Guide to Qualcomm Snapdragon processors: What’s the difference in each?

Qualcomm is one of the biggest names in mobile CPUs. If you’ve owned a flagship smartphone in the past five years, you’ve likely heard the term Snapdragon at some point. Snapdragon is the moniker Qualcomm has adopted for the mobile arm of its processors. And while Qualcomm makes other mobile chips, Snapdragon is the one you want to keep your eye on.

The processor that governs a phone dictates a wide variety of compatible features. Processing speed, download/upload speed, camera resolution, connectivity standards, and charging are all dictated by the CPU. What this means is that a modern phone’s CPU – much like a computer’s motherboard – dictates the quality of its components.

Keep in mind that because a chip supports a technology does not necessarily mean that a phone comes with it. It simply means that the processor could, theoretically, handle such technology. For example, the new Snapdragon 845 supports the 801.11ad wireless standard, but no OEM makes a phone with that technology.

Qualcomm Snapdragon Overview

There are four main tiers of Snapdragon processors, each with its own set of features and focuses. For the purpose of this guide we have selected the most recent models, dating back to mid-2015.


Premium-Tier

Qualcomm premium-tier mobile processors with multi-core CPUs can expand the possibilities of connected computing and represent the ultimate in performance, power efficiency and 4G LTE connectivity.

If you’re researching Qualcomm processors, this tier of Snapdragons is likely why you’re here. The Snapdragon 800 series – Premium-tier, if you ask Qualcomm – is the cream of the processor crop. It represents the fastest available processing speed, the bleeding edge of connectivity potential, and the best possible camera support. For most US-sold flagship smartphones, this is the alpha and omega of mobile processors.

Snapdragon 845

Snapdragon 835

Snapdragon 821

  • Announced: July 2016
  • 2.4Ghz Quad-Core
  • Adreno 530 GPU
  • 600Mbps/150Mbps down/up
  • 28MP single or 13MP dual camera
  • 802.11ac/801.11ad WiFi
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • Quick Charge 3
  • Ex: OnePlus 3T, LG G6, Google Pixel

700 Series

New Series Designed to Allow Global OEMs to Deliver Premium Features, such as On-Device Artificial Intelligence, in High-Tier Smartphones and Meet Ever-Increasing Demands of the China Smartphone Ecosystem for More Premium Devices

While this newly-announced series of processors doesn’t yet fall into any particular category, it is intended to bridge the gap between the feature set of the 800 Series and the affordability of the 600 Series. This series will focus on bringing AI, battery performance, and Camera features from the 800 Series of processors to the masses. While no phones are currently available using this series, and no individual processors have been announced, we can expect to see phones launching with the 700 Series in the next year or so.


High-Tier

Qualcomm high-tier mobile processors are designed for performance, efficiency and versatility…

High-Tier processors are featured on a wide range of smartphones. While Qualcomm’s label would seem to indicate strong performance, most higher-end smartphones in the US will come with the more powerful Premium-Tier (800 series) processors. There are essentially two “sub-tiers” of the 600 series – those between 600 and 649, and those above 650. As we can see below, the 636 has more modern connectivity standards and Quick Charge, despite featuring a lower clocked processor than the 653.

Snapdragon 660

  • Announced: May 2017
  • 2.2GHz Octa-Core
  • Adreno 512 GPU
  • 600/150Mbps down/up
  • Up to 24MP single or 16MP dual-camera
  • 802.11ac WiFi
  • Bluetooth 5
  • Quick Charge 4.0
  • Ex: ASUS ZenFone 4, Nokia 7+

Snapdragon 653

  • Announced: October 2016
  • 1.95GHz Octa-Core
  • Adreno 510 GPU
  • 300/150Mbps down/up
  • up to 21MP single or 13MP dual camera
  • 802.11ac WiFI
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • Quick Charge 3.0
  • Ex: Vivo X9s Plus

Snapdragon 636

  • Announced: October 2017
  • 1.8GHz Octa-Core
  • Adreno 509 GPU
  • 600/150Mbps down/up
  • up to 24MP single or 16MP dual camera
  • 802.11ac WiFi
  • Bluetooth 5
  • Quick Charge 4.0
  • Ex: Xiaomi Redmi Note 5

Snapdragon 630

  • Announced: May 2017
  • 2.2GHz Octa-Core
  • Adreno 508 GPU
  • 600/150Mbps down/up
  • up to 24MP single or 13MP dual camera
  • 802.11ac WiFi
  • Bluetooth 5
  • Quick Charge 4.0
  • Ex: Moto X4

Mid-Tier

ZTE Blade V9

Qualcomm mid-tier mobile processors are designed to support the most popular smartphone and IoT features…

Mid-tier processors support the most popular smartphone features of the day. Power and specifications are not the focus in these processors, merely bringing compatibility to as many features as possible. The Snapdragon 450, 435, and 430 are examples of modern Mid-Tier processors. As we can see below, the three models have only slight differences. But in some instances – like the 450’s support of dual cameras or the 430’s low down/up speed – it can make a drastic difference in feature set for phones.

Snapdragon 450

  • Announced: June 2017
  • 1.8GHz Octa-Core
  • Adreno 506 GPU
  • 300/150Mbps down/up
  • up to 21MP camera/13MP dual camera
  • 802.11ac WiFi
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • Quick Charge 3.0
  • Ex: ZTE Blade V9

Snapdragon 435

  • Announced: February 2016
  • 1.4Ghz Octa-Core
  • Adreno 505 GPU
  • 300/150Mbps down/up
  • up to 21MP camera
  • 802.11ac WiFi
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • Quick Charge 3.0
  • Ex: LG Q6+, ZTE Blade Z Max

Snapdragon 430

  • Announced: September 2015
  • 1.4GHz Octa-Core
  • Adreno 505 GPU
  • 150/75Mbps down/up
  • up to 21MP camera
  • 802.11ac WiFi
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • Quick Charge 3.0
  • Ex: ZTE Blade V9 Vita

Entry-Level

Qualcomm entry-level mobile processors are designed for OEMs…to gain access to quality, affordable, reliable mobile devices.

Entry-level processors support lower download and upload speeds, less processing power, and older connectivity standards for WiFi and Bluetooth. They feature heavily phones at this point, or very low-end smartphones. Currently the only modern Entry-level processor made by Qualcomm is the Snapdragon 212 – preceded by the 210, back in 2014. For the most part, true smartphones on the market won’t be using Entry-level processors; they’ll feature Mid-Tier and above.

Snapdragon 212

  • Announced: July 2015
  • 1.3GHz Quad-Core
  • Adreno 304 GPU
  • 150/50Mbps down/up
  • up to 16MP camera
  • 802.11n WiFi
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • Quick Charge 2.0
  • Ex: Nokia 2