Sunday, Feb 25, 2018 | Last Update : 05:34 PM IST
Qualcomm's flagship SoC is faster, smarter, more efficient and may power even your laptop.
Qualcomm has detailed its flagship smartphone system-on-a-chip (SoC) for 2018: the Snapdragon 845 at the "Snapdragon Technology Summit" in Hawaii. The chipmaker’s Snapdragon line dominates the high-end smartphone landscape with only the iPhone, Huawei devices and non-US Samsung flagships using the other chips. The Snapdragon 845 is therefore expected to power most of the 2018 flagship Androids. This year Qualcomm might even power your next laptop with the chipmaker entering the Windows 10 market as well.
Coming to the Snapdragon 845, the processor is manufactured by Samsung on their 10nm FinFET process, just like the Snapdragon 835. The processor comes with redesigned Kryo 385 architecture consisting four performance cores (based on ARM Cortex A75) clocked at up to 2.8GHz and four "efficiency" cores (based on ARM Cortex A55) that run at up to 1.8GHz. Qualcomm promises 25 per cent faster performance over the 835. The CPU also gets a new 2MB L3 cache and 3MB of system cache.
Graphics are handled by the next generation Adreno 630 GPU and Qualcomm claims 30 per cent faster graphics and improved power efficiency. The new chip also allows for a 2Kx2K display at 120Hz. With the advent of AR and VR technologies, Qualcomm is equipping the 845 to the task by promising out-of-the-box support for eye tracking, hand tracking, foveated rendering (adding more detail to the part of the screen you're looking at), multiview rendering (great for rendering the left and right eyes in VR goggles), and HTC Vive-style six degree of freedom (6DoF) tracking for headsets and controllers.
Further in terms of camera performance, The Snapdragon 845's ISP (image signal processor) the Spectra 280, can now capture 4K/60fps video in an "HDR" 10-bit color depth. Slow motion video is up to 480fps at 720p. For photos, the ISP can capture 16MP images at 60 frames per second, and there's also an out-of-the-box support for depth sensing.
Qualcomm has also adopted an Apple feature by incorporating a new secure processing unit (SPU) that can handle encryption, payments, and biometric authentication in an isolated chip away from main application code. In simpler terms now all your fingerprints, iris, face scans, voice inputs and pass codes will be secured in an isolated space away from the main processor.
Qualcomm’s existing cellular LTE modems are the fastest on the planet and the newest iteration, Qualcomm X20 LTE modem supports astonishingly high download speed of 1,200Mbps. These speeds are of course theoretical as no operator in the world really supports these speeds. The Wi-Fi now supports the ultra-fast, short-range 60GHz 802.11ad standard apart from the standard 802.11ac connection, the new standard allows up to 4.6 Gbps max speed for short distances which can be extremely useful for transferring large files over for instance Shareit.
Qualcomm also made "proprietary enhancements" to Bluetooth 5, which will "reduce battery consumption of wireless earbuds by up to 50 percent." They have also tweaked the Bluetooth profile which now supports music streaming to two devices simultaneously without any external accessory. This feature will require specific API’s for apps to utilise it which Qualcomm promised to share with app developers.
Qualcomm’s Hexagon 685 DSP as an AI and imaging co-processor. The Hexagon 685 is thrice as fast as the Hexagon 682 in the Snapdragon 835 and will support Android 8.1 Oreo's new Neural Networks API. Google Assistant and Bixby users will be benefited from the improved always-on keyword detection and ultra-low-power voice processing, thanks to the new AQustic codec.
The Snapdragon 845 is expected to begin shipping to device makers in early 2018. Xiaomi has already confirmed that its Mi7 flagship will be powered by it. Samsung, LG, HTC, and Sony, in all probability, will also be adopting the new chipset.