Inside the Snapdragon 865: Qualcomm reveals the features you’ll find in 2020’s best Android phones

Qualcomm’s next-gen Snapdragon 865 smartphone chip will support 5G, certainly. But more practical features will probably affect phone users in more immediate ways, such as 200 megapixel still photos, 4K HDR/8K video capture with optional portrait mode and Dolby Vision support, dynamic lighting options for mobile gaming, and real-time audio translation. 

Qualcomm unveiled the Snapdragon 855 a year ago, and unveiled its successors—the Snapdragon 865, the Snapdragon 765, and the Snapdragon 765G—on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Qualcomm dove deep into what phone makers and end users can expect from its new processors. Improvements to each of its cores—the new Kryo 585 CPU, the Adreno 650 GPU, the Spectra 480 image signal processor, the Sensing Hub, and the X55 5G modem—will all add new capabilities to phones.

Many of the most popular premium smartphones are built upon Snapdragon, including flagships from Google, Samsung, and OnePlus. (Apple uses its own chips.) 

Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Mark Hachman / IDG

What’s inside the Snapdragon 865

Below is a high-level overview of the Snapdragon 865, which will be manufactured on a 7nm process like its predecessor. (The 865 uses TSMC’s 7nm process, while the 765 is manufactured on Samsung’s 7nm process.) Some of the basics, like the GPU speed, are still not being disclosed. We’ll go into more of what features these will enable afterward. Keep in mind, however, that some of these capabilities are theoretical. In the case of 5G, for example, certainly don’t expect the 7.5Gbps download speeds Qualcomm is promising. 

  • Kryo 585 CPU: Octo-core architecture; 1 ARM Cortex-A77 (2.84GHz, prime) + 3 ARM Cortex A-77 (2.4GHz, performance) + 4 ARM Cortex-A55 (1.8GHz efficiency)
  • Memory support: embedded LP-DDR5 (2750MHz), LPDDR4x (2133MHz); up to 16GB
  • Adreno 650 GPU: displays up to 4K/60Hz, or 3200×1800/144Hz; HDR10+ support
  • Spectra 480 ISP: 200 megapixel still photos; 4K video (with 64Mpixel stills) or 4K HDR or 4K/120; 8K capture; 720p at 960fps; Rec 2020, 10-bit color
  • Hexagon 698: Total Harmonic Distortion + Noise (THD+N) Playback: -108dB
  • Connectivity (5G): X55 5G modem (7.5Gbps down, 3Gbps up, via 5G); mmWave (800MHz bandwidth, 2×2 MIMO), Sub-6GHz (200 MHz bandwidth, 4×4 MIMO); LTE support (CBRS, WCDMA, HSPA, TD-SCDMA, CDMA 1x, EV-DO, GSM/EDGE)
  • Connectivity (Wi-Fi): FastConnect 6800 (802.11ax, 802.11ac Wave 2), 1.774 Gpbs peak speeds,1024 QAM, OFDMA, ; 60GHz WiFi, 10Gbps peak speeds; always-on ambient Wi-Fi sensing
  • Connectivity (Bluetooth): Bluetooth 5.1, with support for Qualcomm aptX specifications
  • Qualcomm Sensing Hub: Always-on far-field detection and echo cancellation; support for multiple voice assistants
  • Power: Quick Charge 4+ plus Quick Charge AI

Qualcomm’s promising the Kryo 585 CPU will deliver more than 25 percent more performance than the processor inside the older Snapdragon 855, as well as 25 percent more power efficiency. The Kryo core uses what you might call a BIG-big-little…

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