Summary:

Samsung passed on using the Snapdragon 800 to power its new Galaxy S5, instead opting for the newer 801 chip. Is there really that much of a difference? Actually, yes, and it’s why the Galaxy S5 has some new features and more speed.

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When Samsung’s Galaxy S5 goes on sale, customers will likely be impressed by the new features, improved speed and reduced software complexity. My colleague Alex Colon’s hands-on experience with the Galaxy S5 suggests Samsung improved it over the Galaxy S4 in just the right places. Quite a few of those improvements come from the silicon under the hood: Namely, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 801.

A few recent phones and tablets use the Snapdragon 800 — Samsung’s newest tablets and Nokia’s Lumia 1520, for example — so a jump up to the 801 can’t be that big of a deal, right? Actually, it’s more than you might think.

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First there’s the expected jump in processing speed. Qualcomm says the new Krait 400 cores can run at up to 2.5 GHz. The company didn’t just focus on general computational speed though. Digital imaging processing is faster as well and likely contributes heavily towards how fast the Galaxy S5 can snap a picture. Samsung said it takes just 0.3 seconds to auto-focus and take an image.

Power efficiency is improved in a few ways as well. Phone Scoop noted that the Snapdragon 801 includes LTE baseband support on the chip itself; any time you can integrate multiple chip functions on a single piece of silicon you can save power and space. The 801 also supports Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 2.0 which can recharge a device 75 percent faster and has native support for fast 802.11ac Wi-Fi.

While Qualcomm has already announced the Snapdragon 805 with even more improvements, Samsung is smartly choosing a chip that’s available now to enhance its phone. It’s likely that some Galaxy S5 variants will run on Samsung’s own Exynos chip, but for those buying one with a Snapdragon 801, you’re getting some potent power inside your phone. Note too that Qualcomm has introduced 64-bit compatibility in some of its chips; oddly, the lower-end and mid-range chips get that first so the 801 doesn’t support 64-bit software.

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