Qualcomm unveiled its Snapdragon 865 platform at its annual coming out party, again in beautiful Maui. It is impossible to give a true critique of its work until devices with the 865 are in the market, which will begin in the first quarter of 2020. However, the year-over-year improvements from the Snapdragon 855 are impressive. This is especially true since in the three years it has been from the 865 being defined to mass production, Qualcomm has overcome some major challenges. The chip supplier has lost multiple licensing practice lawsuits, it had two of its largest customers sue and stop paying, and it was nearly lost in a hostile take-over.
Snapdragon 865 5G mobile platform builds on over 250 5G design wins
The key goals of the 865 are for overall improvement in performance and battery life, but there was special emphasis on improving AI, mobile photography, and gaming. Early on, it does appear that Qualcomm can lay claim to the largest 5G customer list as it has secured over 250 5G design wins to date and it is working with over 160 global operators.
865 key specs and insights
The 865 is built by TSMC on its 7nm process. The previously announced 765 and 765G are built by Samsung also on a 7nm process. Qualcomm was very diplomatic that both partners are uniquely capable. Qualcomm also hinted at potential capacity restraints, so the company is happy to have a dual source. The X55 is discrete. It is possible Qualcomm ran out of time to integrate the modem into the Snapdragon 865 as it was more important to get the 865 platform into the market for 1Q20 launches. Note, the 765/765G has an integrated X50 modem.
Other key specs included within imaging:
- ISP with up to 2 gigapixel / second support, which is up 4x (per clock cycle) and will usher in new features
- 200 megapixel camera support
- Slow motion video capture at 120fps at 4K resolution and 960 frames per second without a recording limit; the demos looked impressive
- First Dolby Vision for video capture in mobile
- Five camera support:
- Telephoto, portrait, primary, ultrawide, and macro
4th Gen AI story insights
The theme reiterated by Qualcomm was AI improves the whole platform. AI will improve imaging applications, gaming and audio. Improved AI will also help performance and efficiency.
Some of the key specs and improvements:
- 15 TOPs (trillion operations per second), a 4x improvement
- More system cache — 3GB, up 30%
- Under 1mA for voice multi-word wake up; this is key because now a user can have multiple wake-ups for cross ecosystem usage (Google, Alexa, other)
Gaming story improved and many of the improvements will also help the XR platform
The headline spec catching attention will be the support of 144Hz display refresh rate—a first for mobile. Qualcomm has measured up to 2x performance lift for many operations from the Adreno 650 GPU. These will bring enhancements which will make games look smoother, more realistic, and more like a movie. Desktop features are coming to mobile including:
- Updatable GPU drivers—performance optimizations can be pushed out for new games as they launch
- Depth of field improvements—this makes the game look more like a movie due to its fluidity because of better 3D graphics
Qualcomm Snapdragon roadmap take-aways:
Qualcomm’s goal is to drive ‘real 5G’ down the price curve in all markets. By real 5G, Qualcomm believes Sub6, mmWave, DSS, and SA all needs to be supported. Low-band 5G support will be for blanket coverage and mmWave is required for ‘performance’ needs. These conditions will drive new applications and use cases taking advantage of 5G. This will help Qualcomm since it has a head start on most of the competition – especially with mmWave implementation. There are many positive trends for Qualcomm in 2020.
For complete Qualcomm Snapdragon and X55 modem information see here.