Device coverage in the smartphone world tends to focus on high-end products, rather than midrange or upper midrange hardware. That makes sense, from a feature standpoint, since companies tend to debut new capabilities in their highest-end devices, but it misses some of the improvements that happen lower down the stack. Qualcomm’s new upper-midrange and midrange Snapdragon 600 refreshes were announced today, and both parts are a solid improvement over their predecessors.
Both the Snapdragon 630 and 660 are being upgraded with the X12 LTE modem that debuted with the Snapdragon 820 last year. You don’t need to sweat the technical details too much on this — the bottom line is that the newer modem is capable of up to 600Mbps downstream and 150Mbps upstream connectivity. The new Snapdragon 660 SoC is also an eight-core chip, with four Kryo CPU cores clocked at 2.2GHz, and four clocked at 1.8GHz. Total memory bandwidth is 29.9GBps, nearly double what the Snapdragon 650, 652, and 653 offered. Technologies like QuickCharge 4 and a Spectra 160 ISP round out the chip. The Spectra 160 ISP isn’t quite as powerful as the Spectra 180 ISP in the Snapdragon 835, but it’s still a capable processor in its own right.
Overall, the Snapdragon 660 should be considered the upper-midrange SoC with some capabilities and features that bleed over from the high-end 8xx family. The degree to which users notice the difference between a high-end 6xx and the 8xx series will depend on how aggressively they use their phones.
Meanwhile, the Snapdragon 630 is intended as a midrange, workhorse part with strong battery life and good (if not stunning) overall performance. This new SoC combines four Cortex-A53 cores (clocked at 2.2GHz) with four high-efficiency Cortex-A53 cores running at 1.8GHz. GPU performance is provided by the Adreno 508 (likely just a clock-bumped Adreno 506) and overall memory bandwidth is just 10.66GBps. This still represents a significant improvement over previous devices, but the Snapdragon 630 won’t break speed records.
As recent reviews have shown, however, these midrange SoCs can deliver killer battery life when paired with modest phone specs. Modest, in this case, is quite relative — your budget devices of 2017 would be a cutting-edge piece of equipment back in 2013, if not later. The BlackBerry KeyOne runs on a Snapdragon 625, and this SoC should be noticeably faster, with higher CPU clocks, a faster GPU, 1.43x more memory bandwidth, and a higher-end modem. If you want a device that balances battery life against absolute performance, the midrange market is where to look these days.