It is 25 per cent quicker than the Snapdragon 855 of last year….
Qualcomm formally reported recently at their Snapdragon Tech Summit, its new flagship processor, the Snapdragon 865. Yet on the second keynote day, the company goes deep into all the specifics of the new chip and what it’s going to deliver next year for the next generation of top Android users.
Qualcomm claims the new Snapdragon 865 will offer a broad range of improvements over its existing chips, especially in terms of speed, AI processing, photography, and gaming.
PERFORMANCE AND CONNECTIVITY
Clearly here 5G is a major field of focus for Qualcomm. There is not much news here, provided that Qualcomm detailed the X55 modem that will be paired with the 865 months ago Snapdragon. (The first X55 phones, the Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G T-Mobile and AT&T models, are only launched this month, albeit coupled with the new Snapdragon 855.)
However, it’s a big leap forward compared to last year’s X50 modem, with a maximum download speed of 7 gigabits per second (compared to 5Gbps on the X50.) More significantly, the X55 supports a wider range of 5G frequencies, especially in the sub-6GHz range — which is particularly important for items like T-Mobile’s just-launched 600MHz national 5G network, or Sprint’s 2.5GHz 5G plans. As Qualcomm puts it, the X55 is the first modem to “support all main regions and bands in both TDD and FDD frequencies like mmWave and sub-6.”
This is all very important for the Snapdragon 865, because the 865 itself does not provide an onboard modem at all — it will have to be combined with the cellular communication modem X55. That’s a major change from last year’s 855, which had an integrated LTE-only X24 modem which could be used by handset makers if they didn’t want to sell 5G. But now, with the 865, 5G support is still required. Similar to the Snapdragon 855, the 865 will also offer support for the regular Wi-Fi 6.
On the performance side, there are also improvements: the company says the latest Kryo 585 CPU is 25 per cent faster than last year’s Snapdragon 855, while the latest Adreno 650 GPU provides 25 per cent better performance. It’s not quite as much of a jump as last year (the Snapdragon 855 ‘s CPU was Qualcomm’s first chip to use a 7 nm processor and was up to 40 percent faster than the 845), but it should mean the Snapdragon 865 phones can handle anything you throw at them more than anything else.
CAMERA IMPROVEMENTS AND PHOTOGRAPHY
Another wide field which Qualcomm highlights with the Snapdragon 865 is camera improvements. There’s a new ISP (image signal processor) as anticipated, the Spectra 480. Here, Qualcomm ‘s major spec is that the Spectra 480 supports speeds of “2 gigapixels per second,” which it claims allows for a range of new features in photography.
Phones with a Snapdragon 865 will be able to shoot 200-megapixel images, capture 8 K footage, and record 720p quality slow-motion footage at 960 fps. In addition, Dolby Vision HDR, a first for mobile devices, will support video capture with the latest processor.
Of course, all that requires phone manufacturers to actually meet Qualcomm with the camera hardware for shooting those kinds of pictures and videos, but the Snapdragon 865 at least lays the groundwork by supporting those features right out of the box.
The Snapdragon 865 also features a few new gaming-focused apps. The latest chip will for the first time enable phones with a refresh rate of 144Hz, as will several high-end gaming monitors. Qualcomm will also allow OEMs to upgrade the Adreno GPU via app stores for the first time , enabling players to upgrade firmware over time, which is similar to PC GPUs.
Only the Snapdragon 865 promises better results on AI than the 855. Qualcomm claims the fifth-generation Qualcomm AI Engine on the 865 is twice as efficient on last year’s chipset as the fourth-gen model, while offering 35 percent better power output.
There is also a new Qualcomm Sensing Hub designed to allow things like wake-word monitoring for AI assistants such as Alexa or Google Assistant at extremely low power rates (less than 1 mW), with multiple simultaneous smart assistants being enabled.
As with many of the enhancements here, it will rely on device manufacturers and software developers developing hardware and apps that can leverage the 865’s AI-powered potential.
It is expected to release the first phones powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 865 in 2020.