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The Qualcomm Snapdragon 480 finally brings 5G to budget phones

Qualcomm is making 5G even more accessible. 2020 was the year that most phones started coming with 5G, and now it looks like 2021 will be the year it comes to the low end. That’s thanks to the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 480, which has Qualcomm’s X51 5G modem, and will likely feature in phones in the sub-$300 range.

In 2020, Qualcomm released a few different 7-series chips that support 5G, which powered some of our favorite phones, as well as the Snapdragon 690 with 5G another tier down the line. Bringing the support to the 4-series means that phones across almost all price ranges will soon support 5G, except for, perhaps, the cheapest of the cheap phones that come with 2-series chips.

The Snapdragon X51 5G modem supports both low-band Sub-6 networks, and the ultra high-frequency mmWave networks. That means that no matter how your carrier is deploying 5G, with a Snapdragon 480-powered phone, you should be able to take advantage of the network. That, of course, is despite the fact that mmWave availability is extremely limited.

We’re quickly reaching the point where any phone over $150 will have 5G.

Apart from supporting 5G, the Snapdragon 480 also supports the Wi-Fi 6 standard, and Quick Charge 4+. According to Qualcomm, it offers hefty 100% CPU and CPU improvements compared to the previous-generation Snapdragon 460, as well as AI improvements of up to 70%. This will be helpful — 4-series chips have been fine, but definitely underpowered compared to their more powerful 6-series, 7-series, and 8-series siblings.

Other features include support for 120Hz displays, which would be a big step up for inexpensive phones if companies manage to get the panels in there. And it also has a new Spectra 345 ISP, which is a triple ISP that enables simultaneous capture of up to three cameras.

Just last month, Qualcomm launched another new chip, the Snapdragon 888. The 888 is the company’s most powerful chipset to date, and it’s the first to be built on a 5nm process, following Apple’s A14 Bionic chip. Phones featuring the Snapdragon 888 have yet to be released, but the Galaxy S21 may be the first, if its rumored announcement date of January 14 turns out to be true.

When it comes to Snapdragon 480 availability, Qualcomm says that the first devices to feature the new chip will be announced in “early 2021.” Nokia, Oppo, and Vivo all commented as part of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 480 press release, suggesting that they’ll be among the first to release Snapdragon 480-powered phones.

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