/Snapdragon 865: phones list, specs and 5G capabilities

Snapdragon 865: phones list, specs and 5G capabilities

The Snapdragon 865 chipset is ‘loaded with 5G,’ according to Qualcomm, and it’s ready to power the next round flagship-level Android smartphones starting in early 2020.

It’ll almost certainly be found at the heart of the Samsung Galaxy S11, Note 11, LG G9, OnePlus 8, Google Pixel 5 and so on, although the official Snapdragon 865 phones list will have to wait – likely until MWC 2020. Mid-range phones gunning for higher performance will likely pick the Snapdragon 765, also just introduced by Qualcomm, but top-tier Android phones will almost surely opt for the Snapdragon 865.

Qualcomm’s 5G-capable chipset, unveiled at its annual Snapdragon Tech Summit in Hawaii, foreshadows what to expect from your smartphone next year. It’ll be in the majority of top-tier phones – everything except Huawei phones and Apple iPhones.

But even iPhone owners should pay attention to the new Snapdragon 865 features. Qualcomm’s roadmap often shapes where the mobile devices industry goes, and we know Qualcomm’s modems are going to start being used in the 5G iPhone.

Snapdragon 865 features are primary focused on expanding 5G speeds, doubling down on gaming performance, and improving photo and video quality on the many, many cameras employed by smartphones these days.

(Image credit: Future)

Snapdragon 865 specs

Qualcomm is touting new architecture among its Snapdragon 865 specs, made up of a Kryo 585 CPU, Adreno 650 GPU, Spectra 480 ISP, Hexagon 698 processor and sensing hub.

Its CPU can run up to 2.84GHz, according to Qualcomm, and the GPU is supposed to offer 20% faster graphics rendering. We’ll be running Snapdragon 865 benchmark tests soon to confirm these numbers.

The standout in the Snapdragon 865 specs sheet, however, is the 35% increase in the power efficiency for intense tasks, like gaming. As powerful as GPUs have become in smartphones, we know peak performance only lasts so long before throttling sets in. Qualcomm says it wants to go the distance with the new 865 chip.

Snapdragon 865 has 5G, but without integration

The Snapdragon 865 is driving 5G in two ways: it’ll offer faster download speeds – up to 7.5Gbps – and be found in more smartphones you actually want in 2020.

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X55 5G modem achieves these peak download speeds via mmWave and sub-6 standards, the backbone of 5G. But it also employs tricks like Dynamic Spectrum Sharing, which combines 5G and 4G spectrum for faster throughput.

Upload speeds are also set to improve, reaching 3Gbps in ideal 5G conditions. That’s something we really haven’t seen from carriers in our 5G speed tests in the US, as the hype around uplink speeds has long trailed good download speed performance.

Interestingly, the Snapdragon 865 is being coupled with the Snapdragon X55 5G modem as a separate chip. This means the modem isn’t actually integrated into the mobile chipset, but you also won’t be able to get a Snapdragon 865 phone without the 5G chip. They’re a couple, so don’t expect new 865 phones to be 4G-only.

That’s more of a concern for smartphone manufacturers, which have to account for the modem within the confines of their devices and find ways to power the modem separately. But these concerns could affect the size and battery consumption of the next smartphones.

Snapdragon 865 is ready for 200MP photos, 8K video

Besides 5G, the most consumer-facing perks of the Snapdragon 865 chipset are the camera improvements. You’ll notice an uptick in both photo and video quality.

Specifically, the Qualcomm Spectra 480 Image Signal Processor boosts the megapixel count to 200MP. Note: it’s really up to phone manufacturers to use these grandiose capabilities, so you may not actually see 200MP smartphones yet.

For example, two years ago, we saw Samsung ditch HDR video capture when it was employed by the 845. This was reportedly done to keep parity with its Exynos chip, which didn’t have HDR video capture capabilities and went into Galaxy S9 and Note 9 in some regions. The Galaxy S10 ended up being Samsung’s first to capture HDR video.

When it comes to video for phones poised to use the Snapdragon 865 chipset, we’re going to see 8K resolution video, one billion shades of color and support for the HGL format and Dolby Vision captured in real time. 

Dolby Vision capture is going to be important simply because other phones out there right now have high-end screens that support seeing Dolby Vision. But capturing it is going to be limited to next year’s Android phones – meaning your friends will see you amazing footage on their phone screens and have instant camera phone envy. 

Slow motion video can be fun, but in 2019 it’s fairly limited – super slo mo modes at 960fps often cut out after ten seconds. That’s going to change in 2020 with unlimited super slow motion video. You’ll also see slo mo at 4K 120fps. Goodbye 720p video.

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Tech Summit 2019 continues this week, so we’ll have more coverage from the event and we’ll continue to tell you what the Snapdragon 865 says about smartphones coming out over the course of next 12 months.

  • Comparison: Check out the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 feature set last year.
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