The long-awaited successor to the Snapdragon 653 is here.

Qualcomm made the switch to the 14nm manufacturing node with the Snapdragon 820, which started rolling out at the beginning of 2016. The company also made the 14nm node accessible to the mid-range segment with the Snapdragon 625, the successor to the Snapdragon 617. The 14 FinFET node allowed for vastly increased efficiency, with the SD625 consuming 35% less energy when compared to the 28nm SD617.

As a result, the Snapdragon 625 turned out to be extremely popular, powering everything from the $150 Redmi Note 4 to the $500 BlackBerry KEYone. Looking ahead to the latter half of 2017, Qualcomm has rolled out key updates to the Snapdragon 600 series with two new chipsets — the Snapdragon 630 and the Snapdragon 660.

The Snapdragon 630 is the direct successor to the Snapdragon 625, offering 30% faster cores, support for Bluetooth 5, a faster LTE modem, USB 3.1 with USB-C, a new ISP, and Quick Charge 4.0.

The Snapdragon 660 is the more interesting of the two, as it is the successor to the Snapdragon 653. The Snapdragon 660 is designed to bring flagship-class performance to the mid-range segment, with Qualcomm rolling out a slew of updates.

The chipset features custom Kryo cores — a first for this segment, a new Adreno 512 GPU, Snapdragon X12 LTE modem with download speeds of 600Mbps and 3x carrier aggregation, Wi-Fi ac with 2x2 MU-MIMO, a Spectra 160 image signal processor, Bluetooth 5, Quick Charge 4.0, and USB 3.1. Qualcomm is touting a 20% increase in performance when compared to the SD653 from the new Kryo 260 cores, and a 30% uptick for the GPU.

Before we delve in, a look at the specs on offer with the Snapdragon 660.

Snapdragon 660 specs

Snapdragon 660 specs

Category Snapdragon 660 Snapdragon 653
CPU Four 2.2GHz Kryo 260 cores
Four 1.8GHz Kryo 260 cores
Four 1.95GHz Cortex A72 cores
Four 1.44GHz Cortex A53 cores
GPU Adreno 512
850MHz
Adreno 510
600MHz
Memory Dual-channel LPDDR4 at 1866MHz
29.9GB/s
Dual-channel LPDDR3 at 933MHz
14.9GB/s
LTE Snapdragon X12 LTE (Cat. 12)
600Mbps downlink, 150Mbps uplink
3x20MHz CA, 256-QAM
Snapdragon X9 LTE (Cat. 7)
300Mbps downlink, 150Mbps uplink
2x20MHz CA, 64-QAM
Wi-Fi Wi-Fi ac Wave2
Max 867Mbps throughput
2x2 MU-MIMO
Wi-Fi ac Wave2
Max 433Mbps throughput
ISP 14-bit Spectra 160
24MP single, dual 16MP
Zero shutter lag, hybrid autofocus, optical zoom
Dual ISP
21MP single
Bluetooth Bluetooth 5 Bluetooth 4.1
Fast charging Quick Charge 4.0 Quick Charge 3.0
Node 14nm LPP (Low Power Plus) 28nm HPm (High Performance Mobile)

There's no information on the underlying ARM core the Kryo 260 is based on, but it's likely Qualcomm is using a semi-custom design, much like what it did with the Kryo 280 on the Snapdragon 835. The core configuration is split into two sectors — performance and efficiency, with the former featuring four 2.2GHz cores and the latter four 1.8GHz cores.

The Spectra 160 is particularly interesting, as it enables a lot of camera experiences that have thus far been limited to flagship chipsets. The ISP supports hybrid autofocus, dual rear camera setups (up to 16MP for each imaging sensor), dual photodiode autofocus, smooth optical zoom, and EIS for video.

Snapdragon 660 benchmarks

Snapdragon 660 Google Octane 2.0

The OPPO R11 is the first phone to feature the Snapdragon 660, and it gives us an early look at how the Snapdragon 660 fares when compared to the likes of the Snapdragon 652, Snapdragon 835, and others.

The benchmarks show a performance increase across the board for the Snapdragon 660, with the chipset coming close to last year's flagship SoCs. That's consistent with what I've seen in the two weeks I used the R11. There's a noticeable uptick in battery life as well from the likes of the Snapdragon 650/652/653.

For now, the main issue with the Snapdragon 660 is its availability, or lack thereof. The OPPO R11 is limited to Asia, and won't be available outside of the region anytime soon. More devices powered by the Snapdragon 660 should be rolling out in Q4, and if recent rumors are any indication, the Moto X4 will be the first phone to be powered by the Snapdragon 660 in the U.S.

Once it becomes mainstream, I think it will quickly become one of the most popular mid-range chips on the market; from a CPU perspective, it benchmarks close to the Snapdragon 835 in some respects, and handily beats every other budget SoC on the market. Lots to look forward to!