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Qualcomm  today unveiled Snapdragon 821, the latest version of its flagship Snapdragon 820 processor line first announced earlier this year. As the small increment suggests, the new processor offers a slight improvement on its predecessor, including a 10 percent increase in performance, bringing its top speed up to 2.4 GHz, according to the company.Mark Shedd, Qualcomm’s director of marketing, acknowledged that incremental performance improvement was not enough to warrant replacing the months-old 820 with the 821.

“Why would you introduce something to replace what many consider the best mobile processor available today? Simple, we’re not,” Shedd wrote today on the company’s blog. “Rather than replace the Snapdragon 820, the 821 is designed to complement and extend the competitive strengths of our Snapdragon 800 lineup.”

The 820 has already been included in more than 115 smartphone and tablet device deployments, including the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge, Xiaomi Mi5, LG G5, HTC 10, LeEco LeMax 2, and Sony Xperia X, according to the company.

Small but Important Improvements

The new chip is based on Qualcomm’s quad-core CPU architecture, codename Kryo. Besides just delivering faster speeds, the 821 also offers improved power savings and application performance. The logic behind the release of the 821 is to help the 800 tier keep pace with the growing performance demands of users and keep it in the top spot among high performing chips, according to Shedd.

Snapdragon Chip with logo

Since the Snapdragon 820 was introduced at CES 2016 in January, its reputation for high performance has won it a place of privilege among high-end smartphones. The new processor quickly leveraged the technologies bundled into its platform, such as the X12 LTE modem, to land a leadership position in the high-end market.

One of the key issues for Qualcomm seems to be ensuring the viability of the 820 tier for powering increasingly popular mobile head mounted virtual reality (VR) applications. Like the 820, the new model will sport the X12 LTE integrated modem to help it support download speeds of up to 600 Mbps while the company’s Snapdragon Upload+ technology provides a better coverage area.

DayDream Believer

The 821 will also feature some minor graphics improvements over the 820. Along with the improved battery life introduced in the 821, the other new features should help bolster Snapdragon’s case as a viable mobile VR processor, capable of supporting platforms such as Google’s DayDream.

Shedd endorsed the idea that the 821’s improvements would help it support VR systems such as the DayDream. “Because the Snapdragon 820 helped improve the user experience for mobile imaging, virtual reality, battery life, and connectivity speed and reliability, all the updates we’ve included in Snapdragon 821 will help keep devices powered by Snapdragon 800 premium-tier processors at the top of people’s shopping lists into the foreseeable future,” he said.

Consumers can expect to see commercial devices sporting the Snapdragon 821 hit the market as early as this quarter.

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