Qualcomm's Snapdragon 865 5G, AI, camera specs bolster 2020 smartphone upgrade cycle

Qualcomm's Snapdragon 865 platform aims to spur 5G smartphone upgrades with a dose of camera enhancements and AI tools that may redefine premium device experiences.

Qualcomm's Snapdragon 865, available in the first quarter of 2020, will include the company's X55 5G Modem-RF System and deliver peak speeds of 7.5 Gbps. The company also provided the specs of its Snapdragon 765 and 765G platforms, which integrate 5G, a next-gen artificial intelligence engine and new camera capabilities.

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With the launches, which were teased on Tuesday, Qualcomm begins its push for scaling 5G starting in the first quarter when the platforms are generally available. The first quarter availability aligns with the typical timing for Samsung's Galaxy flagship launches.

At Qualcomm's recent analyst meeting, Qualcomm projected that 5G adoption would be faster than 4G due to China commercialization and the availability of chipsets that will work across the 5G technologies and spectrums. In 2020, Qualcomm projected 175 million to 225 million 5G handsets with more than 450 million in 2021 before accelerating to more than 750 million in 2022.  

Here's the breakdown of the new Snapdragon platforms.

Snapdragon 865

The Snapdragon 865 platform is designed to be the new premium chipset for connectivity and performance as well as the Qualcomm Spectra 480 Image Signal Processor, which will add up to 2 gigapixel speeds per second.

In addition, the Snapdragon 865 platform includes:

  • Qualcomm Kryo 585 CPU with up to 25% performance boost relative to the previous chip.
  • Qualcomm Adreno 650 GPU with a 25% performance boost.
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon Elite Gaming features for what the company claims is desktop gaming quality.
  • The X55 5G Modem-RF system. The Modem-RF system includes Qualcomm 5G PowerSave, Smart Transmit, Wideband Envelope Tracking and Signal Boost.

The biggest takeaway for the Snapdragon 865 is that its' compatible with all 5G bands and regions around the world  including 5G mmWave and sub-6 GHz, 5G SA and NSA modes, TDD and FDD with Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS), global 5G roaming and support for multi-SIM.

This focus on hopping 5G frequency bands is part of Qualcomm's bet to light up global regions at the same time. For instance, devices in China, the US and Europe can use the same platform even if the 5G approaches are different.

Qualcomm is also betting that combining the 5th generation Qualcomm AI Engine will bolster camera, audio, voice and gaming feature on devices when enabled with 5G. The Snapdragon 865 AI Engine includes a new Qualcomm Hexagon Tensor accelerator that's twice as fast relative to its predecessor.

This AI Engine is also designed for lower power and enables a device to be contextually aware of voice commands without draining the battery.

Qualcomm's Snapdragon 865 also includes FastConnect 6800 connectivity for Wi-Fi 6. Other perks includes Qualcomm apX Voice for super wide band voice over Bluetooth.

Other key items include:

  • The ability to transcribe text in real time.
  • Qualcomm Neural Processing SDK.
  • Qualcomm AI Model Enhancer.
  • An image signal processor that can capture 8K video and snap 200 megapixel photos and identify backgrounds, people and objects.

Overall, Snapdragon 865 has a camera architecture that should advance computational photography and Qualcomm noted that the system can capture the largest photos ever on a mobile device. The AI upgrades will enable voice assistants to do more and detect context in situations.

Snapdragon 765 and 765G

While the Snapdragon 865 will have a big impact on the premium device segment, Snapdragon 765, which doesn't have the raw performance of Snapdragon 865, may do more to make 5G mainstream. After all, mid-tier devices will push 5G to more people than premium devices.

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The Snapdragon 765 with Snapdragon X52 Modem-RF is designed to offer peak downloads of 3.7 Gbps with upload speeds of 1.6 Gbps to rival many wired connections. The Modem-RF system includes Qualcomm 5G PowerSave, Smart Transmit, Wideband Envelope Tracking and Signal Boost.

According to Qualcomm, Snapdragon 765 supports all key regions and 5G frequency bands.

For smartphone computational photography fans, Qualcomm's 765 platform's multi-camera capture will enable telephoto, wide and ultrawide lenses without additional equipment. The Snapdragon 765 can also capture 4K HDR video with more than a billion shades of color.

Other enhancements to boost performance include:

  • A new Qualcomm Kryo 475 processor with speeds up to 2.3 GHz.
  • Qualcomm Adreno 620 GPU with up to 20% performance boost.
  • Qualcomm Quick Charge AI to bolster fast charging.
  • 5th generation Qualcomm AI Engine.
  • The 765G platform adds Snapdragon Elite Gaming features in a bid to create a new device category for mobile gaming. Key items in 765G include:
  • 5.5 TOPS of AI performance.
  • 20% faster graphics rendering with the Adreno GPU.
  • 10-bit HDR.
  • Extensions for games, details and colors.