Qualcomm launches Snapdragon 850 platform, boosts "Always Connected" Windows 10 PCs

The company's latest offering has been developed to improve device speed, battery life, AI, and multimedia support.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

Qualcomm has announced the Snapdragon 850 mobile compute platform to further enhance the potential of "Always Connected" Arm-based Windows 10 PCs.

Last year, Qualcomm and Microsoft introduced Windows 10 to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 mobile PC platform to create "always connected" laptops with Gigabit LTE connectivity.

The idea behind the partnership was to create a new family of Arm-based mobile devices which combined the functionality of laptops with mobile "always on" LTE connectivity, thin form factors, and extended battery life.

Since the announcement of the platform retails worldwide have signed up to offer Always Connected PCs such as the Hewlett Packard Envy X2 2-in-1.

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However, the US chip maker says that improvements can still be made.

According to Miguel Nunes, Senior Director of Product Management at Qualcomm, Gigabit LTE connectivity and extended battery life are two major areas of value for today's consumers.

Research conducted by QTI suggests that in comparison to 38 percent of consumers in the US and China being willing to pay for Gigabit LTE connectivity in 2017, now, 60 percent are willing to do so. In addition, 83 percent of consumers would be happy to pay for devices offering at least 20 hours of battery life, a jump from 56 percent in 2017.

As a result, Nunes says that Qualcomm has "continued to enhance" Snapdragon to cater for these demands, and at Computex 2018 in Taipei on Tuesday, formally announced the Snapdragon 850 platform.

The Snapdragon 850 platform utilizes the Qualcomm Snapdragon X20 LTE modem, the Adreno 630 Visual processing system, the Qualcomm Hexagon 685 Vector processor, the Spectra 280 Image Signal Processor (ISP), the Qualcomm Kryo 385 CPU, and the firm's Mobile Security solutions.

Qualcomm says that the upgrades have resulted in improved mobile photography, a slight increase in Gigabit speeds, and a boost from up to 2.6GHz offered by the Snapdragon 835 mobile platform's Kryo 280 CPU to up to 2.95GHz with the Kryo 385 CPU.

In addition, there is increased support for artificial intelligence (AI) and multimedia applications.

A particular focus has been also placed on laptop form factors, with improved thermal and CPU management.

The US chip maker says that in comparison to the Snapdragon 835, the Snapdragon 850 platform offers up to a 30 percent increase in performance, a 20 percent boost in battery life, and an LTE speed increase up to 20 percent -- especially in areas of poor mobile network coverage.

A point of interest to note is the lowered licensing requirements prompted by the Snapdragon X20 LTE modem.

The executive says that vendors who wished to offer Gigabit speeds often used to need to have access to 60 MHz of spectrum, and while the X16 LTE modem reduced this requirement to 20 MHz alongside unlicensed spectrum, otherwise known as Licensed Assisted Access (LAA), the latest modem design only requires access to 10 MHz of licensed spectrum in addition to LAA.

This may encourage more vendors to explore the "Always Connected" mobile device business.

"We believe that 90 percent of all operators can now provide Gigabit LTE," Nunes said. "Gigabit LTE is extremely important from a network capacity and coverage point of view, and is also the foundation and building block as networks prepare for the move to 5G."

In addition to improved Gigabit LTE capabilities, the mobile platform also offers new features for multimedia, including virtual surround sound, up to Native DSD format support, aptX HD support, Ultra HD Premium playback and 4K video capture.

Microsoft has also come into play beyond the tech giant's operating system. The Snapdragon 850 platform supports hardware acceleration for the Microsoft Machine Learning SDK, in order to allow developers to use the system to create AI-based applications in fields including voice technologies, drawing, security, gaming, and video creation.

"Qualcomm is a committed to the Always Connected PC revolution," Nunes said. "We know this is a multi-year effort to revolutionize mobile computing. We will stay for the long run."

Qualcomm expects vendors to start offering products based on the Snapdragon 850 in the 2018 holiday season. The platform is only currently available for Windows 10-based PCs.

See also: Qualcomm: Meet the new boss of everything mobile

Last month, the US chip maker launched the Snapdragon XR1 Platform. The platform is dedicated to virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) applications -- and everything in between -- in what Qualcomm calls Extended Reality (XR). XR1 has been designed for vendors that wish to offer AR and VR to mainstream users.

Vendors including Meta, VIVE, Vuzix, and Picoare have declared themselves as partners.

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