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What the new Snapdragon chip from Qualcomm may mean for the Galaxy S9


The Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chip will power the next generation of high-end smartphones.

Jessica Dolcourt / CNET

Your next Android smartphone is about to be much smarter.

Qualcomm detailed the upcoming Snapdragon 845 processor that will likely power most of the high-end Android phones launched in 2018. The chip features enhanced image and video capture capabilities, more intelligent artificial intelligence features, "fast as" connectivity lightning, "" vault "" similar security "and better performance and energy efficiency.

In other words, your next Xiaomi Mi 7 or Samsung Galaxy S9 will allow you to take more videos and real photos, use a smart assistant to analyze the images, upload them quickly and keep them safe on your phone. You can do more, much faster and with better battery life.

"We focus on combining the user experience with innovation," said Keith Kressin, senior vice president of product management at Qualcomm, during a keynote address on Wednesday.

Qualcomm is organizing a technology summit this week in Hawaii to detail its new mobile chip and show some of the products that run on its processors. Qualcomm, the world's largest wireless chip maker, faces a battle to survive. The company has Apple, Samsung and most of the world's largest phone manufacturers as its customers, but is also waging a fierce legal battle against Apple. Apple, Samsung and others have also been working on their own processors and have partnered with Intel to reduce their reliance on Qualcomm's wireless chips. At the same time, rival Broadcom is trying to buy Qualcomm.

The Snapdragon 845 will be key for Qualcomm to maintain its position as the world's largest mobile chip designer. Chinese phone maker Xiaomi said on Tuesday that its next flagship device, the Mi 7, will use the Snapdragon 845. It is likely that some models of the Samsung Galaxy S9 also have the processor, like LG and others Android device manufacturers, although none has confirmed that fact.

Up to the core

Warning, this part is about to be a bit technical.

The Qualcomm chip is comprised of the Spectra 280 image signal processor that allows you to record video in Ultra HD premium. The technology has richer, more real colors and allows you to capture 64 times more high dynamic range color. The chip also has multi-frame noise reduction, which makes the images smoother. You can capture high-performance content of up to 16MP at 60 frames per second, while slow-motion video can be captured at 720p at 480 frames per second.

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The Adreno 630 graphics on the Snapdragon 835 feature 30% more graphics and video playback, and consume 30% less energy for video recording. The "six degrees of freedom" at room scale will allow AR applications to detect that you are about to hit a wall. The "Adreno foveation" reduces energy consumption, improves visual quality and increases the performance of the AR and VR application.

Artificial intelligence capabilities are three times better than the previous generation, "transforming your mobile device into the best personal assistant". It simplifies the way you take photos and videos, allowing you to do things like create a bokeh effect, with the subject in focus and the background blurred, using only one camera lens instead of two. (Apple iPhones create a bokeh with two camera lenses).

You also have Qualcomm Quick Charge 4+ to recharge your device even faster.

The Kryo 385 CPU, or the brains of the chip, features four "performance cores" that operate up to 2.8 GHz, up to 25 percent from the previous generation. Four "efficiency cores" work up to 1.7 GHz, which helps save energy by performing less intensive tasks.

The X20 LTE modem embedded in the chip adds support for Gigabit LTE of 1.2 Gbps. It is 20 percent faster for maximum and real speeds than the old X16 modem. You can download a 3GB movie in less than three minutes.

Snapdragon 845's fast connection speeds allow users to enjoy immersive XR experiences in more places, download a 3GB movie in less than 3 minutes, just before boarding a flight and access large files or applications in the cloud as fast as stored in the memory of their phones.

Bluetooth 5 enables support for ultra-low-power wireless headphones and allows you to stream audio to multiple devices. You can make your headphones receive up to 50 percent more battery efficiency.

With Bluetooth headsets currently on the market, the sound is transmitted to a hearing aid which then shares it with the other.

"A headset is doing twice as much work," Keith Carson, senior director of product marketing, said Wednesday during a presentation.

There is also Wi-Fi 11G multigigabit Wi-Fi and 2×2 11ac integrated with simultaneous dual-band support. The Wi-Fi 11ac allows better connections for networks of crowded operators. It has greater reliability and faster roaming, as well as a connection configuration 16 times faster and up to 30 percent improvement in efficiency. "That means a better capacity for everyone," Carson said.

Security also received a boost on the Snapdragon 845. Qualcomm's new "secure processing unit" acts as a sort of vault or island to maintain its biometric data, including fingerprints and iris, voice and face, and other Secure confidential information. The secure processing unit has its own brains, memory, cryptographic engine to sign and decrypt information, random number generator and power island.

"If the code that runs on other parts of the platform is trying to attack or get information, the secure processing the unit can essentially close that," said Sy Choudhury, senior director of product management, during a presentation on Wednesday.

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