Qualcomm's next-gen Snapdragon 865 mobile chip focuses on 5G

Qualcomm says that it will reveal more details about its next-gen Snapdragon 865, Snapdragon 765 and Snapdragon 765G later this week.
  • Mark Hachman (PC World (US online))
  • 04 December, 2019 06:00

Qualcomm uncorked this year’s version of its Snapdragon Technology Summit by announcing the names of its two new upcoming Snapdragon chips, the Snapdragon 865 and the Snapdragon 765/765G. Not surprisingly, the emphasis this year is on 5G, and the “AI” which those chips will apply for software enhancements.

Because this is the Snapdragon Technology Summit, we expect to hear more details of each of these chips in the coming days. For now, however, Qualcomm is just teasing the names and their basic capabilities.

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chips are some of the most prevalent processors in smartphones and a mainstay in high-end flagships, powering the Samsung Galaxy S10 and OnePlus 7 Pro among others. Both of these phones incorporate the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 that was introduced at last year’s Snapdragon Summit, and it’s fair to say we’d expect the eventual successor of those phones to use the new chips, as well. 

Alex Katouzian, senior vice president and general manager of mobile at Qualcomm Technologies, introduced both the Snapdragon 865 and the Snapdragon 765/765G but said nothing about a enhanced “Plus” version, as Qualcomm introduced with the Snapdragon 855 Plus midway through this year.

Specifically, Katzouian said, the Snapdragon 865 will be built around the Snapdragon X55, Qualcomm’s second-gen 5G modem that the company launched in February of this year. The X55 was part of the ”Project Limitless” PC platform Qualcomm showed off with Lenovo at Computex, but is expected to be much more of a factor within smartphones.

qualcomm snapdragon 765 5g mobile platform american coin Qualcomm

The Qualcomm Snapdragon 765 next to a penny.

While the Snapdragon 865 will obviously be the premium smartphone platform, aimed at flagship phones, recall that Qualcomm also announced what it called the “Elite Gaming Platform” as part of the 855, with some tweaked features in its Adreno GPU. It later launched the Snapdragon 730 and 730G, which featured a faster Adreno 618 GPU optimized for mobile gaming. Qualcomm appears prepared to pull some of those out into the Qualcomm Snapdragon 765 and 765G, which will bring “integrated 5G connectivity, advanced AI processing, and select Snapdragon Elite Gaming experiences,” Qualcomm’s Katzouian said. 

We won’t know the features of either platform until later on this week, though we can certainly follow the direction that Qualcomm is pointing.

One question will be how Qualcomm treats 5G. Last year, Qualcomm launched the X50 modem as part of the Snapdragon 855 platform, but the modem was a discrete component supporting the longer-range sub-6GHz bands, as well as the short-range, high-bandwidth “millimeter-wave” technology.

Qualcomm also sees AI differently than, say, Intel. In the smartphone space, “AI” is mainly used to enhance smartphone photography and video, allowing for computational photography that goes beyond the physical limits of the lens. However, the Snapdragon 855 incorporated the Hexagon 690 DSP, which was retooled for AI. That logic powered functions like the always-listening “wake words,” like “OK, Google.”

Likewise, the Spectra 850 ISP built into the Snapdragon 855 added portrait mode to video, in addition to just still images. That Spectra could also capture 22 megapixels at 30 frames per second using concurrent dual cameras; or 48MP at 30fps using a single camera. The 855 added 4K, HDR10+ video capture in portrait mode at 60fps.

Look for the Snapdragon 865 to add even more capabilities.

Note: Because Qualcomm would provide certain information only via an in-person briefing in Hawaii, with no alternative venue in the continental United States or by virtual means, we accepted the company’s offer to pay for the flight and hotel in order to get the story.