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Qualcomm’s Snapdragon gets snappier

Snapdragon 855, the latest Qualcomm chipset, adds 5G connectivity and AI in a smaller package, writes BRYAN TURNER.



Qualcomm Technologies has announced the first mobile chipset to support multi-gigabit 5G connectivity, which allows a device to connect to multiple masts to get speeds of more than 1Gbps.

Qualcomm, the company that powers high-end phones like the Google Pixel, Sony Xperia, the LG G range, and some of the Samsung Galaxy line, revealed details of the Snapdragon 855 at the Snapdragon Technology Summit in Hawaii this week.

The chip also introduces smarter handset features by including artificial intelligence (AI) processing and dedicated processing for augmented reality (AR) experiences. Following in the footsteps of Huawei and Apple, the smaller 7nm chip will offer users better battery life and better processing of photography and gaming.

“As operators launch 5G networks in early 2019, consumers will – for the first time – be able to take advantage of transformative 5G consumer experiences on mobile devices with Snapdragon 855,” said Alex Katouzian, senior vice president at Qualcomm Technologies. “We are proud to share our technology inventions and be among the first to bring mobile 5G to the world.”

The embedded 5G technology is implemented in the Snapdragon X50 modem, which Qualcomm claims is up to 20 times faster than other modems on the market. Wi-Fi was also improved, adding Target Wakeup Time functionality to allow for 67% less battery usage and support for the latest WPA3 security standard.

The Snapdragon’s performance has been boosted, with the latest CPU, the Kyro 485, improving up to 45% on performance. Graphics, with the latest Adreno 650 GPU, will get a performance boost of up to 20% compared to the previous generation, while maintaining the top spot for performance per watt in the mobile graphics industry.

AI processing is up to 3 times faster than the previous generation, performing more than 7 trillion operations per second (7 TOPs). This has many applications, from taking better photos to listening to optimised audio. For example, it has applications in the on-device Voice Assistant, using dedicated AI acceleration for echo cancellation and noise suppression, so users can talk to their phone even when it’s noisy around them.

Image and video processing has been improved to current industry standards like High-Efficiency Video Codec (HEVC) and High-Efficiency Image Codec (HEIC). Not only do these save space on a user’s device by up to 50%, compared to a JPEG image, but it also allows for capturing of over 1 billion colours in HDR10+ video. The Snapdragon 855 can now classify objects the phone focuses on, in real-time, during video recording in 4K HDR at 60fps.

Overall, the announcement of the Snapdragon 855 is exciting for Android users approaching their next upgrade. OnePlus has also announced that it will be making use of the 855 in its upcoming devices. That said, Qualcomm announced that the chipset will only be ready sometime in the first half of 2019, which may mean that its implementation will be in late 2019 or early 2020.