What Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon chip may mean for the Galaxy S9 – CNET

snapdragon845

The Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chip will power the next generation of high-end smartphones. 

Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Your next Android smartphone is about to get a lot smarter. 

Qualcomm on Wednesday detailed its upcoming Snapdragon 845 processor that likely will power most high-end Android phones launching in 2018. The chip boasts improved image and video capture abilities, smarter artificial intelligence features, “lightning-fast connectivity,” “vault-like security” and better performance and power efficiency.

In other words, your next Xiaomi Mi 7 or Samsung Galaxy S9 will let you shoot more true-to-life video and photos, use a smart assistant to analyze the images, upload them quickly and keep them secure on your phone. You’ll be able to do more, a lot faster — and with better battery life. 

“We focused on blending user experience with innovation,” Keith Kressin, Qualcomm senior vice president of product management, said during a keynote address Wednesday. 

Qualcomm is hosting a tech summit this week in Hawaii to detail its newest mobile chip and to show off some of the products running on its processors. Qualcomm, the world’s biggest wireless chipmaker, is facing a battle to survive. The company counts Apple, Samsung and most of the world’s largest phone makers as its customers, but it’s also fighting a fierce legal battle against Apple. Apple, Samsung and others also have been working on their own processors and partnering with Intel to reduce their reliance on Qualcomm’s wireless chips. At the same time, rival Broadcom is attempting to buy Qualcomm. 

The Snapdragon 845 will be key for Qualcomm to maintain its position as the world’s biggest mobile chip designer. Chinese handset maker Xiaomi said Tuesday that its next flagship device, the Mi 7, will use the Snapdragon 845. It’s likely that some models of Samsung’s expected Galaxy S9 will also have the processor, as will LG and other Android handset makers, though none have yet confirmed that fact. 

Down to the core

Warning, this part is about to get a little technical. 

Qualcomm’s chip is comprised of the Spectra 280 image signal processor that lets you record video in Ultra HD premium. The technology has richer, more life-like colors and lets you capture 64-times more high-dynamic range color. The chip also features multi-frame noise reduction, making smoother images. You can capture high-performance content up to 16MP at 60 frames per second, while slow-motion video can be captured at 720p at 480 frames per second. 

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The Adreno 630 graphics in the Snapdragon 835 boasts 30 percent better graphics and video rendering, as well as consumes 30 percent less energy for video recording. Room-scale “six degrees of freedom” will enable AR apps like detecting that you’re about to collide with a wall. “Adreno foveation” reduces power consumption, improves visual quality and boosts AR and VR application performance. 

Artificial intelligence capabilities are three times better than the previous generation, “transforming your mobile device into the ultimate personal assistant.” It simplifies how you take pictures and videos, letting you do things like create a bokeh effect — with the subject in focus and the background blurred — using only one camera lens instead of two. (Apple’s iPhones create a bokeh using two camera lenses). 

You also have Qualcomm Quick Charge 4+ to recharge your device even faster.

The Kryo 385 CPU, or the brains of the chip, features four “performance cores” that run at up to 2.8GHz, up 25 percent from the previous generation. Four “efficiency cores” run at up to 1.7GHz, helping save energy when doing less intensive tasks. 

The X20 LTE modem embedded on the chip adds support for 1.2 Gbps Gigabit LTE. It’s 20 percent faster for peak and real-world speeds than the older X16 modem. You’ll be able to download a 3GB movie in less than three minutes. 

The Snapdragon 845’s lightning-fast connection speeds allow users to enjoy immersive XR experiences in more places, download a 3GB movie in less than 3 minutes, just before boarding a flight and access large files or apps in the cloud as fast as those stored in their phones’ memory.     

Bluetooth 5 enables ultra-low power wireless ear bud support and lets you broadcast audio to multiple devices. It can make your ear buds up to 50 percent more battery efficient. 

qualcomm-snapdragon-845

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 processor comes packed with graphics, a secure processing unit and other features. 

Qualcomm

With Bluetooth ear buds currently on the market, sound is broadcast to one ear bud that then shares it with the other.

“One ear bud is doing double the work,” Keith Carson, senior director of product marketing, said Wednesday during a presentation. 

There’s also multigigabit 11ad Wi-Fi and integrated 2×2 11ac Wi-Fi with dual band simultaneous support. The 11ac Wi-Fi enables better connections for crowded carrier networks. It has higher reliability and faster roaming, as well as a 16-times faster connection set-up and up to a 30 percent improvement in efficiency. “That means better capacity for everyone,” Carson said.

Security also got a boost in the Snapdragon 845. Qualcomm’s new “secure processing unit” acts as a sort of vault or island to keep your biometrics — including fingerprint, iris, voice and face — and other sensitive information safe. The secure processing unit has its own brains, memory, crypto engine to sign and decrypt information, random number generator and power island.

“If code running on other parts of the platform is trying to attack or get information, the secure processing unit can essentially shut that off,” Sy Choudhury, senior director of product management, said during a presentation Wednesday.  

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