Qualcomm Hexagon 680 promises improved location, better photos, and more battery life

Qualcomm Hexagon 680 DSP makes Snapdragon chips faster.

Qualcomm‘s new Hexagon 680 digital signal processor chip makes a lot of promises. The new mobile chip will enable better battery life for mobile devices, improved location data even when you don’t have a strong navigation signal, and photos that have a better blend of dark and bright imagery.

Qualcomm said that the new Hexagon 680 DSP will be part of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor and lead to better smartphones with improved camera and computing capabilities. You’ll see these chips in the next generation of mobile devices in the coming years.

The San Diego, Calif.-based company is describing the details of the Hexagon 680 this week at the Hot Chips engineering conference in Cupertino, Calif.

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The Hexagon 680 DSP offloads tasks from the main Snapdragon 820 processor. This is a more efficient way to do processing because the DSP was engineered to get certain kinds of tasks done faster while consuming less power than the central processing unit. The Hexagon DSP can double the music playback battery life on the Nexus 5.

The Hexagon 680 can handle sensor processing. The DSP is like a low-power island within the chip, so it can handle duties for parts of a phone that are always on, such as those counting steps or receiving data from sensors on your location. The latter task enables a smartphone to provide more accurate location information when you don’t have a strong global positioning system (GPS) signal.

Qualcomm also gets more power from the Hexagon 680 in the form of Hexagon Vector eXtensions. This added hardware supports advanced imaging and computer vision when used with the Qualcomm Spectra camera image sensor. In low-light situations, the Snapdragon 820 processor will use the image sensor and DSP to adaptively brighten areas of both video and photos that would otherwise appear too dark. With Hexagon 680, the Snapdragon 820 can perform this task three times faster than earlier generations of processors and at only 10 percent of the power.

With Hexagon 680 integrated into Snapdragon 820, Qualcomm said “the DSP is taking center stage on a wider-range of the newest user experiences.”

Qualcomm's Hexagon 680 DSP can brighten a picture that is too dark.

Above: Qualcomm’s Hexagon 680 DSP can brighten a picture that is too dark.

Image Credit: Qualcomm


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