Qualcomm just concluded its annual Snapdragon Tech Summit 2018 in Hawaii, where the chipmaker made a number of announcements. Qualcomm announced a new mobile compute platform, Snapdragon 8cx, and the Snapdragon 855 mobile platform among others. The new mobile platform will be powering flagship smartphones of 2019, and here’s a look at everything that is new in the chipset that will change your smartphone experience.
While many may find this aspect confusing, the chipset fabrication process is used for creating integrated circuits that are present in electronic devices. The Snapdragon 820 and Snapdragon 821 were made on 14nm node, whereas the Snapdragon 835 and Snapdragon 845 were made on 10nm process.
Now, for the new Snapdragon 855, Qualcomm has moved to 7nm process, which allows the chipset to gain huge gains in energy efficiency, as well as performance. Lowering the number has allowed the chipmaker to make Snapdragon 855 SoC more compact than the Snapdragon 845, while packing more transistors.
Huawei’s Kirin 980 and Apple’s A12 Bionic chipsets pack 6.9 billion transistors, but Qualcomm hasn’t revealed anything about the Snapdragon 855. However, as all three chipsets are on the same 7nm node, it is likely that the new Qualcomm chipset also packs the same amount of transistors.
CPU and performance
Now, the Snapdragon 855 features the next-gen Kryo 485 octa-core CPU featuring a tri-cluster design. Out of the eight cores, one is a prime core (Cortex A76-based) clocked at 2.84GHz, then you have three performance cores (Cortex A76-based) clocked at 2.42GHz, and the last four are efficiency cores based on ARM’s Cortex A55 architecture, and clock speed of 1.8GHz. According to Qualcomm, the new chipset should offer the biggest ever performance improvement of 45 percent over the Snapdragon 845 SoC.
In case of last year’s Snapdragon 845 SoC, the chipset featured a Kryo 385 octa-core CPU, where four Cortex A75-based cores were clocked at 2.8GHz, and four Cortex A55-based cores were clocked at 1.7GHz. It brought 25 percent improvement over its predecessor, the Snapdragon 835.
GPU and performance
With the new Snapdragon 855, Qualcomm has upgraded the GPU to Adreno 640, which the company says helps in offering 20 percent performance boost. The GPU also supports 4K HDR video recording with 30 percent reduction in power consumption, HDR10+ playback at 120fps and 8K playback as well. In case of Snapdragon 845, it featured an Adreno 630 GPU, that offered up to 30 percent boost in performance over the predecessor.
The Snapdragon 845 comes with Adreno 630 that offers up to 30 percent faster graphics, and 30 percent improved energy efficiency over the predecessor.
The whole talk during this year’s Tech Summit was about 5G and naturally, you would expect the new chipset to come with an integrated 5G solution. However, Snapdragon 855 comes with X24 LTE Cat.20 modem with speeds that can peak up to 2Gbps. If OEMs want to offer 5G connectivity, they will need to add X50 modem along with mmWave module to enable 5G speeds. The chipset also comes with the world’s first Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) and 60GHz Wi-Fi 802.11ay connectivity options, offering peak speeds up to 10Gbps.
In case of the Snapdragon 845, it comes with X20 LTE Cat.18 modem with speeds that can peak up to 1.2Gbps. It also supports multi-Gigabit Wi-Fi with 60GHz range with ad baseband.
Watch: Snapdragon 8cx Always Connected PCs
Camera and imaging enhancements
Qualcomm has also worked to add improvements to the camera department. The new chipset comes with Spectra 380 ISP, with support for on-device machine learning, computer vision and more. New functions for processing are introduced in the pipeline itself, which frees up the CPU, GPU and DSP for other tasks, and also help reduce power consumption by up to four times.
The chipset also enables real-time depth sensing when recording videos at 60fps, allowing you to add bokeh effects to your videos. Qualcomm has also added support for HEIF codec for saving photos, which will not only result in 50 percent size reduction while maintaining quality, but also act as a container to store details such as HDR, burst mode, and data that all camera sensors capture (in case of dual cameras or more).
Snapdragon 845, on the other had, brought new imaging experience to smartphones with Spectra 280 ISP, allowing users to shoot 4K videos at 60fps with 10 bit color, high dynamic range and Rec 2020 color space.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Both Snapdragon 855 and Snapdragon 845 are AI-powered for completing various tasks. It enables depth based facial recognition, object detection, speech recognition, single camera bokeh effects, and landmark detection among others.
In case of Snapdragon 855, Qualcomm is also using AI for active noise cancellation. For instance, say you are at an airport or a train station with too much of ambient noise in the background, the AI will now be able to block out the ambient noise and the recipient will be able to hear your voice clearly. Qualcomm has also added support for multiple voice assistants – so you can have both Cortana and Google Assistant and invoke them using the hot word. It is powered by 4th gen AI engine.
Lastly, the Snapdragon 855 will also support ultrasonic fingerprint scanner that will sit right under the display and offer faster unlocking of the smartphone. The tech will use ultrasonics for building a 3D map of the surface of your fingertip. And as the tech relies on ultrasonic mapping of the ridges of your finger, it can even scan through grease, dirt, oil and water.
Smartphones powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 SoC are expected in the first half of 2019. The OnePlus 7, Samsung Galaxy S10, LG G8, Xiaomi Mi MIX 4, Mi 9 are some of the devices that are likely to see the new chipset at the helm.
Snapdragon 855 vs Snapdragon 845 comparison table:
|Snapdragon 855||Snapdragon 845|
1 Cortex-A76 at 2.84GHz
3 Cortex-A76 at 2.43GHz
4 Cortex-A55 at 1.8GHz
4 Cortex-A75 at 2.8Ghz
4 Cortex-A55 at 1.7GHz
|GPU||Adreno 640||Adreno 630|
|Connectivity||X24, LTE Cat.20 (up to 2Gbps)||X20, LTE Cat.18 (up to 1.2Gbps)|
|5G support||5G with X50 modem add-on||N.A.|