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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.

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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.

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Arts and Entertainment

Netflix to make SA series

The world leader in streaming movies has announced the first South African production to join its Originals roster.

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World leader in entertainment streaming services Netflix this week announced its first Original series in Africa, with South African series Queen Sono.

The news comes immediately in the wake of local rival Showmax announcing it’s first original drama production. In this context, it heralds a new phase in the evolution of streaming video-on-demand in South Africa.

The action-packed series follows Queen Sono, the highly trained top spy in a South African agency whose purpose is to better the lives of African citizens. While taking on her most dangerous mission yet, she must also face changing relationships in her personal life. The series will be created by Director, Kagiso Lediga and Executive producer Tamsin Andersson.

South African actress, Pearl Thusi, will star as Queen Sono, with the character having been created with her in mind. Thusi is also known for her performance in the romantic dramedy, Catching Feelings, available on Netflix.

Pearl Thusi stars as Queen Sono in Netflix’s first original series in Africa.

“We are excited to be working with Kagiso and Pearl, to bring the story of Queen Sono to life, and we expect it to be embraced by our South African users and global audiences alike.” said Erik Barmack, Vice President of International Original Series at Netflix.

“We are delighted to create this original series with Netflix, and are super excited by their undeniable ability to take this homegrown South African story to a global audience. We believe Queen Sono will kick the door open for more awesome stories from this part of the world” added the director and executive producer of the series, Kagiso Lediga.

The series is due to start production in 2019.

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Microsoft adds Chrome to Edge

Microsoft is working to build a new version of its Edge browser on the open-source version of Google Chrome, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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After 20 years of backing Internet Explorer and its underlying software technologies, Microsoft has chosen to integrate Chromium, the open source version of Google Chrome. This announcement comes just three years after launching Microsoft Edge, the refreshed version of Internet Explorer.

“We intend to adopt the Chromium open source project in the development of Microsoft Edge on the desktop to create better web compatibility for our customers and less fragmentation of the web for all web developers,” said Joe Belfiore, corporate VP at Windows, in a blog post on 6 December.

The change affects the back-end elements of the browser that run in the background to make the web pages work for the user. The shift includes scrapping Microsoft’s EdgeHTML rendering engine in favour of Chrome’s Blink.

Utilising the Blink engine will allow Microsoft to support versions of new Edge on Windows 7, 8 and 10, as well as a version for macOS. Belfiore said that the company had also started contributing to the Chromium open source project: “We’ve begun making contributions to the Chromium project to help move browsing forward on new ARM-based Windows devices.”

Microsoft’s move to Chrome has shifted the “browser wars” in favour of Google Chrome, as Opera and Edge will now both be using Chrome’s rendering engine.

“If you’re a Microsoft Edge customer, there is nothing you need to do, as the Microsoft Edge you use today isn’t changing. If you are a web developer, we invite you to join our community by installing preview builds when they’re available and staying current on our testing and contributions.” said Belfiore.

Edge’s project manager, Kyle Alden, confirmed in a Reddit thread that Chrome extensions will be compatible with the new version of Edge. It is expected to launch in a preview build in early 2019.

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