Earlier this year, Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) began shipping its Snapdragon 835 applications processor for premium smartphones. The chip offered numerous performance, feature, and efficiency improvements over its predecessor, the Snapdragon 821, with an updated design and a transition to Samsung's (NASDAQOTH:SSNLF) 10-nanometer LPE manufacturing technology.
Chinese website MyDrivers recently published a purported set of specifications of the successor to the Snapdragon 835, called the Snapdragon 845. Let's examine whether those specifications could be legitimate or if they contain obvious enough errors to be deemed "fake."
The specifications and a sniff test
The leaked specifications claim the Snapdragon 845 will be built on Samsung's 10-nanometer LPE technology and will include four ARM Cortex A75 CPU high-performance cores as well as four ARM Cortex A53 low-power cores, Adreno 630 graphics, a built-in LTE modem with peak download speeds of 1.2 gigabits per second, and a 64-bit LPDDR4X memory interface.
Most of these claimed specifications are sensible and, frankly, represent logical progressions from what Qualcomm is shipping in the Snapdragon 835. It makes sense that Qualcomm would use updated ARM cores, though the implication here seems to be that Qualcomm will use standard ARM cores rather than customized ones as used in the Snapdragon 835. Adreno 630 sounds like the natural successor to the Adreno 530, a faster LTE modem makes sense, and a similar memory interface to what Qualcomm employed in the Snapdragon 835 is also reasonable.
The only part of those specifications that doesn't quite make sense is the claim that the chip will be manufactured using the same 10-nanometer LPE technology the Snapdragon 835 processor is built with.
10-nanometer LPP is a more likely choice
It's far more likely that the Snapdragon 845, if that's what it is ultimately called, will be manufactured using Samsung's 10-nanometer LPP technology -- a performance-enhanced version of the 10-nanometer LPE technology used to build the Snapdragon 835 -- than recycling 10-nanometer LPE again.
According to Samsung, the 10-nanometer LPP technology can either deliver 10% better performance or 15% lower power consumption than 10-nanometer LPE. And perhaps more relevant to this discussion, Samsung has previously indicated that it will begin manufacturing chips using 10-nanometer LPP by the end of 2017.
If Samsung will be ready to mass-produce chips using 10-nanometer LPP by the end of 2017, then it doesn't make sense for Qualcomm to release a premium smartphone chip -- a chip for which Samsung will probably be its largest customer -- using the older 10-nanometer LPE technology.
Is it legitimate?
The specifications given in this purported leak are vague enough that they could simply be the product of an educated guess. There are no hard performance numbers, for example. Or they could be from a legitimate source. However, it's hard to ignore the gaffe in these specifications with respect to the manufacturing technology choice for the chip. Was it a simple typo, or was this a sloppy educated guess?
At any rate, I'm sure we'll know more about the next-generation premium Snapdragon processors later this year, as Qualcomm generally pre-announces future smartphone processors months, if not quarters, before shipment.