The Snapdragon 865 chipset is ‘loaded with 5G,’ according to Qualcomm, and it’s ready to power the next round flagship-level Android smartphones starting in early 2020.
It’ll almost certainly be found at the heart of the Samsung Galaxy S11, Note 11, LG G9, OnePlus 8, Google Pixel 5 and so on, although the official Snapdragon 865 phones list will have to wait – likely until MWC 2020.
Qualcomm’s 5G-capable chipset, unveiled at its annual Snapdragon Tech Summit in Hawaii, foreshadows what to expect from your smartphone next year. It’ll be in the majority of top-tier phones – everything except Huawei phones and Apple iPhones.
But even iPhone owners should pay attention to the new Snapdragon 865 features. Qualcomm’s roadmap often shapes where the mobile devices industry goes, and we know Qualcomm’s modems are going to start being used in the 5G iPhone.
Snapdragon 865 features are primary focused on expanding 5G speeds, doubling down on gaming performance, and improving photo and video quality on the many, many cameras employed by smartphones these days.
Snapdragon 865 specs
Qualcomm is touting new architecture among its Snapdragon 865 specs, made up of a Kryo 585 CPU, Adreno 650 GPU, Spectra 480 ISP, Hexagon 698 processor and sensing hub.
Its CPU can run up to 2.84GHz, according to Qualcomm, and the GPU is supposed to offer 20% faster graphics rendering. We’ll be running Snapdragon 865 benchmark tests soon to confirm these numbers.
The standout in the Snapdragon 865 specs sheet, however, is the 35% increase in the power efficiency for intense tasks, like gaming. As powerful as GPUs have become in smartphones, we know peak performance only lasts so long before throttling sets in. Qualcomm says it wants to go the distance with the new 865 chip.
Snapdragon 865 has 5G, but without integration
The Snapdragon 865 is driving 5G in two ways: it’ll be faster with download speeds of up to 7.5Gbps, and be found in more smartphones you actually want in 2020.
Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X55 5G modem achieves these peak download speeds via mmWave and sub-6 standards, the backbone of 5G. But it also employs tricks like Dynamic Spectrum Sharing, which combines 5G and 4G spectrum for faster throughput.
Upload speeds are also set to improve, reaching 3Gbps in ideal 5G conditions. That’s something we really haven’t seen from carriers in our 5G speed tests in the US, as the hype around uplink speeds has long trailed good download speed performance.
Interestingly, the Snapdragon 865 is being coupled with the Snapdragon X55 5G modem as a separate chip. This means the modem isn’t actually integrated into the mobile chipset, but you also won’t be able to get a Snapdragon 865 phone without the 5G chip. So don’t expect new phones with the 865 to be 4G-only.
That’s more of a concern for smartphone manufacturers, which have to account for the modem within the confines of their smartphone and also power it separately. But it could affect the size and power consumption of the next smartphones.
The Snapdragon Tech Summit continues this week, so we’ll have more updates about the Snapdragon 865 and hopefully soon the first benchmarks of the chipset.
Snapdragon 865 is ready for 200MP photos, 8K video
Besides 5G, the most consumer-facing perks of the Snapdragon 865 chipset are the improvements to cameras. You’ll notice an uptick in both photo and video quality.
Specifically, the Qualcomm Spectra 480 Image Signal Processor boosts the megapixel count to 200MP. Note: it’s really up to phone manufacturers to use these grandiose capabilities, so you may not actually see 200MP smartphones yet. We saw Samsung ditch HDR video capture the first year it was employed to keep parity with its Exynos chip, which went into its Galaxy S10 and Note 10 phones in some regions, and didn’t have that capability.
When it comes to video, we’re going to see 8K resolution video, one billion shades of color and support for the HGL format and Dolby Vision captured in real time.
Dolby Vision capture is going to be important simply because other phones out there right now have high-end screens that support seeing Dolby Vision. But capturing it is going to be limited to new phones – meaning you friends will see you amazing footage and have camera phone envy.
Slow motion video can be fun, but in 2019 it’s fairly limited – super slo mo modes at 960fps often cut out after ten seconds. That’s going to change in 2020 with unlimited super slow motion video. You’ll also see slo mo at 4K 120fps.
- Comparison: Check out the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 feature set last year.