More rumors surface regarding Snapdragon 810 overheating issues

by: Rob TriggsJanuary 8, 2015
1.5K

Qualcomm Snapdragon 1600

The newly unveiled LG G Flex 2 isn’t just a smartphone for display buffs, the handset is also packing Qualcomm’s latest and greatest 64-bit Snapdragon 810 processor. However, all may not be well with Qualcomm’s latest high-end SoC, as more rumors have surfaced suggesting that the chip is struggling with some performance impacting production issues.

As a quick recap, the Snapdragon 810 features eight CPU cores in a big.LITTLE configuration, arranged as four heavy lifting Cortex-A57s and four energy efficient Cortex-A53s for the less demanding background tasks. The SoC also showcases Qualcomm’s new high-end Adreno 430 GPU, which is supposed to be the company’s fastest graphics chip yet. This is also Qualcomm’s first 20nm Snapdragon, manufactured by TSMC, which is an important point to remember later on.

qualcomm snapdragon 810

Back to the issues, sources from Korea and analysts with US investment firm J.P. Morgan are convinced that the Snapdragon 810 is suffering from crippling overheating issues. Apparently, this problem is caused by the high-performance Cortex-A57 cores overheating when clock speeds reach 1.2 to 1.4GHz, which is a surprising problem for a core designed to run at speeds approaching 2GHz. This then causes the chip to throttle back on performance, to prevent the whole system from overheating. Separate issues with the SoC’s memory controller have also been reported and instances of GPU throttling have also apparently cropped up during benchmarks, although this could be part of the same CPU overheating issue.

QCOM’s new 64-bit Snapdragon 615 and 810 chips are suffering from overheating issues … For the Snapdragon 810, we believe the issues are related to the implementation of new 64-bit ARM cores (A57) – J.P. Morgan analysts

However, Samsung’s Cortex-A57 powered Exynos 5433 does not suffer from overheating issues, suggesting that this is a problem specific to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon design rather than a problem with the Cortex-A57 itself. This leaves the finger pointed at Qualcomm and TSMC’s 20nm chip design, with several analysts suggesting that a “redesign of a few metal layers” may be needed to fix the issue.

We know that TSMC had been struggling with its 20nm technique for some time and, as this is Qualcomm’s first attempt at a 20nm design, it is possible that unanticipated defects may have appeared. Heat is a serious potential issue when combining high-performance CPU and GPU components into such a confined space, and four Cortex-A57s and the new Adreno 430 may have pushed the chip’s heat up above what we have seen with the older Snapdragon 8XX series and newer low-power Cortex-A53 Snapdragon 615.

During our own hands-on time with the LG G Flex 2 we ran a quick AnTuTu benchmark, which scored an underwhelming result of 41670, placing it behind existing Snapdragon 800 processors. We expected the G Flex 2 to post a result closer to the Galaxy Note 4 and Meizu MX4, which are both octa-core devices powered by some of ARM’s higher end Cortex-A17 and A57 cores.A closer inspection of the results suggests that most of the performance troubles stem from the CPU side of things, with Single Thread and Multitasking scores falling well behind rival Cortex-A57 and A53 based SoCs and even failing to match the performance of older Snapdragon 600 handsets. CPU throttling, possibly due to high-temperatures, is certainly a plausible explanation for such a large performance gap. Although, this could also be a result of optimization issues with big.LITTLE resource management, an unfinished kernel, or some resource hungry background task.While we weren’t expecting a finished article with the G Flex 2, as LG would likely be pushing for optimizations before the handset goes on sale, these results seem to suggest that something was not quite right with the unit that we tested. The GPU score is a little more in-line with expectations, although the Adreno 430 should outpace the Snapdragon 805’s Adreno 420. The GPU result is more likely down to variance and pre-release optimizations, while it’s much harder to explain away the oddly poor CPU result.

If these performance issues turn out to be true, a delayed release of its flagship Snapdragon 810 SoC is going to cause major headaches for Qualcomm. J.P. Morgan analysts expect that a 20nm redesign could take up to three months. One for prototyping and redesigning the problematic metal layers in the chip and another two for “completing the metal mask layers in final production”. This means that the Snapdragon 810 may not be available until mid-Q2 2015, although it is possible that TSMC is already part way through a redesign.

We believe fixing the issues with the 810 will require the redesign of a few metal layers of the chip, which could push out the schedule by about three months, by our calculations (one month for prototyping and design fix and two additional months for completing the metal mask layers in final production). – J.P. Morgan analysts

Qualcomm’s 20nm Snapdragon 808 could fill in during the 810’s absence, providing that it isn’t facing similar issues. However, with Nvidia, MediaTek and Samsung all offering high-end mobile SoCs with similar capabilities to Qualcomm’s high-end chip, smarphone and tablet manufacturers may turn to Qualcomm’s competitors to power this year’s early flagships. Worryingly, industry wide launch dates could end up postponed as a result.

Previously, Qualcomm had denied rumors of overheating problems in its Snapdragon 810 and has not commented on the latest batch of rumors. Remember, this is only speculation from a small number of sources. It is still possible that Qualcomm will ship the Snapdragon 810 on time and without defects. We’ll keep our eyes pinned for more details.

  • Jack Parker

    Hm… Not what you expect but hey ho..

    Fingers crossed they fix it before all the flagships come out

    • Chris

      new things always have bugs to work out. this has always been the case. even before you were born things had bugs..

      • Peter

        Thats not the point, Its just that QC’s quality is going down. Author has used Samsung to illustrate the case. I’m not surprised that QC sucked big time on 64 bit. After all, they had a guy who tried to play down Apple’s 64 bit processor. Eventually, QC’s spokesperson basically said it was his individual comment and doesn’t represent the company. Their quality is pathetic and the stock is going to reflect the same by end of the year.

      • tiger

        Did Apple have bugs with the A7 chip that was introduced in 2013?

    • Yeah or they decide to run all the Flagships with the 805 SoC’s

      • Guest123

        If not maybe all will go with the Exynos chip :D

        • Samsung can’t even produce enough Exynos chips for their own devices. This is why they split up their production between Snapdragon and Exynos. Samsung is spending billions on a chip factory this year I think though. So maybe they will be able to handle the demand in 2016 or 2017

          • abazigal

            I always thought the reason was that Exynos was not compatible with the 4G band used in the US, hence Samsung had to use Snapdragon processors in western countries?

          • That is possible, but they could easily purchase/use a modem from someone else if they wanted to do this. I’ve been under the impression that it is because they simply cannot produce enough for those bigger markets. If you can provide sources that say otherwise, I would love to read up on them

        • renz

          while samsung did let other use their chip their top end chip usually exclusive to their device. you’re not going to see the latest exynos on other company flagship.

  • bob

    is it possible that apple is full node and 3 64 bit generations ahead? jesus, this is only going to get worse

    • DDT

      Considering that the new iPad “pro” is supposed to launch in March/April and it will maybe have an A9X processor that will maybe be on 16nm node.

      But considering the iPad “pro” will be a huge iPad, it doesn’t necesirilly needs 16nm as it can afford to power overclocked A8X or next gen A9X even at 20nm.

      • renz

        Does 16nm ready yet? I thought that TSMC 16nm FF wont be ready at least until next year

        • Debattt

          Samsung will be making it, on a 14nm node.

          • renz

            last i heard TSMC will be the main supplier for apple A9/A9X. samsung will be secondary supplier

          • mobilemann

            they the articles flip flopped, but the last i’ve heard is the same.

    • Karly Johnston

      TSMC controls the lithography at request of the customer. Apple ordered full node 20nm, Qualcomm could do the same if they would get off their arse and custom design the chip instead of using half node ARM Cortex. They can’t push it past 1.4Ghz without melting plastic, Apple learned this so they built Cyclone as a wider core to compensate. This is just another example of QC cutting corners. Intel already has this knowledge and may be the stop-gap for the 2015 line-up.

    • ack

      I’m not surprised there would be overheating. 64-bit chips are going to run hotter. Apple only went with two A57 cores for the iphone for good reason. Qualcomm went with 4 cores, _plus_ a faster clock speed. They could simply try lowering the A57 cores’ peak clock speed to prevent thermal throttling. Qualcomm got too greedy, but they still have the advantage of modem side of things.

      • ToyotaBedZRock

        Apple has been using only 2 cores since before the 64 bit transition.

        • ack

          Yes, and the ipad uses 3 cores, so I’m sure they are aware of the power and thermals associated with running a big, hot, 64-bit chip.

      • Leo9

        Apple does not use A57 cores. Apple developed a high performance, custom architecture with way higher IPC and performance compared to reference design A57 cores used by Qualcomm, Samsung and nvidia (X1). Apple is ahead in SoC technology. A8X is gong to kill the 810 in both single core and multicore performance.

        • renz

          and yet it doesn’t really matter since apple chip will not be used outside Apple product. as it is i believe most OEM will wait for Qualcomm chip to be ready or using existing one (805) instead of going with other supplier like nvidia/intel. as for Mediatek i’m not really sure but they don’t really compete to get wins for OEM flagship device

          • Leo9

            Yes , it will not matter of course. Just saying that Qualcomm was ahead years ago in SoC design , but now It has clearly fallen behind.

          • renz

            integrated or not i think most OEM care about Qualcomm modem. even Apple using Qualcomm modem. some of older Exynos (the one in Note 2 i think) did have Qualcomm modem but the latest Exynos opt for intel LTE modem. i think if Qualcomm did license their modem to samsung for use in latest Exynos maybe all samsung flagship will use Exynos instead of the mix of Snapdragon and Exynos right now.

        • ack

          Apple’s “custom cores” are nothing more than minor tweaks to ARM’s designs. The only real advantage is the GPU side, by integrating the PowerVR GPU. Any substantial changes to the ARM reference design would cause bugs/defects that Apple wouldn’t want to spend money on. Don’t buy into the Apple marketing hype.

          • Leo9

            “Apple’s “custom cores” are nothing more than minor tweaks to ARM’s designs.”

            This is not true. You can check Cyclone (A7 and A8) architecture analysis on Anandtech. Cyclone it’s WAY faster than A57, and it was developed in 2012 and 2013 for late 2013 launch with the iPhone 5S.
            Exynos 5433 (A57 ARM reference design) at 1.9 Ghz achieves 1200 points in GeekBench, while Cyclone at 1.5Ghz is above 1800. This is a huge IPC difference.
            Apple invested billions buying companies like PA Semi, Intrinsity and hiring experts in SoC design over the years and it didn’t do it for marketing.

          • ack

            No, “Cyclone” is Apple’s codename for its slightly modified version of the A57. Anandtech’s old article doesn’t state that it isn’t. Any benchmark discrepancies is probably due to the GPU or a flaw in the benchmarking.

            Apple does not design its own CPUs. What they do is tweak and package the CPU with a GPU, modem, memory, etc. Integrating all that stuff to work together is what Nvidia, Qualcomm, Apple, Samsung all do.
            http://mobilesemi.blogspot.hk/2014/09/apples-64-bit-processor-cores-strong.html

          • Leo9

            Just no.
            A57 cores are a 3-wide/3-issue machines, Cyclone is 6-way wide, a totally different beast with way higher IPC; the GPU has nothing to do with geekbench. The idea that Apple used an A57 core announced in October 2012 and ship it a year later with even better performance that 2015 A57 is beyond ridiculous and so is the idea that Apple signed a limited exclusivity arrangement with ARM. Apple is developing it’s own CPU and in the future it’s also going to develop it’s own GPU and LTE modem : they already hired douzens of experts in these fields over the years ( Just as a couple of examples http://appleinsider.com/articles/14/04/09/apple-nabs-senior-rf-engineers-from-broadcom-amid-rumors-of-new-in-house-baseband-team

            [All together, Apple has assembled at least 30 mid- and senior-level baseband software and hardware engineers from Broadcom and current iPhone baseband vendor Qualcomm over the past three years. Apple is also advertising more than 50 additional openings related to RF chip design, an indication that the build-up is not yet complete. ]

            http://www.tomshardware.com/news/GPU-Team-Orlando-AMD-iPhone-iPad,22830.html )

          • ack

            Yes, I stand corrected. Had to dig a lot deeper to find some answers. I still think the cyclone is based on the A57 reference design, but Apple has made it effectively double-wide. I don’t think it’s from scratch like the Nvidia Denver, using custom micro-ops translation, but there isn’t enough info. Would need someone who worked on the Apple design to see how closely they followed the ARM reference design.

            Apple already had its own GPU shop with Imagination. The LTE modem is unlikely since Qualcomm controls most of the patents.

          • Marc Perrusquia

            No there not. There built from the ground up utilizing the armv8 instruction set. ARM’s cortex a57’s are reference armv8 designs. When implementing ARM designs into soc’s manufacturers have 3 options: Implement reference designs, build an architecture based around stock designs, or built their own architecture from the ground up based around the instruction set. Apple goes with the latter. So they’re far from just slightly modified cortex a57’s. Please research before you make claims spreading misinformation just confused casual readers.

          • ack

            Sure, please share a link to an article or technical design spec that shows it’s a custom design. Thanks!

          • Marc Perrusquia

            http://www.anandtech.com/show/7910/apples-cyclone-microarchitecture-detailed there you go buddy literally the first result that pops up when searching for Apple cyclone

          • ack

            Read that article a long time ago. It doesn’t say anything more than that it’s a double-wide ARMv8 design. There’s no info on how much Apple uses/borrows from the A57 reference design.

            But it does clarify that the A57 is a smaller “big” core, and that a 4 core design should be possible. Probably Qualcomm was too optimistic on the clock speed.

          • Karly Johnston

            hahaha… Cyclone is so far above the A57 in throughput its like comparing an 8 lane highway to 2 lane country road that might have a median converted to another 2 lanes if devs ever got around to opening it up… which they won’t waste the time.

    • darkich

      One 64bit Qualcomm chip is out in the market for months now, dominating the lower midrange market.
      It’s the Snapdragon 410

  • Marty

    That benchmark graph isn’t correct. My Shield Tablet consistently achieves at least 55,000 in Antutu. It has scored as high 56,000.

    • I’m pretty sure the Atom Z3580 is a 32 bit chip, not 64 bit. And since the Venue 8 7000 series runs Android 4.4.4, it’s kind of a moot point anyways (KitKat does not support 64bit)

      • Marty

        Check Intel’s listed specification:

        http://ark.intel.com/products/81195/Intel-Atom-Processor-Z3580-2M-Cache-up-to-2_33-GHz

        And when Dell releases Android 5 for it, Android 5 was designed for 64 bit systems so the tablet should make the most of the 64 bit OS.

        • To be honest, I never saw the performance benefits of the Nexus 9. In really graphics-intensive games like Asphalt 8 (after Gameloft released an update to enable high quality graphics), the performance was evident. But I don’t do much gaming. As a multi-tasker, that tablet was one of the worst I’ve ever used. Switching apps was often painfully slow, returning to the home screen could be an agonizing wait while the whole thing re-drew itself. Apps kept getting booted out of memory all the time. For example switching between Facebook and Words With Friends, everytime I went back to WWF, the app would have to reload from scratch and I’d end up back at the game’s main menu instead of the game I was JUST PLAYING LESS THAN A MINUTE AGO!!! And whenever I checked the battery usage, Chrome was always at the very top… it used more power than the display itself!!! There’s some serious problems with that 64bit K1…

          My HTC One M8 NEVER behaves like this. Even my old Galaxy Note 2 wasn’t this aggravating. I bought a Nexus 9 on launch day, and I toughed it out for over 2 months. Loved the 4:3 screen and the boom sound speakers. Hated everything else. When I saw the Dell Venue 8 7000 and its specs, that finally convinced me to stop punishing myself. The Nexus 9 went back to Best Buy. I have no regrets.

          /end rant

          • Marty

            Yeah, I’ve heard stories of bad performance with the Nexus 9 and its “Denver” Tegra K1 SoC. Though my NVIDIA Shield Tablet uses a Tegra K1 SoC, it’s a different one from the N9’s and I don’t see any performance issues with it. It’s smooth, fast and powerful.

            This new Dell, though, is a sweet little tablet. It isn’t perfect, there are a few minor things, but it isn’t anything that detracts from enjoying it. The display and build quality have me pleased to the Nth degree. :)
            And the battery life is really surprising.

          • WarRaven

            That Dell does look like a good fit for the price.

            Was curious how that Atom would fair, an now the 810 as well shown its hand, its a shocker to some.

          • Marty

            The Dell, for the most part, is smooth. It has a low framerate-type issue when opening and closing various menus and screens – one of the minor things that keep it from being perfect. But homescreen scrolling is smooth as butter. Performance, though, is quite good. I have an HTC One M8 that has the SD 801 and it’s a really fast device – nice and quick, and this Dell is just as fast and speedy.

            All I know is I’m glad I have it. I was going to return it for another very minor thing, but it’s so nice and pleasing that I can’t let go of it.

    • MasterMuffin

      Yup it’s slightly off, I get similar scores with N9

  • it will be fine if i buy the note 4?

  • crutchcorn

    Uggghhhh…..

  • Marco

    Ok, this is bad, I’m just waiting for a smartphone with this SoC to change my Galaxy Nexus, guess the wait will be longer than I expected. Sigh.

  • cycad007

    TSMC fabbed Apple’s A8 chip using their 20 nm process. Seeing how there are MILLIONs of iPhones now, it doesn’t look like the issue is with TSMC.

  • Jared

    They. Rushed. The. 810. To. Compete. With. Apple’s. 64bit. This is what happens. The newest generation snapdragons (64bit) leave a very bad taste in my mouth. That’s unfortunate.

    • Peter

      Agreed. They would be biggest looser in 2015.

    • daffydkjones

      They had to rush. 800 came out ages ago. Over the past year they’ve come up with minor increments like 801 and 805 which are basiclaly the same thing. They needed a killer new processor, manfuacturers were demanding it for their flagships.

      Xpera Z1 (800) Z2 (801) Z3 (slightly fast 801) have all come out with the same basic processing power and nothing to differentiate them. They can’t release a Z5 with just an 805 processor.

      HTC has held on to the ancient One M8 with an 801 processor for so long hoping to use 810 in their new flagship

  • WarRaven

    So the power hungry K1 32 Kepler stays ahead of the 810 fairly easy in 3D.
    Makes me feel a little better thinking earlier that,
    this years 64 cross over would be a big speed bump in reality.
    My Shield stays safely with me.
    Next year I’ll be needing new, but not now.

    • Marty

      I’m hanging with my Shield Tab till the Tegra X1 version comes out. These NVIDIA tabs, I believe, are the future of console-type gaming.

      • WarRaven

        Agreed.
        Funny how many sites only talk about nexus on that benchmark when its fighting for its dear life for that spot against the shield.

        High five to the underdogs!

        • apolloa

          But some reviews have found the Nexus 9 performance to be inconsistent? Or has it now improved? I would have thought it should of but don’t really know.

          • WarRaven

            I wonder if that’s a software inconsistency.
            Seems L5 has a few issues yet or everyone.

  • Karly Johnston

    The 615 has known heating issues. HTC Desire 820 throttles games after 10 minutes getting over 123 degrees touching the back, even web browsing gets warm.

  • apolloa

    This is funny, can’t see it doing well until they fix the issue. But they will, my latest Sony tablet has a up to 2.5GHZ 801 ann runs very cool under load.
    But as said it does make Nvidia seem more capable at churning out high performance chips?

  • tiger

    But wait…TSMC is making Apple A8 on 20nm…and there are no issue with 20nm process there. TSMC has been making millions and millions of these 20nm chips for Apple!

    This is Qualcomm issue, no one else. Qualcomm rushed S810 to market to compete with Apple A8 and this is what happens. Remember, Qualcomm was caught with its pants down when Apple announced CUSTOM core A7 over 1 year ago.

    • abazigal

      Didn’t the A7 and A8 processor have speeds of like 1.2 or 1.3 GHZ or something? Maybe that’s how they avoid the overheating issue – by limiting the speed at which it can run?

      • darkich

        Yes, but you’re comparing different concepts here.
        Cyclone cores are big, complex and wide.. they need to be clocked lower. They are more like Intel Core CPU’s than Cortex or Krait(Snapdragon CPU) cores.
        Cortex and Krait are smaller, simpler, much more frugal per clock, so they can be clocked much higher.

        Keep in mind the following – 28nm Snapdragon 805 with four Krait 450 cores clocked at 2.6Ghz doesn’t consume more power than a dual core 20nm Apple A8 clocked at 1.4Ghz

  • Balraj

    I think I know what they are going to do if the mass production has already began
    Release the defective ones in the Asian market
    Many companies do that..
    In gsmarena xperia z series review , they had stated that some smartphones with defective displays where shifted to india and neighboring countries

    Idk if it’s true but if it is then I don’t like the way oems handle developed and underdeveloped countries….

  • ToyotaBedZRock

    This is a QC/ARM issue, they got lazy and had to rush. They need to redesign the core like they did with the A9.

  • SaRPeR

    Not counting Snapdragon 410, Snapdragon’s every new 64-bit SoCs have the same heating problem they say Snapdragon 615 inside HTC Desire 820 is heating too.

  • Jojoc

    Welcome to 2015.
    I’ve been noticing throttling issues since i got my S3 a month or two after it launched.
    Mobile cpus and gpus will always throttle if they continue to market these absurd 2.5Ghz+ speeds.
    The technology to built these high clock speed SoCs isn’t there yet, these speeds can only be achieved for a short burst of time, when this time period passes the cpu will clock down to avoid overheating.

  • Siralf

    Nvidia to the rescue, hopefully they can fit the K1 or, even better, the X1 in a smartphone. Big disappointment with Qualcomm, for the issues and the delay.

  • Mpompi Lougano

    Yeahh this is compare 64 bit vs 32 bit ….

  • Jayfeather787

    On the bright side, the LG self-healing back will work better with the additional heat.

  • daniel nenni

    “We know that TSMC had been struggling with its 20nm technique for some
    time and, as this is Qualcomm’s first attempt at a 20nm design, it is
    possible that unanticipated defects may have appeared.”

    This is an absolute lie. Apple has 2 20nm chips selling in the millions of units with no heat problems. LG and other handset vendors have 20nm products with no heat problems. Stop quoting the Korean press and start reading http://www.semiwiki.com

  • matticitt

    I think nV is now making the best mobile chips. I’d be great If manufacturers could find a way to fit the X1 into a smartphone.

  • rahul