Qualcomm's top-notch product in 2015, the Snapdragon 810, has been rumored to have defects and see unstable mass production with some media even speculating that volume production for the application processor (AP) would not start until the second quarter of 2015. However, judging from LG's and Xiaomi's scheduled launches of their Snapdragon 810-based new products, as well as information gathered by Digitimes Research, the Snapdragon 810 has already entered mass production.
The AP may have some defects but they have not stopped vendors from adopting it into their products. Compared to some other more serious problems that may affect Qualcomm's loing-term competitiveness, the Snapdragon issue is minor.
The Snapdragon 810 is Qualcomm's first design adopting the ARM 64-bit big.LITTLE architecture into its high-end platform. With a 20nm manufacturing process, the AP's performance is expected to have a dramatic improvement from previous top-of-the-line solutions.
Since the AP only uses ARM's standard architecture, the CPU part will lack uniqueness compared to other solutions and since competing APs using the same architecture are already available in the market, some market watchers are also skeptical about the Snapdragon's competitiveness.
Digitimes Research believes Qualcomm, which has never adopted big.LITTLE architecture in its products prior to the Snapdragon 810, may be in disadvantages competing against Samsung Electronics over software optimization.
Samsung's 64-bit big.LITTLE Exynos architecture has already entered the second generation. It has rich experience in the 20nm manufacturing process, and it plans to enter a 14nm manufacturing process in 2015. The Korean vendor, who has amassed a lot of experience in software/hardware integration for the big.LITTLE architecture, is expected to pose a great threat to its US-based competitor.
Compared to Samsung's 20nm products, Qualcomm's device still has some integration advantages, but against China-based Hisilicon's 16nm or Samsung's 14nm integrated products, its advantages are much less obvious.
Samsung's plan to integrate its APs with baseband chips in 2015 has prompted Qualcomm to enhance the Snapdragon 810's pairing baseband chip's specification from LTE to Cat.9, aiming to strengthen the AP's competiveness to prevent its competitors from catching up too quickly.
As for the Snapdragon 810's issues, Qualcomm's clients are more concerned about the immaturity of the platform's base software, and the hardware issues are not too much of a problem for them.
MediaTek's high-end AP the MT6595 in 2014 had an issue over DDR SDRAM's port physical layer (PHY), causing the AP's power consumption during idling to be over 30% higher than during standard operation and creating excessive heat. However, the product continues its mass production schedule as originally scheduled and Qualcomm is likely to follow suit. But problems with Qualcomm's AP are unlikely to be as bad as those of MediaTek.
Digitimes Research believes the AP's defects should have been fixed by the time the next batch of devices are shipped.
LG and Xiaomi were the earliest users of the Snapdragon 810. LG's products will enter mass production and hit store shelves by the end of January. Xiaomi's mass production schedule is a bit later than LG's, but the volume will be a lot more, showing Qualcomm's Snapdragon 810, despite defects, still are accepted by clients.
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