Qualcomm had unveiled the final name of its latest flagship mobile platform—Snapdragon 855—yesterday during the first day of the Qualcomm Summit 2018, which is being held in Maui, Hawaii. Today, the American fabless chipmaker has detailed all the features of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855. It will compete with the likes of Apple A12 Bionic, Exynos 9820 from Kirin 980 from Huawei.
The 7nm chipset is being fabricated by TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company), and it features a tri-cluster octa-core Kryo 485 CPU, Adreno 640 GPU, faster LPDDR4X RAM, Dual-14-bit Spectra 380 ISP, 4K HDR10+ video recording. 5G connectivity (using a separate 5G modem) and more. Let’s have a detailed look at all its features.
Qualcomm Snapdragon 855: 7nm FinFET, Kryo 485 CPU, 5G & More
The Snapdragon 855 chipset features Cortex-A76 derivative 64-bit CPU cores, and in classic Qualcomm fashion, they’re being termed ‘Kryo 485 Gold’. The chipset has eight CPU cores arranged in three clusters, a first for Qualcomm. The company is intelligently allowing one of the four Kryo 485 Gold CPU cores to achieve a clock speed of up to 2.84GHz, which can be used in scenarios or applications which need higher clocked single-core CPU performance. It should close the single-threaded performance gap between the Snapdragon 855 and the Apple A12 Bionic. The other three Kryo 485 Gold CPU cores can achieve a maximum clock speed of up to 2.42GHz. There are four Cortex-A55 derivative ‘Kryo 485 Silver’ CPU cores (maximum clock speed of 1.8GHz) for times when high performance isn’t necessary so that a device can be as power-efficient as possible. There’s 4MB of shared L3 cache memory. The company is claiming up to 45 percent faster CPU performance compared to the Snapdragon 845 chipset from last year.
We would be interested to see whether Qualcomm’s 1+3+4 tri-cluster CPU performs better or worse than Samsung Exynos 9820’s 2+2+4 tri-cluster CPU or Kirin 980’s conventional 4+4 dual-cluster CPU.
With the Adreno 640 GPU, Qualcomm is claiming up to 20 percent faster graphics processing, 120fps and HDR gaming. The company also claims that the new GPU is much better at sustained gaming performance compared to its previous generation chipsets, all thanks to ‘Snapdragon Elite Gaming Experience’. The GPU can support one on-device 4K HDR screen or up to two 4K HDR external displays. It also helps in up to 8K 360-degree VR videos. The Snapdragon 855 is also compatible with faster, LPDDR4X RAM clocked at 2133MHz (at 34.1Gbps), and there’s 5MB of system-level cache memory. The chipset also gets an integrated dual-14-bit Spectra 380 ISP that can support up to 20MP dual-camera setup or up to 32MP single camera. It can also capture high-efficiency image and video formats (HEIF and HEVC, respectively), similar to newer iPhones. Apart from AVC, HEVC, VP8, and VP9, the ISP can record up to 4K 60fps videos with HDR10, HDR10+, and HLG HDR formats. Slow-motion video recording is still stuck at 720p resolution and 480fps, though. The chipset can decode HDR10, HDR10+ and HLG videos. The ISP also supports real-time multi-frame noise reduction for higher dynamic range and lower noise. 4K HDR videos with Portrait Mode (bokeh effect) can also be recorded.
Although Snapdragon 855 supports 5G networks, it doesn’t come integrated with a 5G modem. Instead, it comes integrated with the X24 4G Cat. 20 LTE modem that supports up to 2Gbps download speeds (with 7x20MHz carrier aggregation, 256-QAM, 4×4 MIMO) and up to 316Mbps upload speeds (with 3x20MHz CA, 256-QAM, data compression). Brands which want to equip their phones with 5G connectivity will have to use an additional X50 G5 LTE modem in combination with the Snapdragon 855 chipset. Other connectivity features include Wi-Fi ad/ay/ac/b/g/n (Wi-Fi 6-ready), Bluetooth 5.0 (with aptX, aptX LL, aptX HD), GPS (dual-frequency GNSS, GLONASS, BeiDou, Galileo, and QZSS), and USB 3.1 Type-C port. Faster battery charging technology includes support for Quick Charge 4+.
Other features of the Snapdragon 855 chipset include 3D Face Detect (an Apple Face ID-like technology), 3D Sonic fingerprint readers, Aqstic technology for better far-field voice recognition with 4 microphones,
Snapdragon 855 Features Fourth-Generation AI Engine
The Snapdragon 855 mobile platform also bets big on dedicated AI cores. The company’s fourth-generation AI Engine (Hexagon 690 AIE DSP) features a dedicated Hexagon 690 processor, Hexagon Vector Accelerator, Hexagon Tensor Acceleration, Hexagon Voice Assistant, and Qualcomm All-Ways Aware technology.
The Hexagon Voice Accelerator allows faster AI voice assistant performance for Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Cortana, and Baidu. Qualcomm claims that the new AI Engine is faster, smarter, more secure, and more aware than AI blocks used in previous-generation Qualcomm chipsets.
Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 vs. Qualcomm Snapdragon 845: Features, Specs Compared
|Snapdragon 855||Snapdragon 845|
|Manufacturing Process||7nm TSMC||10nm LPP Samsung|
|CPU||1x Kryo 485 Gold @ 2.84GHz + 3x Kryo 485 Gold @ 2.42GHz + 4x Kryo 485 Silver @ 1.8GHz||4x Kryo 385 Gold @2.8GHz + 4x Kryo 385 Silver @1.8GHz|
|GPU||Adreno 640||Adreno 630|
|Display Support||Up to 4K HDR 60fps On-Device, Up to two 4K HDR 60fps External Display; Rec2020 Color Gamut, 10-Bit Color Depth; HDR10, HDR10+, HLG||Up to 4K HDR On-Device, Up to 4K 60fps External Display; Rec2020 Color Gamut, 10-Bit Color Depth; Ultra HD Premium Ready|
|RAM||4x 16-Bit LPDDR4X @ 1866MHz (34.1Gbps)||4x 16-Bit LPDDR4X @ 2133MHz (29.9Gbps)|
|ISP/Camera||Computer Vision Dual-14-Bit Spectra 380 ISP; dual-20MP Camera or Single 32MP Camera; 4K 60fps Video Recording, 4K HDR10+ Video Recording, 4K HDR10 Portrait Video Recording, 720p 480fps Slow-Motion Video Recording||Dual-14-Bit Spectra 280 ISP; Dual-16MP or Single 32MP Camera; 4K 60fps Video Recording, 720p 480fps Slow-Motion Video Recording|
|DSP||Hexagon 690||Hexagon 685|
|GPS||GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS, BeiDou, Galileo, QZSS, Dual Frequency GNSS||
GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS, BeiDou, Galileo, QZSS, GNSS, SBAS
|Modem||Integrated X24 LTE (2Gbps DL, 316Mbps UL), Optional 5G Modem||Integrated X20 LTE (1.2Gbps DL, 150Mbps UL)|
|Wi-Fi||Wi-Fi b/g/n/ac/ad/ay, Wi-Fi ax-Ready, Peak Speed: 10Gbps (at 60GHz Wi-Fi ad)||Wi-Fi b/g/n/ac/ad, Peak Speed: 867Mbps|
|Bluetooth||Bluetooth 5.0, aptX, aptX HD, Qualcomm TrueWireless, Qualcomm Aqstic||Bluetooth 5.0, aptX, aptX HD, Qualcomm TrueWireless, Qualcomm Aqstic|
|Charging Technology||Quick Charge 4+||Quick Charge 4+|
When Will Phones With Snapdragon 855 Launch?
The Snapdragon 855 chipset is already in mass production (as mentioned earlier, being manufactured by TSMC), and it will be available in phones that will be launched in the first quarter of 2019. It is being reported that the Galaxy S10 series, next-gen OnePlus phone, Sony Xperia XZ4, and next-gen Xiaomi flagship phone will feature the Snapdragon 855 chipset, and all of them will be available in the first half of 2019.
Whether or not the Snapdragon 855 is as fast or faster than the Apple A12 Bionic chipset, the current leader in smartphone CPU and GPU performance, remains to be seen. We can get a clearer picture only when the first Snapdragon 855-equipped phones start coming out early next year.