Fast Charge: 5 key changes the Snapdragon 865 will bring to smartphones

Qualcomm just launched its latest flagship chip, the Snapdragon 865, which will power premium Android devices. So what does it bring to the table?

There were plenty of eye-popping specifications that were reeled off at the launch event, but here we break down the everyday implications for photography, gaming, and more that the processor that will likely power top-of-the-line smartphones from the likes of Sony, OnePlus, Asus, and others.

Increased Camera Resolution

It was exciting enough to hear Qualcomm announce that the new chipset can support a 200-megapixel image sensor, given that the best on the market is currently the 108-megapixel snapper found on the Xiaomi Mi Note 10. But even more importantly, the manufacturer confirmed that a 200-megapixel sensor will make it to the mainstream market in 2020, putting that theory into practice. During our brief time with the Mi Note 10 were were impressed by the detail offered by the high-megapixel sensor, as well as the colur and dynamic range, so we can’t wait to see what results from the new “arms race” for superior image quality that the Snapdragon 865’s bold claims will undoubtedly spark.

8K Video Footage

Another eyebrow-raising boast made by Qualcomm at the launch event was the new chip’s ability to process 8K video footage at 30fps. It’s undoubtedly a massive leap forward for video resolution, and we expect to see many smartphones take up this mantle too. Yet at this early stage we have to admit we’re a little sceptical; not only will recording video of this quality be very demanding and eat up a lot of storage space quickly, but you won’t be able to watch it in original quality on your smartphone as the screen simply will not match such a high resolution — not to mention it’s far higher than necessary for posting to social media and the like. This spec is certainly impressive, but it’s more one to keep an eye on for the future.

5G Connectivity

OK, so 5G is not exactly new — we saw the debut of the new data standard earlier this year in the UK, and it’s been going from strength to strength ever since. And in fact, the Snapdragon 865 was a little underwhelming on this front as it doesn’t have a 5G modem integrated into the chip. Nonetheless, the launch heralded two significant turning points: firstly, the 865 will be packaged with the X55 modem so that all phones running the chip will support 5G; and secondly, the 765 and 765G chipsets will both have an integrated 5G modem. What this means is that both flagships and upper-tier mid-range devices will have 5G connectivity by default rather than as an exotic add-on option, and we expect this move to greatly popularise the use of 5G over the coming year.

High Refresh Rates

For keen gamers, there was one particular specification that stood head and shoulders above all others: the Snapdragon 865 will support a 144Hz refresh rate, meaning that the screen can be as responsive as the monitor on some gaming PCs. This should give competitive gamers that tantalising split-second advantage over their rivals that could prove to be invaluable whether you’re playing PUBG or Fortnite on your phone.

Questionable Artificial Intelligence

One of the most starling on-stage moments at this week’s conference was when the renewed power of artificial intelligence was demonstrated via live transcription of speech to text (in English), which occured along with near-instantaneous translation into Mandarin Chinese before our very eyes. This tool demonstrates the phenomenal, potentially life-changing power that artificial intelligence can have in our personal or professional lives.

But along with this tempting tech comes a concern from some consumers; the Artificial Intelligence on the Snapdragon 865 includes the new Qualcomm Sensing Hub, which can run the camera and smart assistants such as Alexa or Google Assistant at very low power consumption (less than 1mW). Though Qualcomm stressed its security credentials, bolstered with a strong partnership with Android, some are worried about the potential privacy breaches or data leaks that could occur when sensitive recording instruments can function constantly in the background, consuming so little power as to not be noticed.

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