Qualcomm has announced Snapdragon 845, the next generation mobile platform for flagship smartphones launching in 2018. The chipset is expected to be at the heart of flagships such as Galaxy S9, Galaxy S9+, LG G7, Xiaomi Mi 7 and OnePlus 6. Similar to previous Snapdragon chipsets, Qualcomm is bringing performance improvements. But the focus is on artificial intelligence and security.
What exactly is in the 845?
Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 is based on 10nm FinFET architecture like its predecessor but relies on a new process. The chipset is mass produced by Samsung and relies on second generation LPP (Low-Power Plus) process, which the South Korean company claims will bring 10 percent performance improvement or 15 percent reduction in power consumption in comparison to older LPE (Low-Power Early) process. Samsung will be using the same process for its own Exynos range of chipsets as well.
For starters, Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 is an octa-core chipset with four Cortex A75 cores and four Cortex A55 cores. Qualcomm says the new Kryo 385 custom CPU brings 25 percent improvement in performance and 3 percent advantage in battery life. The Snapdragon 845 SoC also includes new Adreno 630 visual processing subsystem with 30 percent graphics improvement. This could well be the most crucial improvement where game developers can tap into Adreno 630 and offer console quality gaming.
At the Snapdragon Summit, Qualcomm even showcased a reference device powered by Snapdragon 845 that could playback multiplayer role-playing game Lineage 2: Revolution at high settings. Smartphone gaming is evolving constantly and next year could be a breakthrough both in terms of games offered and quality of rendering possible on a head-mounted VR device.
Another major change coming with Snapdragon 845 chipset is the new X20 LTE modem, a spiritual successor X16 model found on Snapdragon 835. The new modem has a maximum throughput of 1.2Gbps with 12 streams of data and supports 5x carrier aggregation. Qualcomm believes the X20 LTE modem will act as a precursor to 5G and enable faster data experience on mobile devices. Users may not realise boost in download speed right away since operators don’t support 5x carrier aggregation just yet but it will force telcos to improve their service.
Dual SIM, dual VoLTE
One major development with Snapdragon 845 that particularly centers around Indian smartphone users is the support for Dual-SIM, dual VoLTE. The Snapdragon 845 based smartphones will allow users to experience 4G VoLTE on both the SIM cards, which is huge for a market like where VoLTE is becoming an industry standard and 96 percent of smartphones sold here have Dual-SIM slots.
Enhanced image processing
The Snapdragon 845 will also bring new imaging experience to smartphones with the use of Spectra 280 image signal processor. With Spectra 280 ISP, smartphone users will be able to shoot 4K videos at 60 fps with 10 bit color, high dynamic range and Rec 2020 color space. Qualcomm says Snapdragon 845 is the first chipset to capture that kind of video. Apple iPhone X is the only smartphone to record 4K videos at 60fps but it does not support 10 bit color.
The new ISP also bring support for recording 720p slow-motion videos at 480fps, which is 2x slower than what your smartphone can record right now. In order to enhance the quality of slow-motion videos, Qualcomm is adding support for HDR10 standard. Yeah, the focus is video recording but still images get multi-frame noise reduction at up to 16MP at 60fps.
The ISP now supports up to 7 cameras per device and can process up to 32MP at once at 30 fps. It also brings single camera bokeh similar to Google’s Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL and live video filters. Camera is becoming the single major differentiator among smartphones and Qualcomm is amping things up this time with Snapdragon 845.
Safety and security
It is no secret that Apple will even go to courts when it comes to defending user data and maintain privacy of its customers. We have not really seen such level of security around Android smartphones powered by Qualcomm chipsets. With Snapdragon 845, that equation will change forever.
Qualcomm is introducing hardware isolated subsystem called the secure processing unit with Snapdragon 845 that will act like secure enclave on Apple’s iDevices. The secure processing unit brings enhanced privacy with personal data being stored on the device. It will work like a vault to guard user’s biometric authentication like fingerprint, iris, voice and face. It protects user and app data and will also let OEMs to integrate SIM, payments to further enhance security.
Future ready, with AI support
Qualcomm is also stepping into neural processing similar to what Apple does with its A11 Bionic and Huawei does with its Kirin 970 chipset. The Snapdragon 845 SoC uses third generation Hexagon DSP for processing vector math and it is promising 300 percent improvement in neural processing activities and will enable support for depth based facial recognition similar to Face ID.
Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 is a major improvement over existing Snapdragon 835 that will enable new imaging, gaming and networking experience on top of a secure system. It pushes telecom carriers to support new industry standard to offer faster download speed on smartphones while developers will bring more AI capabilities to their application to take advantage of the enhanced processing. It will now come down to how smartphone manufactures take advantage of the chipset and implement it on their own system design.