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The Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 offers improved A.I. performance and 8K video

The next-generation chipset that will appear in all the flagship Android smartphones in 2020 is here. Qualcomm announced the Snapdragon 865 platform — the follow-up to the Snapdragon 855 — on stage at its annual Snapdragon Tech Summit, which Qualcomm flew me out to. The new chipset features better performance, an emphasis on artificial intelligence, and a range of new features.

Notable additions to the chipset include Qualcomm’s new fifth-generation A.I. Engine, along with an improved image signal processor, called the Spectra 480. Here’s everything you need to know about the new Snapdragon 865 and the features that it has on offer.

A new modem

2020 is expected to be the tipping point for 5G, with carriers finally having deployed their network in a number of cities around the nation, and manufacturers finally releasing 5G handsets that don’t cost a whole lot extra. Qualcomm is helping facilitate this with the Snapdragon 865. The new chipset features the Qualcomm X55 modem, which, according to Qualcomm, delivers a peak speed of a whopping 7.5Gbps. The modem supports all frequency bands, including millimeter-wave, sub-6, and so on. So no matter what carrier you’re on and where you are in the world, you should be able to connect to a 5G network, as long as one is available in that region.

Fifth-generation A.I. Engine

Artificial intelligence is making an appearance across all aspects of the Snapdragon 865, and the fifth-generation A.I. Engine powers it all. A.I. features can be found across aspects like photography, gaming, audio, and so on. Not only that, but the chipset features the new Qualcomm Sensing Hub, which is designed to be contextually aware of the user’s surroundings, using data from a range of the device’s sensors. The result? The Snapdragon 865 can power things like real-time translation. According to Qualcomm, the A.I. Engine is two times as powerful as the previous-generation A.I. Engine, and can deliver a whopping 15 TOPS of A.I. performance. Safe to say, Snapdragon 865-powered phones will be smarter than ever.

Spectra 480 ISP

The image processor on the Snapdragon 865 is more powerful than ever too. The Snapdragon 865 features the new Spectra 480 ISP, which Qualcomm says allows the device to capture 4K HDR videos with a billion shades of color, while taking 64-megapixel photos at the same time. It goes a step further too — the Spectra 480 ISP can capture 8K video, and take photos at an impressive 200 megapixels. Of course, manufacturers will have to implement 200-megapixel cameras into their phones.

Slow-motion video is a breeze with this chipset too. The Spectra 480 ISP can process images at gigapixel speeds. The result? It can capture 960 frames per second with no time limit. That’s pretty huge, and could help make for a new wave of slow-motion recording on smartphones.

Remember when we mentioned that A.I. can be found across all aspects of the Snapdragon 865? In tandem with the new A.I. Engine, the Spectra 480 ISP can easily identify backgrounds, objects, and people — which allows for manipulation like background replacement, replacing you with an avatar during video chats, and so on.

Mobile gaming

Qualcomm is increasingly focusing on mobile gaming in the Snapdragon series, and the Snapdragon 865 is no exception to that rule. Qualcomm says that the Snapdragon 865 delivers “desktop-quality” gaming thanks to the new Adreno 650 GPU, and while that may be a little far, the chipset will deliver a better gaming experience than previous-generation chips. That’s thanks to the fact that it supports Desktop Forward Rendering, which allows developers to bring over over more realistic lighting and post-processing effects. The chipset also offers undateable drivers — so it could get better as time goes on. Updates to the GPU drivers can be downloaded from the Google Play Store the same way any other app can be.


It’s also important to note the performance of the Snapdragon 865, which, as you would expect, is a little better than the previous-generation Snapdragon 855. The new chipset offers a Qualcomm Kryo 585 octa-core CPU, with a clock speed of up to 2.84GHz, which, according to Qualcomm, delivers up to 25 percent faster performance compared to the Snapdragon 855.

The Snapdragon 865 is expected to start appearing in new smartphones in the first quarter of 2020, though we have yet to hear of any specific models. In some previous years, Samsung has been the first to offer the new chipset in the Galaxy S series — so we may first see it in the Galaxy S11, which is expected to launch around February 2020.

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