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Qualcomm reveals next generation of budget processors

Mobile technology is entering a phase that will place even higher demands on performance. And with an expected rocket launch for virtual reality, the display market will strive to meet demand for more tightly packed pixels, stable performance, and the implementation of high-end components into mid- and low-end devices.

Qualcomm Incorporated, Inc., has revealed in a press release the three new smartphone processors that aim to satisfy these emerging requirements. The processors include the mid-end Snapdragon 625, and the two low-end processors 435 and 425.

Some features are shared across all three of these processors. All models support LTE with carrier-specific alterations. They also support Snapdragon All Mode, enabling transceiver support for all major cellular technologies. Wi-Fi connections support the wireless networking standard 802.11ac with MU-MIMO (multiuser, multiple input, multiple output). If you have a router that supports MU-MIMO you can expect improved connectivity when using multiple devices simultaneously.

Android M is also supported thanks to power-efficient audio with sensor hub via the Qualcomm Hexagon DSP. Moreover, the Snapdragon 435 and 425 are pin compatible with each other as well as with the Snapdragon 430. Manufacturers can thus more freely choose which processors they wish to use without changing a phone’s design. All three processors are software compatible, and they’re all designed for a long-lasting battery life.

Related: Review of the MU-MIMO Equipped Netgear Nighthawk X8

Qualcomm says that the Snapdragon 625 provides a “dramatic increase in performance” compared to the previous generation. A new addition is a 14nm FinFET technology which supposedly yields up to 35 percent reduction in power consumption. The processor uses an octa-core ARM Cortex-A53 CPU and carries an X9 LTE modem that supports 4G+, allegedly three times the speed of a traditional LTE device.

For anyone looking to share 4K material without Wi-Fi (we’ll hold a funeral for their data plan) that should make for a smoother process, says Qualcomm. The 625 also supports improved 4K video coding, recording, and playback. The company even hints at improvements for low-light situations. Manufacturers will also be able to offer a 24-megapixel rear camera, and a 14-megapixel camera at the front. The 625 GPU is a Qualcomm Adreno 506 which supports display resolutions up to 1,920 x 1,200. It’s designed to support the (hopefully) slightly delayed Vulkan API which has been referred to as the Next Generation OpenGL Initiative. All this should only mean more graphical fidelity and performance for the mid- and low-end consumer.

The Snapdragon 435 is obviously a little lacking in the powerhouse department. But considering that it will be used in the cheaper devices, you seem to be getting a lot for your money. It integrates an octa-core ARM Cortex-A53 CPU and is the first low-end processor to integrate the X8 LTE modem with support for 4G+ and speeds up to 300Mbps when downloading and 100Mbps when uploading. It supports user interfaces at 1080p at 60 frames per second, and for photos it supports 21 megapixel photos and hybrid autofocus. To watch all of that captured content you’ll be relying on the Adreno 505 GPU, which is also being designed to support the upcoming version of the Vulkan API.

The Snapdragon 425 is Qualcomm’s next entry-point processor. It offers a 64-bit, quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 CPU and an Adreno 308 GPU, and it displays HD material at 60FPS (meaning no entry-level 1080p crispness yet). The dual Image Signal Processors (ISP) support 15-megapixel photo support as well as “an improved camera and video experience.” There’s an integrated X6 LTE modem with upload speeds up to 75Mbps meant for high-speed LTE connectivity in emerging regions like China and India.

Overall it’s an improvement on data handling as well as image processing, which seems to be in line with the target market. Considering that none of these phones are expected to run the latest games or the most demanding applications, the optimization is likely targeted at social media use. Facebook is cramping up with more videos than before, and combined with platforms like Snapchat, the price class is best suited for battery-life optimization as well as sharing images and videos on social media.

We’ll have to wait to see how well all of these features perform via these processors. A distribution of samples to manufacturers is expected in mid-2016, and commercial devices are expected to land in the second half of 2016.