Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chip in hand

Credit: Qualcomm

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 888 reference design

Credit: Qualcomm

Looking for the very best Qualcomm smartphone processor? That will be the Snapdragon 888, which was announced in December 2020 and is set to power a ton of 2021 phones. It’s part of the Snapdragon 800 series, which is the company’s flagship chip family.

The 5nm chipset is a major leap in power over previous Qualcomm Snapdragon silicon, featuring one brand new Cortex-X1 CPU core clocked at 2.84Ghz, three new Cortex-A78 cores running at 2.4Ghz, and four 1.8Ghz Cortex-A55 cores. In fact, you can reportedly expect 25% better performance and power efficiency over previous generations.

Qualcomm has also upgraded the GPU here, with its industry-leading Adreno graphics tech touting a massive 35% performance boost and a 25% efficiency boost over previous chips. This makes for quite possibly the biggest leap in Adreno performance we’ve seen in years.

Another big upgrade is the move to an integrated 5G modem. Earlier Snapdragon 800 5G chips offered an external modem, which generally results in less efficient performance. So expect to see improved battery life on Snapdragon 888 phones when using 5G. Either way, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 5G processors support both mmWave and Sub-6Ghz 5G standards.

Otherwise, you can also expect Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2, and Quick Charge 5 tech. The latter supports 100W+ charging that’s expected to be more common in 2021.

More Qualcomm coverage: How to understand Kryo CPU numbering in Snapdragon chips

Unfortunately, the Mi 11 is the only Snapdragon 888 phone that’s been announced, and it’s only launched in China so far. So those wanting a phone with this chip will need to wait or should look at devices with the Snapdragon 865 and Snapdragon 865 Plus SoCs instead. These chipsets were the top-end SoCs for 2020 and are available in a variety of devices.

The standard Snapdragon 865 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. The 865’s Adreno 650 GPU is still a fantastic performer and can handle a variety of advanced games and emulators.

Meanwhile, the Snapdragon 865 Plus differs from the vanilla chipset by offering a 3.1Ghz top-end CPU core, while the other seven CPU cores remain unchanged. The Plus variant also features a 10% boost to graphics rendering, presumably via a clock speed boost. The 865 Plus also sports Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2 as opposed to Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1 on the vanilla silicon.

 Snapdragon 888Snapdragon 865/PlusSnapdragon 855/Plus
CPU1x Cortex-X1
3x Cortex-A78
4x Cortex-A55
1x Cortex-A77
3x Cortex-A77
4x Cortex-A55
1x Cortex-A76
3x Cortex -76
4x Cortex-A55
GPUAdreno 660Adreno 650Adreno 640
DSPHexagon 780
(fused scalar, tensor, and vector)
Hexagon 698Hexagon 690
Process5nm7nm FinFET7nm FinFET
ModemX60 LTE/5G (integrated)
7500 Mbps down
3000 Mbps up
X55 LTE/5G (external)
7500 Mbps down
3000 Mbps up
X24 LTE (integrated)
2000 Mbps down
316 Mbps up
Cameras84MP single, 64MP+25MP dual, or 24MP triple
200MP snapshot
64MP single or 25MP dual
200MP snapshot
48MP single or 24MP dual
200MP snapshot
Quick Charge54+4+
Bluetooth5.25.1 (5.2 for 865 Plus)5.0

Up until 2018’s Snapdragon 845, the Snapdragon 800 series 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 in-house designed 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, both the Snapdragon 865 series and the Snapdragon 888 support 8K video recording and support for 200MP shots.

The chipmaker has been developing its machine learning silicon over the years too, boosting features like face unlock, scene/subject/object recognition, natural language processing, and more.

Qualcomm isn’t the only company making flagship processors, with rival chipsets including the Samsung Exynos 990, Huawei’s HiSilicon Kirin 9000, and MediaTek’s Dimensity 1000. The Snapdragon 800 range is generally considered the top dog in terms of features, capabilities, and brand name, although other competitors generally have plenty to offer too.

Notable Snapdragon 800 series 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.

The Snapdragon 700 series is essentially an upper mid-range family of processors, with the Snapdragon 765 series being the most popular 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.

 Snapdragon 768G/765/765GSnapdragon 750GSnapdragon 730/730G/732GSnapdragon 720G
CPU2x Kryo 475 (Cortex-A76)
6x Kryo 475 (Cortex-A55)
2x Kryo 475 (Cortex-A77)
6x Kryo 475 (Cortex-A55)
2x Kryo 360 (Cortex-A76)
6x Kryo 360 (Cortex-A55)
2x Kryo 465 (Cortex-A76)
6x Kryo 465 (Cortex-A55)
GPUAdreno 620Adreno 619Adreno 618Adreno 618
DSPHexagon 696Hexagon 570Hexagon 688Hexagon 692
ModemSnapdragon X52 5G/LTE
5G - 3700Mbps down, 1600Mbps up
Snapdragon X52 5G/LTE
5G - 3700Mbps down, 1600Mbps up
Snapdragon X15 LTE
800Mbps down, 150Mbps up
Snapdragon X15 LTE
800Mbps down, 150Mbps up
Cameras32MP single or 22MP dual
192MP snapshot
32MP single or 22MP dual
192MP snapshot
48MP single or 22MP dual
192MP snapshot
192MP snapshot
Quick Charge4+4+4+4
Bluetooth5.0 (765, 765G)
5.2 (768G)
5.1 (732G)

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 2019 and 2020’s flagship chipsets. A smaller manufacturing process generally means a more power-efficient design when everything else is equal.

Qualcomm has since launched the Snapdragon 768G too, essentially being an overclocked version of the Snapdragon 765G. The most powerful CPU core gets a clock speed boost from 2.4Ghz to 2.8Ghz, the Adreno 620 GPU gets a 15% speed boost, and you’re also getting Bluetooth 5.2 support. The only phone to use this chipset right now is the Redmi K30 Racing Edition though.

The Snapdragon 765 series and Snapdragon 768G still have a few things in common with the 4G-toting Snapdragon 730 series, Snapdragon 732G, 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.

The recently announced Snapdragon 750G is caught between the Snapdragon 76x series and the 73x range, as it packs 5G and swaps out those Cortex-A76 CPUs for newer Cortex-A77 cores. But the chipset’s graphical capabilities and machine learning power isn’t quite as good as the Snapdragon 765 series and Snapdragon 768G.

The Snapdragon 700 series is ideal for those wanting power and features on a budget.

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 capable of running many advanced 3D games with a decent frame-rate.

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, support for 90Hz or 120Hz refresh rates, Quick Charge 4 or 4+ support, and Bluetooth 5.X capabilities.

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 8K here either, but 4K at 30fps is basically guaranteed at this tier.

Notable Snapdragon 700 series 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 newly announced Snapdragon 690 actually looks like it can duke it out with the Snapdragon 765 series.

The 8nm Snapdragon 690 is the first 5G-enabled Snapdragon 600 series processor, although it seems to offer sub-6Ghz 5G only rather than mmWave seen on Qualcomm’s more expensive 5G chips. Nevertheless, it’s using a beefy octacore CPU (2x Cortex-A77 and 6x Cortex-A55), and a solid Adreno 619L GPU. In fact, Qualcomm says you can expect a CPU and graphics boost of 20% and 60% respectively over the Snapdragon 675.

Other notable features include 4K HDR video for the first time in the Snapdragon 600 series, the firm’s Tensor Accelerator machine learning silicon, HEIF/HEVC photo and video capture for reduced file sizes, and Wi-Fi 6 connectivity.

Go down a step and you’ll find the Snapdragon 675 and the Snapdragon 670. These two SoCs 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: 2020 was the year of the mid-range smartphone

Go down even further and you get 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 also launched the Snapdragon 662 in the first half of 2020, 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 690Snapdragon 636Snapdragon 632Snapdragon 439
CPU2x Kryo 560 (Cortex-A77)
6x Kryo 560 (Cortex-A55)
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
GPUAdreno 619LAdreno 509Adreno 506Adreno 505
DSPHexagon 692
Hexagon Tensor Accelerator
Hexagon 680Hexagon 546Hexagon 536
ModemX51 5G
2,500Mbps down
900Mbps up
600Mbps down
150Mbps up
300Mbps down
150Mbps up
150Mbps down
75Mbps up
Cameras32MP single or 16MP dual
(192MP snapshot)
25MP single or 16MP dual24MP single or 13MP dual12MP single or 8MP dual
Quick Charge4+
Process8nm FinFET14nm FinFET14nm FinFET12nm 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 took a really long time to land in a smartphone.

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 460Snapdragon 450Snapdragon 439Snapdragon 429
CPU4x Kryo 240 (Cortex-A73)
4x Kryo 240 (Cortex-A53)
8x 1.8Ghz Cortex-A534x 1.95Ghz Cortex-A53
4x 1.45Ghz Cortex-A53
4x 1.95GHz Cortex-A53
GPUAdreno 610Adreno 506Adreno 505Adreno 504
DSPHexagon 683Hexagon 546Hexagon 536Hexagon 536
ModemSnapdragon 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
Cameras32MP single or 22MP dual
192MP snapshot
48MP single or 22MP dual
192MP snapshot
21MP single or 8MP dual16MP single or 8MP dual
Quick Charge3.
Process11nm FinFET14nm FinFET12nm FinFET12nm 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. You can also check out our article charting the history of the Snapdragon 800 family over here.

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