Following the official announcement of the Snapdragon 845 on Tuesday, Qualcomm finally detailed its new premium system-on-chip during the second day of its Snapdragon Tech Summit in Maui, Hawaii. While many semiconductor manufacturers are now delivering AI-focused chips, the San Diego, California-based tech giant is quick to point out that the Snapdragon 845 is actually its third-generation AI silicon, a refined version of what the previous two product lineups offered. So, while most of its rivals are still trying to get the basics right, Qualcomm is already deeply involved in highly specific optimizations encompassing various AI-related technologies like TensorFlow, Google's software library used for machine learning applications. Essentially, if you plan on buying a cutting-edge smartphone with countless AI capabilities next year, chances are it will be powered by Qualcomm's latest offering.
The Snapdragon 845 is still an SoC manufactured on Samsung's second-generation 10nm FinFET process with eight Kryo 385 CPU cores configured in two clusters, a high-performance quad-core one clocked at a maximum operating frequency of 2.8GHz, and an energy-efficient configuration running at up to 1.8GHz. The Adreno 630 is also part of the package, succeeding the Adreno 540 found inside the Snapdragon 835. Support for LPDDR4 RAM is still here, as is compatibility with the latest and fastest flash memory chips. The follow-up to the Snapdragon X16 LTE modem integrated into the new chip comes in the form of the previously announced Snapdragon X20 which is a fully 5G-enabled module, featuring peak download speeds of 1.2Gbps. The modem comes with support for all contemporary wireless technologies like 5×20 MHz carrier aggregation and 4×4 MIMO, being designed as a truly next-generation offering as far as cellular connectivity is concerned. Another massive advantage of the Snapdragon X20 is its support for the new U.S. Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band that not only allows for private LTE networks but also benefits wireless carriers' efforts to improve their networks. While Qualcomm EVP Cristiano Amon acknowledged the world is still "between Gs" while speaking at the first day of the firm's summit, the tech giant expects 5G networks to be commercialized as soon as the first half of 2019 and 2018 handsets powered by the Snapdragon 845 will be ready to take advantage of gigabit mobile speeds that the next wireless revolution promises to deliver.
The Snapdragon 845 boasts simultaneous support for two dual-camera setups, each featuring two 25-megapixel sensors, with this particular aspect of the chip presumably being meant to make it especially appealing to phone makers seeking on bringing their photography game to the next level. In other words, Qualcomm is betting on quad-camera Android flagships becoming much more prevalent over the course of the next year. While dual-camera setups became a common occurrence in 2017, the vast majority of such systems were featured on the rear panels of smartphones, whereas front-facing two-sensor setups mostly remained reserved for niche and extremely selfie-focused offerings like the Huawei Mate 10 Lite and OPPO F3 Plus. With the Snapdragon 845 now extending support for two premium dual-camera systems on a single device, the company may starting a new trend in the mobile industry that many Android flagship manufacturers end up supporting.
Content capture is definitely one of the Snapdragon 845's highlights even beyond its quad-sensor support, with the SoC taking the 4K UHD Premium and HDR10 compatibility of its predecessor and giving it another dimension by providing support for recording content compliant with the Ultra High-Definition Premium standard. As Qualcomm SVP Alex Katouzian put it yesterday, the Snapdragon 845 will allow consumers to capture "Hollywood-quality" videos, and being able to do so in accordance with the latest and greatest standards for image excellence should ultimately help resolve one of today's biggest issues with UHD Premium – lack of content. On a related note, the digital signal processor (DSP) of Qualcomm's new offering was also revamped and is now even more efficient, being able to process video and audio data separately.
The Snapdragon 845 will be made available to phone makers starting early 2018, with Samsung being expected to be the first to commercialize the chip with the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus variants sold in the United States and China. Regardless, if recent product launch practices in the mobile industry are any indication, expect multiple Snapdragon 845-powered devices to be announced at the next iteration of Barcelona, Spain-based Mobile World Congress scheduled to start in late February. Xiaomi already confirmed that its next Android flagship will be powered by Qualcomm's new offering, likely referring to the Mi 7 which should launch come spring.