm’s flagship tier and, up until 2018’s Snapdragon 845, used a cluster of powerful cores and a cluster of power-saving cores. But 2019’s Snapdragon 855 series marked the first time we saw the three-tier system of heavy/medium/light CPU cores. Qualcomm also used to offer heavily customized CPU cores until the Snapdragon 821 back in 2016. But these days, it uses Arm’s Cortex cores and makes a few tweaks to them instead.

However, the company has invested heavily in other bits of silicon in its chipsets, such as the GPUs, modems, and image signal processors for cameras. Speaking of camera technology, this is Qualcomm’s first chipset to support 8K video recording, joining Samsung’s Exynos 982X series and Exynos 990.

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The industry shift to on-device machine learning has also seen Qualcomm adapt with its flagship SoCs. It uses the top-end Hexagon digital signal processor for these tasks, with the Snapdragon 865’s Hexagon 698 DSP also featuring an upgraded “Tensor” accelerator that’s 35% more power-efficient than the Snapdragon 855’s ML-focused silicon.

In plain English, that means machine learning tasks like face detection, image recognition, natural language processing, and other activities should consume far less power. In fact, Qualcomm also said that the Snapdragon 865 is capable of on-device voice translation.

The Snapdragon 865 is also 5G-enabled, supporting both mmWave and sub-6Ghz standards. It’s not the first 5G flagship chipset from the brand though, as last year’s Snapdragon 855 series also offered next-generation connectivity. Both the 855 series and the 865 offer external 5G modems though, unlike some rivals. This generally means more power consumption compared to a processor with an integrated 5G modem.

Qualcomm isn’t the only company making flagship processors, with rival chipsets including the Samsung Exynos 990, Huawei’s HiSilicon Kirin 990, and MediaTek’s Dimensity 1000. But it’s generally considered the top dog in terms of features and brand name, although other competitors generally have plenty to offer too.

Notable Snapdragon 865 phones

Snapdragon 700 series — Bridging the gap

Qualcomm Snapdragon 765 in hand

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 700 series isn’t quite as straightforward as its flagship 800 series. This is due to the sheer number of them, as well as the lower end chips crossing into the 600 series.

  Snapdragon 765/G Snapdragon 730/G Snapdragon 720G
CPU 1x 2.3Ghz Kryo 475 (Cortex-A76)
1x 2.2Ghz Kryo 475 (Cortex-A76)
6x 1.8Ghz Kryo 475 (Cortex-A55)
2x 2.2GHz Kryo 360 (Cortex-A76)
6x 1.7GHz Kryo 360 (Cortex-A55)
2x 2.3GHz Kryo 465 (Cortex-A76)
6x 1.8GHz Kryo 465 (Cortex-A55)
GPU Adreno 620 Adreno 618 Adreno 618
DSP Hexagon 696 Hexagon 688 Hexagon 692
Modem Snapdragon X52 5G/LTE
5G - 3700Mbps down, 1600Mbps up
Snapdragon X15 LTE
800Mbps down, 150Mbps up
Snapdragon X15 LTE
800Mbps down, 150Mbps up
Cameras 32MP single or 22MP dual
192MP snapshot
48MP single or 22MP dual
192MP snapshot
192MP snapshot
Quick Charge 4+ 4+ 4
Bluetooth 5.0 5.0 5.1
Process 7nm FinFET 8nm FinFET 8nm FinFET

The Snapdragon 700 series is essentially an upper mid-range family of processors, with the Snapdragon 765 series being the most capable of the lot. This is Qualcomm’s first mid-range 5G family, supporting both mmWave and sub-6Ghz flavors of 5G. It also offers a similar triple power domain CPU design as the flagship processors, albeit in a 1+1+6 layout rather than 1+3+4 seen on the flagship SoCs.

Aside from the addition of 5G and a tweaked CPU layout, the Snapdragon 765 series also stands out from other 700-series processors due to its beefier Adreno 620 GPU. The 765 family also sports a tiny 7nm manufacturing processes, on par with flagship chipsets. A smaller manufacturing process generally means a more power-efficient design when everything else is equal.

The Snapdragon 765 series still has a few things in common with the Snapdragon 730 series and Snapdragon 720G, which are next on the totem pole in terms of power and capabilities. We’ve got octa-core CPUs featuring two powerful Cortex-A76 CPUs and six Cortex-A55 cores, and powerful Spectra image signal processors for high-resolution imaging.

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These aren’t the only Snapdragon 700 series chips, as the series debuted with 2018’s Snapdragon 710 (with the Snapdragon 712 being a mild upgrade). These two chips still offer a 2+6 CPU core layout, but use older Cortex-A75 cores instead of the Cortex-A76 seen in newer 700 series SoCs. So expect the new chipsets to edge out these ones when it comes to single-core performance, but you’re still getting good performance either way.

The Snapdragon 712 and 710 also offer inferior GPUs to the aforementioned stablemates, so gaming performance won’t be quite as smooth. Still, these GPUs are pretty powerful and should be able to handle most advanced games well enough.

The Snapdragon 700 range might lack the CPU and GPU power of the flagship Snapdragon 800 family then, but it has a few features in common with the top-end silicon nonetheless. You’re still getting capable Hexagon DSPs for better machine learning, Quick Charge 4 or 4+ support, and Bluetooth 5.0 or 5.1.

Furthermore, all of these aforementioned chipsets support 192MP snapshots, although they top out at a far lower resolution for multi-frame processing (e.g. HDR, night mode). You won’t get 4K/60fps or 8K here either, but 4K at 30fps is basically guaranteed at this tier.

Notable Snapdragon 710, 712, 720G, 730/G, 765/G phones

Snapdragon 600 series — Value for money

Where the Snapdragon 700 series tries to bridge the gap between mid-range and flagship, the Snapdragon 600 series is mostly focused on the ~$300 and under segment. We say “mostly,” because the Snapdragon 670 and 675 actually share a lot in common with the first Snapdragon 700 series processors (e.g. Snapdragon 710).

The Snapdragon 670 and 675 offer powerful Cortex-A75 and A76 CPU cores respectively, paired with low-power Cortex-A55 cores. You can also expect solid GPUs (albeit inferior to the 700 series), Bluetooth 5 support, and Quick Charge 4+ capabilities. The 670 and 675 also deliver the 700 family’s support for features like 4K recording, 192MP snapshots, and 48MP photos with multi-frame processing.

Read: How to understand Kryo CPU numbering on Qualcomm Snapdragon processors

Moving down, we also have the Snapdragon 665, which is a mild improvement over 2017’s Snapdragon 660. Both of these chips use much older CPU cores (four Cortex-A73 paired with four Cortex-A53 cores), and less capable GPUs on paper. So expect general performance, gaming, and camera performance to lag behind the Snapdragon 670 and 675. In fact, the Snapdragon 665 and 660 top out at 48MP snapshot support (i.e. without multi-frame processing such as HDR), so don’t hold your breath for 64MP or 108MP cameras with these processors.

Qualcomm has also recently launched the Snapdragon 662, essentially being a Snapdragon 665 clone with Bluetooth 5.1 capabilities and HEIF support. The latter means better quality pictures with no file size increase over previous formats, or the same quality at half the file size.

Otherwise, the bread and butter of Qualcomm’s 600-series is the Snapdragon 636 and 632. These processors target a lower price point than previously mentioned 600-series silicon, and also bring big cores to the table (four Cortex-A73 and four Cortex-A53). The 636 still offers a fast modem and Quick Charge 4, which the Snapdragon 632 lacks. Either way, both of these chips use Adreno 500-series GPUs, making them less adept at gaming than more recent Snapdragon 600 series chips.

  Snapdragon 636 Snapdragon 632 Snapdragon 439
CPU 4x 1.8GHz Kryo 260 (Cortex-A73)
4x 1.6GHz Kryo 260 (Cortex-A53)
4x 1.8GHz Kryo 250 (Cortex-A73)
4x 1.8GHz Kryo 250 (Cortex-A53)
4x 1.95GHz Cortex-A53
4x 1.45GHz Cortex-A53
GPU Adreno 509 Adreno 506 Adreno 505
DSP Hexagon 680 Hexagon 546 Hexagon 536
Modem X12 LTE
600Mbps down
150Mbps up
300Mbps down
150Mbps up
150Mbps down
75Mbps up
Cameras 25MP single or 16MP dual 24MP single or 13MP dual 12MP single or 8MP dual
Quick Charge 4.0 3.0 3.0
Bluetooth 5.0 5.0 5.0
Process 14nm FinFET 14nm FinFET 12nm FinFET

The Snapdragon 636 and 632 chipsets really mark the cross-over point between mid-range and low-end capabilities. But they still sport those ever-important big CPU cores, which means general performance (e.g. system navigation, launching/loading apps) shouldn’t be an issue.

Notable Snapdragon 600 series phones

Snapdragon 400 series — Entry-level

Now we come to the least capable Snapdragon series (aside from the now dormant Snapdragon 200 family), designed for entry-level smartphones. But there’s good news here, as the latest Snapdragon 400 chipset is actually a massive improvement.

The new Snapdragon 460 has a lot in common with the Snapdragon 662, including heavyweight CPU cores (four Cortex-A73 and four Cortex-A53), the same GPU, HEIF support, Bluetooth 5.1, and even 48MP multi-frame capture capabilities. The only real downside is that it’s only expected to appear in phones at the end of 2020.

Otherwise, the Snapdragon 450 and 439 are the main 400-series chips you’ll find in phones today. These offer octa-core designs based on low-powered Cortex-A53 cores, very modest LTE speeds, and unspectacular Adreno 500-series GPUs. In other words, phones powered by these chips are more likely to struggle with advanced games and everyday system performance. Their own major saving grace is that they’re pretty power-efficient owing to 14nm and 12nm manufacturing processes respectively.

  Snapdragon 460 Snapdragon 450 Snapdragon 439 Snapdragon 429
CPU 4x Kryo 240 (Cortex-A73)
4x Kryo 240 (Cortex-A53)
8x 1.8Ghz Cortex-A53 4x 1.95Ghz Cortex-A53
4x 1.45Ghz Cortex-A53
4x 1.95GHz Cortex-A53
GPU Adreno 610 Adreno 506 Adreno 505 Adreno 504
DSP Hexagon 683 Hexagon 546 Hexagon 536 Hexagon 536
Modem Snapdragon X11 LTE
390Mbps down,
150Mbps up
Snapdragon X9 LTE
300Mbps down, 150Mbps up
Snapdragon X6 LTE
150Mbps down, 75Mbps up
Snapdragon X6 LTE
150Mbps down, 75Mbps up
Cameras 32MP single or 22MP dual
192MP snapshot
48MP single or 22MP dual
192MP snapshot
21MP single or 8MP dual 16MP single or 8MP dual
Quick Charge 3.0 3.0 3.0 3.0
Bluetooth 5.1 4.1 5.0 5.0
Process 11nm FinFET 14nm FinFET 12nm FinFET 12nm FinFET

The least capable chipset in the Snapdragon 400 family is the Snapdragon 429 though. It halves the core count to just four power-sipping Cortex-A53 cores, tops out at HD+ screen resolution (no 1080p here), and supports two 8MP cameras or one 16MP sensor. It’s not all bad though, as there’s still Quick Charge 3.0 support, and Bluetooth 5 capabilities. Just don’t expect triple cameras or good performance in 3D games.

The Snapdragon 400 series does the basics well enough, such as calling, social media, WhatsApp, and web browsing. But those wanting good gaming performance, the fastest charging, the latest Bluetooth standard, and the best cameras should look elsewhere.

Notable Snapdragon 400 series phones

That’s all for our Qualcomm Snapdragon SoC guide! Let us know your thoughts on the silicon giant’s portfolio in the comments.

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