The new Snapdragon 845 chipset from Qualcomm was pre-announced yesterday with a focus on six subjects: advanced image processing, mixed reality immersion, artificial intelligence, security, Gigabit LTE (one of Qualcomm’s favorite wordmarks) and battery life.
So, let’s get to the basics. The ARM-based Kryo 385 CPU is made on the same 10nm process as the Kryo 280 CPU was on the Snapdragon 835, which got a bump in maximum frequency to 2.6GHz in the new Mobile PC edition of the chipset. Four high-power cores run up to 2.8GHz while four efficiency cores runs at 1.8GHz.
The Adreno 630 GPU was designed with augmented and virtual reality in mind. It should be able to provide a 30 percent power efficiency over the Adreno 540, but is also able to track six degrees of freedom inside a room as well as with body and accessory. Foveation, the ability to intensify rendering processes on what the user is seeing while loosening up on the rest of the field. Finally, it should be able to pull off 120Hz output at 2K by 2K resolution — a good step towards getting to retina-quality views for the amalgamation of realities that Qualcomm is branding XR (eXtended Reality).
The Spectra 280 ISP will be able to capture 16-megapixel images at 60 frames per second, enough room for 5K capture, if only for a short period, with slow motion capture at 480fps on a 720p benchmark. We’ll get to the artificial intelligence bits in a minute. The Adreno and Spectra silicon work together to be able to produce better color gamut reproduction beyond DCI-P3 to the point of the Rec. 2020 gamut at 10-bit. HDR10 streaming can be brought at 720p through to 4K.
For a push to 5G technology, the Snapdragon x20 LTE modem attempts to supplement its current access bin with LTE-LAA and CBRS spectrum. However, even with all that, we’re still looking at a stated potential of 1.2Gbps on LTE. Those are Category 18 speeds. Plus, VoLTE can now also work on both SIMs in a dual-SIM device. Wi-Fi network roaming will be easier with 802.11k/r/v. Of course, Bluetooth 5 is included.
New to the SoC series is a dedicated security processing unit. The SPU will be handling biometric data and encryption for end user, application and integrated cases such as mobile payments.
Qualcomm spins the Snapdragon 845 as its third-generation AI mobile platform, though it shows little more than an early to mainstream adoption attitude rather than a pioneering stance — it has started on-boarding machine learning tasks with support for Google’s TensorFlow Lite and the Open Neural Network Exchange to supplement server-side processing. It’s dipped the power supply needed for always-on hotword catches and voice processing Aqstic audio codec thanks to a dedicated subsystem. It’s also labeling its computational photography processing as “ImMotion.”
While Apple’s tackle box of upgrades to its silicon has been a bit more subtle, all of them back up a set of futuristic features that have come to fruition on the iPhone X. Huawei had earlier enabled more AI into its chipsets with the Kirin 960 and seemed to stave off lag and bit rot with the Mate 9 and has taken a prouder step forward with the Kirin 970. And given that both MediaTek and Intel may be getting dragged onto the main stage by Apple, we may see rapid developments from those two yet. This as Qualcomm navigates legal vitriol over its control of the mobile modem market, power management technologies and, to top it all off, a nagging acquisition tug from Broadcom.
Will the Snapdragon 845 and its chest-puffing parent make device manufacturers, consumers and investors appreciate Qualcomm more? That’s a question that should have an answer by the spring, when the first smartphones to implement the chipset will get released.