Latest Snapdragons Will Make Cheap Camera Phones Better

Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 may be getting all the attention as of late, given the processing oomph it adds to Samsung's Galaxy S8. But Qualcomm is taking the wraps off a pair of new mobile processors that should boost the image-capture and communication abilities of more affordable smartphones.

Credit: Qualcomm

(Image credit: Qualcomm)

Unveiled today (May 8), the Snapdragon 660 and 630 mobile processing platforms feature the kind of performance and power efficiency boost you'd expect from a new generation of chips over their predecessors. But the new Snapdragons also include Qualcomm's Spectra 160 image signal processor, which should bolster the picture-taking capabilities of upcoming smartphones, as well as the X12 modem for faster LTE performance.

The Snapdragon 660 replaces the Snapdragon 653, which we haven't seen on too many U.S.-bound phones. Meanwhile, the Snapdragon 630 is billed as a successor to the Snapdragon 626, which itself was an enhancement over the Snapdragon 625 that's appeared in a range of phones including the Moto G5 Plus and BlackBerry KeyOne.

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The promised imaging improvements delivered by the Snapdragon 660 and 630 are easily the most interesting things about these new mobile processors. The Spectra 160 ISP included with both processors should improve low-light camera performance in phones powered by the chips, Qualcomm says. The ISP also enables features like smooth optical zoom, bokeh effects and dual-pixel autofocus. Qualcomm is promising better power efficiency and higher throughput for smartphones with dual-lens cameras.

We're seeing a growing number of smartphones adding dual lenses, and not just on high-end phones like the iPhone 7 Plus. The arrival of the Snapdragon 660 and 630 will likely continue the trend of dual-camera phones with lower price tags.

As for connectivity, the X12 LTE modem and SDR660 RF transceiver included with the Snapdragon 660 and 630 should double downlink speeds, according to Qualcomm. The chipmaker promises peak downlink data rates of 600 Mbps, the first time Qualcomm's 600-tier can support those speeds. The new chips also support Bluetooth 5 connectivity.

Qualcomm says the Snapdragon 660 offers a 20 percent performance boost over the Kryo 260 CPU on the Snapdragon 530. The new chip boosts Adreno 512 GPU performance by 30 percent over its predecessor.

Improvements are more modest for the Snapdragon 630, which offers a 10 percent improvement over the Snapdragon 625's CPU. The Adreno 508 GPU on the Snapdragon 630 is 30 percent faster, though.

While Qualcomm says both its new mobile platforms should bolster battery life, the Snapdragon 660 figures to be the more power-friendly processor of the two. Qualcomm says to expect two more hours of battery life from the new processor. Both the 660 and 630 will support Quick Charge 4, which can add up to 50 percent of battery life in 15 minutes of charging.

The Snapdragon 660 is already available and could start appearing in phones by the end of June. Qualcomm says the 630 will ship later this month, with phones featuring the new processor expected in the third quarter.

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.