Meet the Latest ‘Qualcomm Snapdragon 845’ Chip, The Power Behind Next-Gen ‘Galaxy S9’ Phone

The much anticipated Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor is finally here. The successor to the Snapdragon 835 (which powers the current line-up of Android flagships such as the Pixel 2, LG V30+, OnePlus 5T, Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus, etc) was revealed last week at an event in Hawaii, to power the next generation flagship smartphones in 2018.

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The new chip boasts improved image-and video-capture abilities, lightning-fast connectivity, smarter artificial intelligence features, vault-like security, improved display and screen resolution, new camera features and better performance, battery life, and power efficiency.

The Snapdragon 845 can be found lingering inside the next year’s best smartphone devices like the Galaxy S9, Galaxy Note 8, Pixel 2, and Moto Z2 Force. Also, Chinese handset maker Xiaom’s next flagship device, the Mi 7, will have the Snapdragon 845 at its heart.

Better Artificial Intelligence for a Smarter Phone

According to Qualcomm, the Snapdragon 845 will offer faster AI processing than the Snapdragon 835, with the new Hexagon DSP. The chip comes with improved neural network performance by a factor of three. That’s a pretty big deal — as artificial intelligence gets increasingly powerful.

Snapdragon 845 comes with improved voice recognition and low-power voice processing. Qualcomm will work with Chinese internet technology company Baidu on providing A.I. voice control for mobile and other Snapdragon 845-powered devices used in the home.

More advanced artificial intelligence also plays a role in better image processing. With the Snapdragon 845, it is letting you do things like creating a bokeh effect (with the subject in focus and the background blurred) using only one camera lens instead of two, thanks to artificial intelligence that can detect backgrounds and blur them to create a bokeh effect. (Google earlier made headlines with the Pixel 2 for using one single camera to produce excellent portrait mode photos. Apple’s iPhones and others create a bokeh effect using two camera lenses.)

Qualcomm has also included support for Google’s TensorFlow and Facebook’s Caffe frameworks, so as to make developing apps and tools for the Snapdragon 845’s AI easier. Those frameworks, coupled with the Snapdragon Neural Processing Engine, should make for a much smarter smartphone.

Better Performance

The most important aspect of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 is how it performs, both in terms of speed and battery life.

The Snapdragon 845 integrates a Kryo 385 CPU. The 10-nanometer Kryo 385 features eight cores — four  “performance” cores, and four “efficiency” cores. The performance cores, with a clock speed of 2.8GHz, offers 25-30 % performance boost over those in the Snapdragon 835, while the efficiency cores, which clock in at 1.8GHz, offer a 15 % performance boost, which altogether should help the Smartphone battery life significantly.

While the Snapdragon 845 uses less battery, it can also charge faster, thanks to Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 4.0 — which Qualcomm says can charge your device from zero to 50 % in only 15 minutes.

The new chip is also more power efficient, thanks to dedicated processing units for different tasks — a graphics processing unit, secure processing unit, etc.

On the graphics side, the chip will be upgraded to Adreno 630, which will come with AR and VR optimizations.

30% greater power efficiency and 30% faster graphics performance are the benefits that Snapdragon 845 will bring to you.

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New Camera Features:

The Snapdragon 845 chip supports 4K Ultra HD Premium photos and videos, which basically means that it supports the capture of a much wider array of colors through the camera. You see up to 64 times more shades for a total of more than 1 billion colors — That’s a pretty big deal.

While there are plenty of displays on the market that support showing HDR content, the Snapdragon 845 is the first chip to support actually capturing it through the camera.

While previous-generation chips have had a focus on being able to capture more pixels, this time around Qualcomm is focusing on capturing better pixel quality. While the Snapdragon 835 was able to capture the Rec. 709 color gamut, the Snapdragon 845 can capture the Rec. 2020 color gamut, making for much more realistic images and much more immersive content.

Qualcomm also demonstrated a neat feature that essentially plops a tiny video into part of your still portrait. All this is thanks to the Spectra 280 image signal processor which also helps reduce noise in photos, making for smoother still images.

Other specs include 30fps photos with zero shutter lag. You can record high-performance content up to 16MP at 60 frames per second, and capture slow-motion video at 720p at 480 frames per second (in case you really want to slow things down and don’t mind the lower resolution). The chip also supports video capture of 240 frames per second at 1080p — a feature the new iPhone 8 and iPhone X hold over Android devices. All this is thanks to the Adreno 630 graphics processing unit.

In terms of hard specs, the camera can capture up to 64 times more high dynamic range (HDR) color information in video situations compared to previous chips. That includes the ability to capture 10-bit color depth, as opposed to 8-bit.

Lightning-fast Connectivity:

Qualcomm has long been known for its connectivity solutions, and the connectivity on the Snapdragon 845 is better than ever. As we head into an age of 5G networks, gigabit connectivity will become an increasingly important thing. Carriers don’t have gigabit networks yet, but when they do, phones running Snapdragon 845 will be there to take full advantage of, as they can connect to those superfast networks through the new X20 LTE modem. According to Qualcomm, that modem allows for 20 percent faster speeds in real-world tests.

There are few technologies at play here that allow for faster data speeds. The chip supports 5x carrier aggregation, which means that your phone can receive data from up to five channels at once. That allows for peak data speeds of a hefty 1.2Gbps.

Wi-Fi connectivity is also improved. With Snapdragon 845, you will be able to connect to a network up to 16 times faster than before.  The Snapdragon 845 supports 802.11ad Wi-Fi and 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and you will get data speeds of up to a hefty 4.6Gbps. It means you can download a 3GB movie in under three minutes.

Qualcomm is also improving how devices connect through other protocols — like Bluetooth. For example, with the Snapdragon 845, you will be able to connect through Bluetooth to multiple devices, instead of just one. That’s good news for those who use true wireless earbuds — instead of having one main true wireless bud, a phone can connect with both the left and right earbuds, saving battery life up to 50 % and improving the connection. (With Bluetooth earbuds currently on the market, the sound is broadcast to one earbud that then shares it with the other.)

Improved Security:

These days, mobile security is becoming more and more of a focus. On the Snapdragon 845, Qualcomm is seriously stepping up security. The new chip supports 3D face mapping along the lines of Apple’s Face ID scanning in the iPhone X. While Apple’s system uses 30,000 dots of infrared light to map your face, Qualcomm’s chip uses up to 50,000 dots. However, it’s up to the phone makers whether they use this face mapping feature.

The company has also added a security-focused module called “secure processing unit” on the chip with its own processor, its own memory, and even its own power. In other words, it’s kind of like an island — a vault that’s physically on the chip itself, but its really a separate piece of hardware.

That’s a pretty big improvement, especially as we head into an age of hacked biometrics. With fingerprint sensors, if someone stole your fingerprint data, you could simply use another finger. But now, as we are using our faces to authenticate our identity, protecting that data is extremely important.

“If code running on other parts of the platform is trying to attack or get information, the secure processing unit can essentially shut that off,” Sy Choudhury, senior director of product management, said during the presentation.

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Final Words:

Finally, in simple words, the Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 could let you shoot more true-to-life video and photos, use a smart assistant to analyze the images, upload them quickly and keep them secure on your phone. You’ll be able to do more, a lot faster,  and with better battery life.

Your next Android Smartphone is about to get a lot smarter!

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