Today Qualcomm is making a rather unexpected SoC announcement in the form of the new Snapdragon 870. The chip is a rather odd release in Qualcomm’s chipset line-up in that this is actually a part derived from last year’s Snapdragon 865 series, with the new model being a new silicon bin that ups the clock frequencies for a small boost in performance, even though it’s getting a model name that would indicate more substantial changes (of which there aren’t).

Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 SKUs
SoC Snapdragon 865 Snapdragon 865+

Snapdragon 870

CPU 1x Cortex A77
@ 2.84GHz 1x512KB pL2

3x Cortex A77
@ 2.42GHz 3x256KB pL2

4x Cortex A55
@ 1.80GHz 4x128KB pL2

4MB sL3 @ ?MHz
1x Cortex A77
@ 3.09GHz 1x512KB pL2

3x Cortex A77
@ 2.42GHz 3x256KB pL2

4x Cortex A55
@ 1.80GHz 4x128KB pL2

4MB sL3 @ ?MHz
1x Cortex A77
@ 3.2GHz 1x512KB pL2

3x Cortex A77
@ 2.42GHz 3x256KB pL2

4x Cortex A55
@ 1.80GHz 4x128KB pL2

4MB sL3 @ ?MHz
GPU Adreno 650 @ 587 MHz Adreno 650 @ 670MHz
DSP / NPU Hexagon 698

(Total CPU+GPU+HVX+Tensor)
4x 16-bit CH

@ 2133MHz LPDDR4X / 33.4GB/s
@ 2750MHz LPDDR5  /  44.0GB/s

3MB system level cache
ISP/Camera Dual 14-bit Spectra 480 ISP

1x 200MP

64MP ZSL or 2x 25MP ZSL

4K video & 64MP burst capture
8K30 / 4K120 10-bit H.265

Dolby Vision, HDR10+, HDR10, HLG

720p960 infinite recording
Integrated Modem none
(Paired with external X55 only)

(LTE Category 24/22)
DL = 2500 Mbps
7x20MHz CA, 1024-QAM
UL = 316 Mbps
3x20MHz CA, 256-QAM

(5G NR Sub-6 + mmWave)
DL = 7000 Mbps
UL = 3000 Mbps
Mfc. Process TSMC
7nm (N7P)

Still being based off the “SM8250” silicon chip design that we saw employed in the Snapdragon 865 and Snapdragon 865+ last year, the new Snapdragon 870 is also part of this family, with it being the “AC” suffix SKU on the aforementioned part model number.

The specification changes compared to the Snapdragon 865+ which was released last summer are rather limited and, only concern the prime CPU core: The fastest Cortex-A77 core here goes up from 3.09GHz to 3.2GHz.

Qualcomm’s rationale for calling it the Snapdragon 870 is simply that they didn’t want to go the route of using something like a “Snapdragon 865 Plus Plus”, though I would argue that calling it a “Snapdragon 865 Pro” or “Snapdragon 866” might have been a bit more representative of what the chip is.

The release of this new SKU is quite weird, as it’s the first time ever that Qualcomm has announced a refresh of a last-generation part following the announcement and commercial release of their latest flagship SoC, that being the newer Snapdragon 888.

In today’s press release, Qualcomm shares that key customers such as Motorola, iQOO, OnePlus, OPPO and Xiaomi will be making use of the Snapdragon 870 in a selection of flagship devices this year. That’s also indeed quite weird, as in the past we’ve rarely seen vendors release new phones based on a past-year SoC design.

One theory I had is that because this generation we haven’t yet seen a successor to the Snapdragon 765 (which had been announced in 2019 in tandem with the 865), and that maybe instead of making a dedicated SoC in that “premium” SoC range, the company could recycle previous-year flagship SoCs, a tactic which in my view could be perfectly valid and viable. The company however dismissed the idea, disclosing that the new 870 not meant to replace the 765, and that a true successor to the 765 will be coming further down the line.

So it seems that this year we’ll be seeing new contemporary smartphone designs with both the Snapdragon 888 as well as the Snapdragon 870 in the flagship segment, which will be quite interesting to see how that plays out in terms of performance, feature, and especially pricing differentiation.

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  • brucethemoose - Tuesday, January 19, 2021 - link

    Aren't fabs absolutely swamped atm?

    Recycling silicon from an old, possibly less supply constrained node makes sense to me, though I wish they'd *underclock* the 865 a bit instead.
  • eastcoast_pete - Wednesday, January 20, 2021 - link

    +1 on that. An efficiency -tuned, underclocked, lower voltage 865 would be attractive, and make for a competent SoC that can go all day with a 4,500 mAh battery even with a 90 Hz screen. Unfortunately, that idea (stamina) seems to be lost on most manufacturers.
  • iphonebestgamephone - Thursday, January 21, 2021 - link

    A nice custom kernel would fix that. Though then you end up paying extra for the unwanted mhz.
  • iphonebestgamephone - Thursday, January 21, 2021 - link

    Oems could just implement low power modes like huawei too.
  • Appleispoop - Monday, January 25, 2021 - link

    Mediatek's dimensity 1200 is much much better in CPU

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