Qualcomm unveils a new chipset and 5G reference design at an event in Hong Kong

Karlis Dambrans/Flickr
Qualcomm had plenty to announce at its 4G/5G Summit in Hong Kong, and it wasted no time diving into the weeds. On Monday, October 16, the company exhibited a 5G handset reference design, a 5G-capable mobile modem, and a new chip, the Snapdragon 636, bound for midrange smartphones.

First up was the 5G connectivity news. Qualcomm redesigned its X50 chipset, which launched in October 2016, to fit in a compact form factor. Thanks to a millimeter-wave antenna that measures the size of a dime — the smallest millimeter wave design on the market, and one Qualcomm plans to shrink 50 percent over the next year —  it squeezes into an edge-to-edge reference design that is 9mm (0.35 inches) thick.

It’s fast, unsurprisingly. Qualcomm says it achieved “gigabit” downloads on the 28GHz millimeter wave frequency band, and that it expects speeds to climb to 5Gbps once 5G deployments are completed.

It will be a while before it hits store shelves, though. Qualcomm said the first consumer devices will launch by the first half of 2019, after the 5G draft spec’s finalization in December.


A speedy radio and reference design isn’t the only thing Qualcomm showed off in Hong Kong. It took the wraps off the Snapdragon 636, an eight-core, 14nm successor to the Snapdragon 630. The new system-on-chip is up to 40 percent faster than the 630, Qualcomm said, and delivers 10 percent better graphics performance thanks to the Adreno 509.

But the improvements don’t stop there. The Snapdragon 636 supports Full HD+ (2,160 x 1,080 pixels) screens and Qualcomm’s Assertive Display technology, which automatically adjusts the brightness to ambient lighting. On the photography side of the equation, the chip’s Spectra 160 ISP supports either one 24-megapixel sensor or two 16-megapixel cameras, and video recording in 1080p at 120 frames per second (fps) or 4K at 30 fps.

The Snapdragon 636 supports Quick Charge 4, Qualcomm’s newest fast-charging standard that can deliver up to five hours of talk time with five minutes of charging. But it won’t benefit from Qualcomm’s work on 5G, unfortunately. It ships with an X12 LTE modem, which maxes out at 600Mbps.

Qualcomm expects to start shipping the chip to partners in November and it might not be long before the first Snapdragon 636-equipped devices come to market. Qualcomm said the chip’s compatible with boards originally designed for the 630 or 660, which should, in theory, make it easier for smartphone manufacturers to re-use existing designs.

Product Review

Airselfie 2 may as well be a GoPro stapled to a drunk hummingbird

On paper, the Airselfie 2 is marketed as flying photographer that fits in your pocket and snaps selfies from the sky. Unfortunately it’s more like a HandiCam controlled by a swarm of intoxicated bumblebees

AMD Navi: Everything you need to know

With a reported launch in 2019, AMD is focusing on the mid-range market with its next-generation Navi GPU. Billed as a successor to Polaris, Navi promises to deliver better performance to consoles, like Sony's PlayStation 5.

Google, Samsung, OnePlus, and Huawei face off in an Android battle royale

The good news is that there are some great options in the Android smartphone market right now. The bad news is that too much choice makes it tough to decide. We compare the Pixel 3 XL, the Galaxy Note 9, the OnePlus 6T, and the Mate 20 Pro.
Home Theater

The seven best TVs you can buy right now, from budget to big screen

Looking for a new television? In an oversaturated market, buying power is at an all-time high, but you'll need to cut through the rough to find a diamond. We're here to help with our picks for the best TVs of 2018.
Product Review

It's so fast it has a clip-on fan. But the Asus ROG phone isn't just for gamers

Is a gaming smartphone only something a mobile gamer should consider buying? In the case of the Asus ROG Phone, the good news is the device is so capable, and a genuinely impressive all-rounder, that everyone should take a closer look…

Apple to boost its Amazon presence with listings for iPhones, iPads, and more

Apple is about to start offering more of its kit on Amazon. The tech giant currently only has very limited listings on the shopping site, but the deal will see the arrival of the latest iPhones, iPads, MacBooks, and more.

Google’s Gboard now uses A.I. to recommend GIFs based on your conversation

Google is bringing a new feature to Gboard that should make it better for those that regularly use GIFs and stickers. The feature essentially uses A.I. to recommend GIFs and stickers based on your conversation.

Get your gaming on the go with this list of the 25 best Android games

The Google Play Store is loaded with both terrific and terrible gaming titles. We vetted the store to bring you some of the best Android games available, whether you're into puzzles, shooters, racing games, or something else.

Cloudflare’s privacy-enhancing DNS service comes to iOS and Android

Cloudflare's DNS resolver service has been ported to mobile devices, and now anyone with an Android or iOS device can download it for free to take advantage of its speed and privacy-boosting features.

The LG V30+ gets a huge price cut on Amazon, today only

Though Amazon early Black Friday deals began at the start of November, the discounts are only just now starting to get good. Today only, Amazon is offering a whopping 40 percent off the unlocked LG V30+.

These 100 best iPhone apps will turn your phone into a jack-of-all-trades

The iPhone is the most popular smartphone in the world, and we want to bring out the best in yours. Behold our comprehensive list of the best iPhone apps, from time-saving productivity tools to fun apps you won’t be able to put down.

Our favorite Windows apps will help you get the most out of your new PC

Not sure what apps you should be downloading for your newfangled Windows device? Here are the best Windows apps, whether you need something to speed up your machine or access your Netflix queue. Check out our categories and favorite picks.
Social Media

Twitter boss hints that an edit button for tweets may finally be on its way

Twitter has been talking for years about launching an edit button for tweets, but it still hasn't landed. This week, company boss Jack Dorsey addressed the matter again, describing a quick-edit button as "achievable."

Lyft’s new rewards program promises ride discounts and comfier cars

If you're always hopping in and out of a Lyft car, then you'll be pleased to hear that the ridesharing service is about to launch a rewards program. Perks include discounts on future trips and upgrades to comfier cars.