First Impressions: Asus ROG Phone 5 Brings Promising Upgrade, But Competition Gets Fierce

  • The Asus ROG Phone 5 is powered by the latest 5nm Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 SoC.
  • It is one of the first smartphones to feature up to 18GB of RAM.
  • The gaming smartphone supports Sub-6GHz 5G and Wi-Fi 6E connectivity.

Asus has refreshed its gaming smartphone line-up by introducing the ROG Phone 5 series nearly three months earlier than the usual June time frame. This time around, there are three models – the regular ROG Phone 5, followed by the ROG Phone 5 Pro variant, and then a special limited-edition device, the ROG Phone 5 Ultimate. Compared to the ROG Phone 3 which we reviewed last year, the new smartphones bring a bold design language, powerful stereo speakers, and display with the lowest touch latency on a smartphone, among many other features.

One of the highlights of the ROG Phone 5 Ultimate edition is that it comes with a whopping 18GB of RAM from SK Hynix. I got a few hours to spend with the regular ROG Phone 5 and below are my first impressions.

Asus ROG Phone 5: Specifications, Pricing and Three Device Strategy

The bump in specifications along with new and improved features has also resulted in a price increase over the previous generation. While the ROG Phone 3 was priced around $560 in regions like India and around $820 in the US, the ROG Phone 5 starts at $950 in the US. In India, the same sees a jump to around $690. A lot of factors could contribute to the price rise, such as the ongoing global chip shortage, and increase in prices of key components like PMICs for 5G and display.

Commenting on Asus’ strategy, Senior Research Analyst Maurice Klaehne said, “The latest Asus ROG 5 devices once again push the boundaries for gaming smartphones a little further. The devices once again feature a 144Hz refresh rate and AMOLED screen, but bump up the touch-sampling rate to 300Hz, and touch-sampling rate of 24.3ms which is the lowest on a smartphone. The latest 5nm Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 SoC makes the phone blazing fast. Asus is also coming out with three different models to cater to its growing customer base. While the devices still lack wireless charging and camera features continue to fall behind the competition, Asus is clearly showing it wants to differentiate by focusing on gaming-specific enhancements and features.”

counterpoint rog phone 5 series specifications

Improved Gesture Controls Along with Unique Unboxing Experience

Right from the unboxing experience, Asus has given special attention to offering something unique to the users. After you unbox the phone and begin the setup process, a screen will prompt you to give camera permissions to be able to scan the augmented reality (AR)-based graphics printed on the box. It makes the characters come alive and is an experience that you will not find with other smartphones.

Talking about the design, Asus has constantly improved the look and feel of the ROG Phones. These refinements also aim towards offering a console-like gaming experience, and the ROG Phone 5 takes it a step further. It offers a glass back with a nice two-tone texture with gaming aesthetics. The RGB logo still exists, but it now has a dot-matrix anime style that stands out, without looking too flashy.

counterpoint ROG Phone 5 back

The four ultrasonic touch controllers (Air Triggers) on the right edge, along with motion control, rear touch and buttons on the aero active cooler, now offer a total of 18 controls to enhance your gaming skillset. Aeroactive cooler accessory is bundled along with the smartphone and offers a USB Type-C port for charging, a 3.5mm audio jack, a dedicated cooling fan, and a kickstand.

counterpoint ROG Phone 5 aeroactive cooler attached

Fastest Hardware, More Responsive Touch, and Immersive Audio

The Asus ROG Phone 5 features the fastest hardware available today to offer the best experience. This includes a 5nm Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 SoC with 8GB/12GB LPDDR5 RAM, and 128GB/256GB UFS 3.1 storage. As mentioned above, there is also an Ultimate edition model that gets 18GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. But Asus is not the only gaming smartphone maker to offer 18GB of RAM, even nubia Red Magic 6 Pro has a variant with the same RAM and storage configuration.

Moving to the display, you get a Samsung AMOLED panel with a 144Hz screen refresh rate and FHD+ resolution. But Asus has improved the touch sampling rate to 300Hz, and latency to just 24.3ms, which is the lowest on any smartphone to date. This should improve the touch response when gaming. Asus has also added a Pixelworks i6 co-processor for dark noise suppression, skin tone management, real-time SDR to HDR conversion, and more.

counterpoint ROG Phone 5 front

For sustained peak performance during your gaming sessions, keeping the thermal levels low is important. And the ROG Phone 5 comes with a centered CPU design, and a larger 3D vapor chamber cooling using graphite sheet along with direct airflow design. Asus says it helps in lowering CPU temperature by 10%, and surface temperature by up to 15%. With the entered CPU design, the ROG Phone 5 also comes with two separate 3,000mAh batteries with up to 65W HyperCharge technology. However, the box comes with a 30W adapter.

Lastly, Asus has also brought back the legacy 3.5mm audio jack. It features an ESS DAC and Dirac tuning for better frequency response, and clear audio. You also get front-firing stereo speakers on the smartphone. In the little time when I used the smartphone, the audio was loud enough with a wide soundstaging. The volume was the loudest I have experienced on a smartphone yet.

Initial Impressions: Can Powerful Hardware, Improved Gesture and Touch Controls be Enough?

The ROG Phone 5 brings a striking design that sets it apart from the competition. Under-the- hood improvements in terms of more RAM, new Snapdragon 888 SoC, dual battery and improved thermal management make it a promising upgrade. Asus has also improved the audio quality and refined the software among many other changes. Asus says it has fine-tuned the cameras as well. Given that the ROG Phone 3 cameras had mediocre quality, it will be interesting to see how the new smartphone does it better. We will answer that in our detailed review, so stay tuned for that.

Besides, the ROG Phone 5 also faces fierce competition from nubia RED Magic 6 series which brings 165Hz screen refresh rate, and top end model with 18GB of RAM. Even Black Shark launched the 4 and 4 Pro gaming smartphones yesterday, whereas Lenovo is set to launch Legion 2 Pro gaming smartphone on April 8. Certainly, more smartphone makers are now focusing on the hardcore gaming users.

BONUS VIDEO: Unboxing and Top 5 Features of Asus ROG Phone 5

Also Read: Strategic Reviews and Insights on Latest Smartphones

Podcast: OnePlus 8 Series – Flagship Killer to a Killer Flagship

OnePlus has launched its latest flagship smartphones in the US, UK, China and Indian markets. There are two devices – the premium OnePlus 8 Pro and a compact and affordable OnePlus 8. Both smartphones draw their power from a 7nm Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 SoC, and feature 5G connectivity. But what OnePlus has managed to do in the display, battery and charging department is impressive.

The new smartphones now come with a better display in collaboration with Pixelworks. The company has also added 30W fast wireless charging on the “Pro” model, which isn’t available on competitor flagship smartphones. There is also IP68 certification for water and dust resistance. The new and improved features on the “Pro” make for a good upgrade, from a “flagship killer to a killer flagship.”

In the latest podcast, “The Counterpoint Podcast” host Ritesh Bendre, research analysts Karn Chauhan and Maurice Klaehne share their thoughts and insights on the OnePlus 8 Series potential and outlook.

Hit the play button to listen to the podcast

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OnePlus 8 Series: Aiming to Redefine Flagship Experience

The OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro smartphones are powered by Snapdragon 865 SoC.
Both smartphones include support for the 5G network by default.
OnePlus 8 Series brings display enhancements in collaboration with Pixelworks.

Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns in several countries, OnePlus has announced its 2020 flagship smartphones. Just like last year, there are two smartphones this year too – the premium OnePlus 8 Pro, and a compact OnePlus 8. From 5G only portfolio to faster wireless charging and immersive audio and video, the OnePlus 8 Pro brings some of the biggest upgrades to redefine flagship experience. There is a lot to talk about the new OnePlus 8 Series, so let’s quickly dive in.

Improved Design, Better Aesthetics

Both the new OnePlus smartphones share identical design featuring a metal frame sandwiched between front and back glass. To address one of the most common problems with glass back design, the company has carefully chosen CMF (Color, Material, Finish) this time around. The new phones come with a frosted glass back with a soft matte finish, which means it won’t be a fingerprint magnet and slippery like other smartphones.

counterpoint oneplus 8 pro cmf

OnePlus is also offering a good choice of colors with a gradient finish. OnePlus 8 is available in Onyx Black, Glacial Green, and Interstellar Glow, whereas in the case of the Pro model, Interstellar Glow is replaced by Ultramarine Blue. The 7 and 7T featured a waterdrop notch display, whereas the 7 Pro and 7T Pro featured a pop-up selfie camera. With the new series, both smartphones feature a hole-punch camera cut out that houses the front camera.

Smooth Display with Pixelworks Inside

OnePlus 8 Pro

OnePlus introduced a 90Hz high refresh rate display with the 7 Pro, and now it is making the display even better with the new phones. The OnePlus 8 Pro flaunts a 6.78-inch QHD+ (3168×1440 pixels) Fluid AMOLED display with curved edges. It now comes with a 120Hz refresh rate to make scrolling smoother, and touch more responsive. This means things, like navigating through the UI, scrolling through the web page, Facebook and Instagram timeline among others, will be fluid. But the key difference will be noticeable when playing games. It will allow for lower latency and smoother graphics. There is also support for Dolby Atomos to make gaming more immersive.

At the launch event, OnePlus also announced support for Google Stadia. The game-streaming service will offer access to a collection of games to play instantly. This means you’ll no longer need to wait for game downloads, installation and updates before playing them. The company is looking to aim for different needs of the users.

OnePlus has worked with Pixelworks to include the Iris 5 chipset which enables HDR10+, HDR Boost and color accuracy. This will make the video content livelier and the MEMC technology will further upscale 24fps videos to 120fps to reduce motion blur and stuttering, especially when watching sports and action-packed content.

counterpoint oneplus 8 pro display

OnePlus 8

The OnePlus 8, on the other hand, gets a 6.55-inch FHD+ (1080x2400pixels) Fluid AMOLED display with curved edges, and a 90Hz screen refresh rate. It comes with Pixelworks Soft Iris software solution which enables color accuracy, HDR10+, and color accuracy. The solution also enhances the dynamic range of non-HDR content to offer a better viewing experience.

Here, the engineering efforts of OnePlus are commendable. The OnePlus 8 feels more compact compared to the iPhone 11 Pro Max which features a 6.5-inch display. This is because the OnePlus smartphone has a higher screen-to-body ratio. It is also worth mentioning that the device is more compact than the iPhone, despite having several antennas for 5G connectivity.

Key Specifications of OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Pro

It’s not just the design, both smartphones share identical hardware too; well, in some departments. They are both powered by a 7nm Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 SoC, paired with a Snapdragon X55 5G modem with support for Sub-6GHz low and mid-band. Interestingly, in the US, Verizon will be getting a special OnePlus 8 5G UW (Ultra Wideband) device with support for mmWave. Sadly, the Pro model won’t support mmWave. But, it does come with faster Wi-Fi 6 support, which is missing on the compact model.

Both the OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro models will be offered in two SKUs – 8GB RAM with 128GB storage, and 12GB RAM with 256GB storage. Though, there is a small difference – the compact model comes with LPDDR4X RAM, whereas the Pro model gets the faster LPDDR5 RAM. Having the LPDDR5 RAM offers a 30% faster memory speed while reducing power consumption by 20%. In short, it will offer snappy performance while saving battery life.

The battery capacity also sees a jump, keeping the power-hungry SoC and 5G network in mind. OnePlus 8 is armed with a 4,300mAh battery, whereas the Pro model comes with a slightly larger 4,510mAh battery. Both support Warp Charge 30T wired charging that can quickly top up the smartphones from 1% to 50% in 23 minutes.

Wireless Charging, and More

OnePlus has left no stone unturned in ensuring the ‘Pro’ model gives you the true flagship features. You finally have a 30W fast wireless charging feature, which can charge be battery from 1% to 50% in 30 minutes. Similar to other wireless charging phones, this one too has reverse wireless charging to charge other devices. While you will be able to wirelessly charge the OnePlus 8 Pro using the standard Qi wireless charging pad, for faster speeds, you’ll need to buy the OnePlus charging stand that will be available for $80.

counterpoint oneplus 8 pro wireless charger

In comparison, the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max which costs over $200 more than the OnePlus 8 Pro, only support wireless charging speeds up to 7.5W. At this speed, they take about one-and-a-half-hour to charge 50%. Similarly, the Galaxy S20 series which starts at $999, and goes to $1,399 for the base model of Galaxy S20 Ultra, offers wireless charging speeds up to 15W.

counterpoint oneplus 8 pro water resistance
Source – OnePlus

OnePlus has put a lot of effort into ensuring it lives up to the ‘fast and smooth’ tagline. The company just didn’t stop there, the OnePlus 8 Pro is also IP68 certified for water and dust resistance.

Camera Upgrades For The Shutterbugs

With every new device, OnePlus has focused on the camera performance, and the new devices are no exception. The Pro model now comes with a 48MP Sony IMX689 primary sensor (f/1.78) with a pixel size of 1.12µm. With 4-in-1 pixel binning, the camera clicks photos in 12MP resolution, but the option to click in full res is also available. The major upgrade comes in the form of a 48MP sensor with an ultra-wide-angle lens, up from 16MP on the 7T Pro model. This will allow users to capture ultra-wide photos in higher resolution, with more details. There is also an 8MP telephoto lens with 3X optical zoom and 5X hybrid zoom. One addition here is a dedicated 5MP color filter camera sensor. It let’s you add filters and artistic lighting effects to your photos right from the camera app using the mode.

counterpoint oneplus 8 pro camera setup
Source – OnePlus

The OnePlus 8, on the other hand, comes with identical triple camera setup as the 7T, but with some changes. The telephoto lens is now replaced with a 2MP macro sensor on the new phone. Besides you get a 48MP primary sensor (IMX586) and a 16MP ultra-wide-angle lens. For selfies and video calling, both smartphones come with a 16MP (Sony IMX471) front camera. It supports time-lapse and 1080p video recording capabilities. The front camera also supports the face unlock feature.

Both the 8 Series smartphones support slow-motion video recording up to 480fps, and 4K video recording at 60fps. Sadly, while the Snapdragon chipset supports 8K video recording, support for the same isn’t present here.

Talking more about videos, OnePlus has also partnered with Nokia for OZO Audio technology which brings Audio 3D, Audio Zoom and Audio Windscreen features. With Audio 3D, users can record videos with spatial sound, whereas the Audio Windscreen reduces the wind distortion in the audio. Lastly, Audio Zoom allows users to amplify sound in a video recording by zooming into a specific area.

OnePlus 8 Series Pricing: From Flagship Killer to a Flagship

As mentioned above, the new smartphones will be offered in two SKUs. The OnePlus 8 base model with 8GB RAM will be available for $699, whereas the 12GB RAM model will be available for $799. The OnePlus 8 Pro, on the other hand, will be available for $899 for the base model with 8GB RAM, whereas the 12GB RAM model will set you back by $999.

Counterpoint OnePlus smartphones Pricing Strategy

Sure, the OnePlus phones are expensive, and they are no longer the flagship killer that would cost 1/3 compared to the Apple and Samsung phones. But over the years, OnePlus has been gradually moving up in the premium category, and the price hike was justified with the addition of new features. In the current case, IP68 certification and Wireless Charging are the features that help OnePlus level the game with Samsung and others. Here is a graph showing how the prices of OnePlus phones scaled up over the years.

Challenges in India Amid COVID-19 lockdown

India is a major market for Chinese smartphone makers. In 2019, OnePlus took the lead position in the premium smartphone segment with a 33% market share. However, with the COVID-19 lockdown and its effect on the industry, we expect OnePlus shipments to see a decline of 11% YoY in 2020.

Commenting on lockdown and sales impact in India for OnePlus, Counterpoint research analyst Karn Chauhan said, “In the premium segment, price elasticity is least important as other factors like brand loyalty and status are more important. However, users shifting from low to mid-price tier are unlikely to take a bigger jump to the premium segment, especially with incomes negatively impacted by COVID-19.”

““However, for INR 30K – 40K price segment, we believe the demand will decline for this segment. The consumer demographics of this price segment mainly consists of students and aspirational middle class, who might delay their purchases for the near future,” he added.

With this lockdown, the high-class and upper-middle-class will be the least hit. Companies like Apple and Samsung will likely benefit from this trend. Though, OnePlus may also benefit from the price decline of its older generation 7T models.

Talking about the new OnePlus launch, Counterpoint Research Director, Tarun Pathak said, “From a sales perspective, the launch quarter will surely be impacted. For instance, in India, around one-third of the company’s annual sales happen during launch Q2 quarter. To offset this, OnePlus will need to aggressively scale up its efforts in Q3 and Q4 where we think demand will be shifted in India due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Given the brand image and good exposure to online, OnePlus can look at different ways to push sales, especially those related to upgrades as it has a loyal userbase. This will also be the first time when OnePlus new launch sales will overlap the launch quarters of Samsung Note and Apple iPhone refresh too. We are expecting a strong competition in India’s premium market in Q3 and Q4 2020.”

Challenges in the US, and Globally

In the US, OnePlus was the third-largest 5G smartphone vendor in 2019 with a market share of 11%, with Samsung taking the top spot and LG taking the second spot. Currently, with the COVID-19 outbreak, roughly 60% of carrier stores are closed in the US. But as a lot of OnePlus users are tech-savvy, who can buy online, the sales may not see much of an impact. Also, having 5G smartphones on two of the largest carriers in the US – Verizon and T-Mobile, could help OnePlus gain some additional market share.

“Globally we believe that OnePlus has the right mix of products. Embracing the 5G trend earlier will turn out to be a good learning curve for the brand. The latest OnePlus 8 series with 5G only portfolio will make a strong point for OnePlus to expand into more channels within the EU and NAM. We have already seen this in its association with Verizon in the USA. Carriers/channel partners in the EU and NAM will see this as an opportunity to diversify their portfolio beyond Samsung and Apple. Sure COVID-19 will impact the sales as it overlaps its launch quarters. However, in the EU and NAM, the online channels are still open which will help the brand to push some of the sales, unlike India, where it is likely to be impacted more,” Pathak added.

Upping the Game to Redefine Flagship Experience

Until now, OnePlus had its focus on being the “Flagship Killer” but that changes now. There are three core areas where OnePlus 8 Pro is looking to challenge the competition. The 5G only portfolio, along with Wi-Fi 6 means users get the latest and fastest connectivity solution. Secondly, users consume a lot of content – from videos to movies, games and web surfing. A display with a faster refresh rate, along with SDR to HDR conversion opens gates for an immersive experience. And lastly, a wired and wireless charging solution 2x faster takes it ahead of the competition. The $900 entry price is where OnePlus triumphs in aiming to redefine the flagship experience.

BONUS! Podcast

My colleagues Karn Chauhan and Maurice Klaehne share their thoughts and insights on the OnePlus 8 Series potential and outlook.

Related Posts

Pixelworks Iris 5: A Tiny Chip That Brings Premium Visual Experiences to Affordable Smartphones

As smartphones become an important part of our daily lives, the environment has got highly competitive as it is driven by a handful of brands with access to the same supply chain. This makes it difficult for smartphone makers to differentiate their devices from others. As a result, they are segmenting their portfolio by having different sub-brands, focusing on unique features for a particular segment.

Some OEMs operating on a thin hardware margin business model are trying to recoup the revenues from the ecosystem. This puts pressure on other brands to differentiate and add new features while keeping the Bill of Material (BoM) cost pressure in check. Smartphone makers are trying to innovate by adding multiple chips and software algorithms to enhance the overall user experience and save on BoM costs. Some brands are using innovative solutions from companies like Pixelworks to bring premium visual experiences to differentiate their affordable smartphones.

How Pixelworks is Helping OEMs Offer Better Display Solutions

According to Counterpoint Research (report) studying user behavior patterns, users spend more than five hours a day on their smartphones. The usage varies from surfing the internet to playing games.

Meanwhile, another report highlights that the consumption of video content from OTT streaming platforms is on a rise. Keeping the usage pattern and behavior in mind, OEMs are now focusing on improving the viewing experience on smartphones. Video is becoming an important medium from streaming, and communications point of view to short-form video platforms such as TikTok.

As video has become the key content consumed, OEMs are looking to add advanced displays for enhanced viewing and judder-free experience. But as we discussed earlier, the cost of adding these features is significant, and every dollar saved is important for brands in this cut-throat competitive landscape. Companies like Pixelworks with its long heritage in display and video processing for over two decades are offering solutions to drive BoM cost efficiencies and savings while enhancing the user experiences.

Pixelworks portfolio offers a couple of solutions – its “Iris 5” hardware chipset and a software-based “Soft Iris“ solution. The Pixelworks Iris 5 is a tiny low-power visual co-processor for image and video processing to enhance the smartphone display experience. Using this solution, OEMs can unlock a whole gamut of features from color accuracy, smooth and natural motion for high refresh displays, contrast and sharpness enhancements to SDR-to-HDR upscaling alongside a less expensive mid-tier SoC. The solution thus helps OEM offer visually perceptive experience while saving on the BoM costs.

Pixelworks Iris Visual Co-Processor Chip

Iris is Pixelworks fifth-generation visual co-processor, that sits between the SoC and the display driver IC. It supports displays with up to WQHD+ resolution, and up to 120Hz refresh rate. The Iris chip is currently optimized to work with Qualcomm Snapdragon SoCs and OEMs can leverage the power of this chip for Qualcomm powered smartphones.

counterpoint PixelWorks Iris 5 and Soft Iris solution
Source – Pixelworks

The latest generation Iris 5 key capabilities include:

  • For local videos, movies or live-streaming, Iris 5 with dual MIPI offers a smart MotionEngine that can detect and compensate for frame rate mismatch to offer blur-free content in real-time while processing the graphical and video layers separately. This also enhances gaming experiences with smooth, judder-free viewing.
  • HDR10 is mostly supported in premium devices, but with Iris 5 which supports native 10-bit processing can offer certified HDR10 and HDR10+ playback with most accurate tone mapping for mid-tier budget devices. For all other content, an Always-on HDR experience, converts standard video or game SDR (16 million color shades) content to HDR (one billion color shades) in real-time for a richer, more immersive viewing.
  • Iris 5’s Auto Adaptive Display capability adjusts the light, tone, and temperature based on different scenarios. For instance, in bright outdoor conditions, the brightness and contrast will be enhanced for ease of viewing. Similarly, at night or in ambient lighting conditions, the screen brightness will be dimmed dynamically while also reducing blue light to ease the strain on your eyes.

OEMs can also integrate a cheaper Iris 3 chipset for mid-tier chipsets for devices upto 90Hz Display with Single MIPI spec and capabilities such as SDR to HDR, HDR 10, TrueView™ Auto Adaptive, picture quality and color tuning, management and so forth.

Pixelworks Soft Iris Software Solution

Pixelworks also offers a Soft Iris software that can be embedded right into Qualcomm 800-tier premium SoCs as a complementary solution to leverage the advanced display pipelines. Embedding Soft Iris and OEM can offer more accurate color calibration, custom tone, sharpness tuning, Auto Adaptive Display capability and certified cinematic-grade HDR10 & above experience. Soft Iris is, for example, used in Asus ROG Phone II to optimize the display for a superior lag-free gaming experience.

counterpoint pixelworks iris solutions
Source – Pixelworks

Pixelworks is adopting an ecosystem approach to enhance content on the device and also in the cloud. For example: Pixelworks partnered with China’s leading video content platform YouKu to bring high-quality HDR video to a large ecosystem of mobile devices in China. YouKu is using Pixelworks’ TrueCut® platform to enhance its existing and upcoming content to HDR quality for its half a billion active smartphone user base.

Smartphones with Pixelworks Inside

Number of OEMs are adopting Pixelworks solution to bring advanced viewing experiences to their mid-tier Qualcomm powered devices as well as to further enhance some of the premium Snapdragon-powered devices as well. The Asus Zenfone 3 Deluxe was one of the first smartphones to come with Pixelworks solutions. However, the turning point was the Nokia 7.1 that launched in 2019, followed by smartphones like the Nokia 7.2, Nokia 6.2 and the latest Nokia 8.3 5G, Asus ROG Phone and ROG Phone 2, BlackShark-series gaming smartphones and ZTE Axon 9 Pro. The recently launched Oppo Find X2 and Find X2 Pro also comes with a high refresh rate display, and Pixelworks Iris 5 chip.

counterpoint smartphones with pixelworks solutions
Source: Counterpoint Research Component Tracker

These smartphones range between $200 – $1,300 segment, with different use-cases. For instance, the ROG Phone-series and BlackShark-series are gaming-centric smartphones. The focus on these phones is to improve the screen refresh rate and improving the dynamic range for a better visual experience. Similarly, on mid-range smartphones like Nokia 7.2, Nokia 6.2, and the latest Nokia 8.3 5G, the chipset improves image and video viewing experience with HDR capabilities, display lighting management for devices sporting LCD displays.

With the dawn of the 5G era, supporting high-resolution, immersive and low-latency video, cloud gaming and Augmented Reality experiences are going to be the key differentiators. Solutions such as Pixelworks will help will assist OEMs to offer these experiences even at affordable price points.

Co-Processor Trends in Smartphones on the Rise

Recently, we saw the launch of some mid-range smartphones in sub-$250 featuring LCD displays with a 120Hz screen refresh rate. Brands are under immense-pressure in the next few years to offer budget 5G smartphones with flagship hardware under $550, and solutions such as Pixelworks will help them get closer to where they need to be.

Commenting on the importance of this approach, Counterpoint’s Component Practice’s Research Analyst, Shobhit Srivastava, said, “Delivering premium quality content (HDR, 4K, 8K) experiences on a smartphone warrant a flagship-grade application processor paired with OLED displays, which increases the cost of the device. However, OEMs looking to differentiate and deliver enhanced video or display experiences using mid-range application processors can benefit from Pixelworks’ Iris co-processor solution. This companion solution can allow OEMs to save anywhere between 5% to 15% of the overall BoM cost. And smartphones sporting economical OLED and SoC, these savings can be further optimized.”

While the Pixelworks solution will help unlock a premium visual experience, we may see a similar approach from OEMs to trickle down advance features on affordable smartphones. The trend to add DSP-centric advanced co-processors will be on the rise from enhancing the audio experience (Hi-Fi lossless audio) to companion AI chip (for multiple use-cases – biometrics, graphics, etc) to a dedicated camera ISP to drive advanced imaging and photography features to affordable phones.

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