Qualcomm is finally putting bare Snapdragon SoCs on sale with their new 410E and 600E. This may seem like a minor step but the big change is on the support side.
You may not have noticed but you can’t really buy a Qualcomm Snapdragon SoC on the open market. SemiAccurate is aware of things like the DragonBoard and other small compute boards/systems but until today the bare SoC was right out. With the new 410E and 600E you can go to Arrow Electronics and buy one, Why you would want to buy a single bare Snapdragon SoC we can’t say, but yesterday you couldn’t, today you can.
For those with a clever idea or just more sanity than those who buy a bare SoC for curiosity, Qualcomm recommends you start out with the DragonBoard 410c which has a large community to bounce questions off of and get help for. This is important because it has long been a sticking point for doing anything with Qualcomm SoCs, drivers and support.
Officially both SoCs support Android and Linux but for some reason the 410E also supports Windows 10. We will ignore that option almost as thoroughly as Microsoft ignores ARM users and focus on the Linux side. If you have ever tried to use Linux on a Qualcomm SoC, you are aware of the driver situation or lack thereof. This is where the biggest sea change from today’s announcement lies.
The good news is Qualcomm is finally starting to put out open drivers for their SoCs. They are supporting the Freedreno drivers and you can now get decent OpenGL ES support for your project. Better yet they are promising an open OpenCL driver in the near future and other bits are edging toward availability. While this is a far cry from being a complete and documented open driver set, it is a big step forward. If Qualcomm continues on this path it should go a long way toward lessening the barriers for developing nifty things based around their hardware. Fingers crossed people.
The two SoCs released today, 410E and 600E are simply embedded versions of their familiar non-E suffixed brethren. Other than a 10-year lifespan promise, there really aren’t any changes, industrial temp ranges were already there so what needs to be added? Not much so the specs for the basic models just carry over. Neither comes with a 3G/LTE modem but you can get boards with those built-in already. Adding a modem for the low volume players would only mean impossible carrier certification tasks so a pre-certified board is the only sane route.
On the low-end the Snapdragon 410E is a 4C ARM Cortex A53 at up to 1.2GHz with an adreno 306 GPU (whatever that means for shaders and performance), and the Secure MSM security module. It will push a 1920×1080 screen, 13MP camera, but only has USB2 ports. Luckily there is 802.11b/g/n, bluetooth, and GPS for radios, that should be enough for the low-end user. Single channel LPDDR2/3 is also supported along side eMMC4.5 storage. In short it is a Snapdragon 410 with an added letter for better drivers and longer life. It comes in a 12x14mm package if you are curious
If that isn’t enough for you try stepping up to the Snapdragon 600E which is definitely 190 better than the 410E. Although this one does not support Windows 10 it does offer Krait CPU cores, four of them up to 1.5GHz. Memory goes up to 128b wide DDR3/3L@533MHz, SATA3 is added, and eMMC4.51 is officially supported. No we don’t know what the .01 adds to that spec but we are pretty sure it won’t be a must have upsell for many developers. The Adreno is now a 320 but 1080p encode and decode is hardware based on this SoC.
Better yet the 600E adds the Hexagon DSP, a vastly underrated block that can make a big difference in many tasks. In this chip it is the QDSP V4 at up to 500MHz. On the camera side the ISP will do up to 21MP across four cameras or more likely two stereoscopic ones which are also directly supported. Displays go up to 2048*1536 plus you can add an external 1080p monitor or 720p Miracast stream. On the radio side 802.11ac is added along with 2×2 dual band support plus Bluetooth 3.x and 4.0LE. To pack all this in the package size grows to 23x23mm.
So that is what you can now get today, a bare Qualcomm SoC in embedded form. Better yet Qualcomm is showing signs of opening up their specs and having real, open drivers which should do a lot to soothe developer jitters around hardware support. The Snapdragon 410E and 600E may not excite those into bleeding edge hardware but what they represent should. If the documentation and support are there, Qualcomm’s new embedded Snapdragons could be a very good thing for a lot of developers.S|A