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Qualcomm Snapdragon 700 series wants to power China's AI

AI announcements are coming thick and fast this year, and the new Snapdragon 700 series wants to help make the technology a bit more affordable.

Published onFebruary 27, 2018

Not content with its current crop of processors, Qualcomm has lifted the lid on its new Snapdragon 700 Mobile Platform series at MWC 2018. As the naming scheme reveals, this range sits right between the company’s premium Snapdragon 800 tier and the more cost effective Snapdragon 600 series. The target market appears to be primarily China, and other markets where there’s high demand for premium features but thinner profit margins for OEMs.

Qualcomm hasn’t detailed any specific models that will appear in the Snapdragon 700 range, but has provided an overview of the various technologies that will be packaged into the chips. The company’s latest Kryo CPU design makes its way over rather than stock Arm parts, as do the company’s Adreno graphics and Spectra imaging processors.

Interestingly, the company says that new variants of these architectures will debut with the Snapdragon 700, so we’re likely looking at some bespoke parts to fit the target market. In terms of performance, Qualcomm is touting up to a 30 percent improvement in power efficiency over the Snapdragon 660 Mobile Platform, which is currently fitting the bill as the upper mid-tier SoC.

The new range is designed specifically to bring high performance AI capabilities to the high, but not quite premium -tier of smartphones.

The emphasis with the Snapdragon 700 series is this year’s hot topic in computing – artificial intelligence. The new line-up will feature Qualcomm’s multi-core AI Engine, which is the company’s fancy new term for its heterogeneous CPU, GPU, and DSP approach to powering machine learning applications, governed by its Neural Processing Engine. It also comes complete with support for TensorFlow, Caffe, and ONNX frameworks.

Importantly, the Qualcomm AI Engine includes the version of its Hexagon DSP with powerful Hexagon Vector eXtensions (HVX), offering up more performance than the vanilla version of Hexagon found in the majority of the Snapdragon 600 range. The 700 series variation will double the on-device AI application performance over the Snapdragon 660.

Future Snapdragon will be 5G-capable and on Samsung’s 7nm node

Rounding off the package is a suite of familiar extras. Quick Charge 4+ support offers consumers as much as a 50 percent charge in around 15 minutes. There’s Bluetooth 5 on board and an unspecified modem, which will likely vary from product to product but could optimistically include the company’s latest X24 Gigabit LTE offering.

Overall, the Snapdragon 700 announcement appears to be the result of Qualcomm separating out its higher-end 600 series options from the more generic mid-tier models. Chips following in the steps of the 660, with Kryo cores and fast DSP capabilities, get the AI branding treatment and their own series going forward. The first product in the Snapdragon 700 Mobile Platform series will be out sampling with Qualcomm’s customers sometime in H1 2018, suggesting that products might not appear until around 2019.

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