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The upcoming Qualcomm Snapdragon 735 using the 7nm EUV manufacturing process with LPP (Low Power Plus) technology. With 7nm process, more transistors could be crammed into an integrated circuit. With more transistors, a processor could be more powerful and more efficient. In fact, Samsung and another chip maker, TSMC will use 5nm technology to produce better chips. EUV (extreme ultraviolet) lithography is a critical technology for more precise placement of transistors, because each transistor is getting smaller. As an example, the newly announced Huawei Kirin 990 SoC with built-in 5G modem has 10.3 billion transistors.
The Snapdragon 735 itself is an octa-core design with two Cortex-A76 cores for heavy lifting needs at 2.32GHz and six Cortex-A55 cores at 2.26Ghz for regular tasks. Based on rumors, it includes embedded Adreno 620 GPU with support for 4k video @60fps and 12GB of RAM. Another crucial feature is support for 5G data connectivity. It means that upcoming mid-range devices would support the fast data transfer technology. As comparison, the previous Snapdragon 730 uses 8nm process with Adreno 618 GPU. The Snapdragon 735 also includes Qualcomm AI engine and support for Wi-Fi 6 standards.
For high performance smartphones, the Snapdragon 865 SoC is being eagerly awaited and it would be available for consumer devices next year. It is also produced using Samsung’s 7nm EUV manufacturing process. The current Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 and 855 Plus SoCs are manufactured by TSMC or Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company. Qualcomm’s first 5nm processor will be the Snapdragon 875 and it could be available in 2021. With 5nm manufacturing process, it’s possible to cram 171.3 million transistors for each square millimetre. In fact, both TSMC and Samsung have roadmaps for 3nm manufacturing technology.
With very high density of transistors, even low-cost smartphone models will eventually have better performance and reduced energy consumption. As comparison, the A4 SoC for Apple iPhone 4 introduced in 2010 used Cortex-A8 core with 45nm manufacturing process. As manufacturing processes become more mature, high performance chips with miniaturized architecture will become more affordable. After EUV, there could be future technologies to make miniaturization more precise, reliable and affordable.