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Snapdragon 845 launched: All of the improvements and new features

Qualcomm has officially launched the Snapdragon 845 mobile platform, which is set to power many of the biggest flagship smartphones in 2018. Here’s a breakdown of the improvements that you can expect from your next handset.

The new Snapdragon 845 chipset will be the brains of many premium mobile phones in the new year, including the likes of Samsung’s Galaxy S9, the OnePlus 6 and the HTC U12 (if indeed that’s what they’re called). That’s why we were very interested to hear more on the platform and what new features you can expect to see in the latest handsets launched in 2018.

Summary of Snapdragon 845 improvements

Quick Charge 4 allows you to power your phone

up to 50 percent in just 15 minutes, while general energy efficiency updates mean slower battery drain.

New Adreno 630 visual processing subsystem for rendering graphics, with a 30 percent boost to graphics speed and energy efficiency. That’s on top of CPU improvements, via the new Kryo 385 CPU.

New Snapdragon X20 LTE modem offers a 20 percent boost in data download speeds, plus improved WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity.

New Spectra 280 ISP for image processing, which can improve the quality of your photos and video. Support for Ultra HD Premium video capture at 60 frames-per-second, with more natural colours.

New security features, including facial recognition with accurate depth sensing and a secure ‘vault’ for storing your biometric data.

What new features and improvements does the Snapdragon 845 offer?

This platform offers lots of new features and improvements which can be used by mobile manufacturers when they’re designing their 2018 devices. Here’s what you can expect.

Performance improvements in the Snapdragon 845

As always, battery life is a big thing in this new chipset. Various elements of the Snapdragon 845 have a focus on improving efficiency, as you’ll see when you read the rest of the improvements and updates.

With just a single charge, you’ll be able to capture over four hours of Ultra HD Premium video, for instance, or make Ultra HD calls for over two days. Recharge speed is also impressive. Quick Charge 4 allows you to power up your phone from 0 to 50 percent in just 15 minutes, which is great news if you forget to plug in your phone overnight.

As for performance, the Snapdragon 845 packs an octa-core Kryo 385 CPU, with cores which run at up to 2.8GHz. These cores offer a 25 to 30 percent uplift in processing speeds compared with the previous chipset.

Camera improvements on the Snapdragon 845

The new Spectra 280 Image Signal Processor found on the Snapdragon 845 is set to improve the quality of our camera results. 

Ultra HD Premium video capture at 60 frames-per-second is the highlight, for incredibly realistic 4K resolution home movies. You can expect an improvement to the colour depth and gamut in your photos, for more natural hues. Meanwhile multi-frame noise reduction helps to cut down on grain in low light, for images captured at up to 16-megapixels.

You also now get built-in support for slow motion HDR10 video shot at up to 720p resolution, at 480FPS.

Improvements to still image capture is also a big thing for the new Snapdragon, with Qualcomm aiming to break the 100 mark in DxOMark camera tests. As well as the same colour improvements, you can expect improved bokeh effects with a single lens camera (especially handy for good looking selfies).

Facial recognition and security improvements on the Snapdragon 845

Security is of course a serious issue with smartphones, considering how much private, personal information that’s stored on our mobiles. Hence it’s a big focus for the Snapdragon 845.

The Snapdragon 845 comes with built-in support for depth-sensing facial recognition for unlocking your phone - something already found on the iPhone X and OnePlus 5T. Accuracy and responsiveness will hopefully make it a worthy alternative to the typical fingerprint sensor.

You also have support for iris recognition, which is more secure than facial recognition.

Qualcomm has improved the general OS security too, to help keep your smartphone malware-free. Definitely a good thing, as Android phones are constantly being targeted by dodgy apps and viruses. And a new isolated Secure Processing Unit built into the Snapdragon 845, complete with its own memory and power island, is used to store and verify your biometric data (facial map, fingerprint scan and so on). That should make it much more difficult to hack into your mobile and steal the data you use to unlock your handset and authorise online payments.

VR and AR improvements on the Snapdragon 845

Qualcomm has also focused on ‘Extended Reality’, or XR. This is an umbrella term which covers Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and other means of tweaking our environments using our smartphone.

The new 845 chipset offers improved hand tracking and obstacle detection, for any VR headsets with external cameras. There’s also been a bump in image quality. Now up to 4 million pixels can be beamed to each eye at up to 120 frames-per-second, for much more immersive experiences.

AR glasses will also support voice recognition, with always-on support just like Amazon’s Echo speakers. 

Gaming and graphics improvements on the Snapdragon 845

The Snapdragon 845 boasts an improved Adreno GPU, the Adreno 630. This serves up 30 percent ‘faster graphics’ and a 30 percent boost to power efficiency too.

A new eye tracking feature allows your phone to work out exactly which point of the display you’re staring at. In turn, this means your device can dedicate more computing power to rendering that focal area, while dropping the detail levels in other areas. This allows for more efficient processing, without any drop in image quality.

AI updates on the Snapdragon 845

Smartphones are the most pervasive AI platform according to Qualcomm, a sentiment we certainly agree with. After all, our phones go everywhere with us and act as a window into pretty much every part of our lives.

The Snapdragon 845 is Qualcomm’s third generation mobile AI platform, something which began with the 820. Improved machine learning is therefore a major focus, without impacting on battery life. You’ll get three times the performance over the Snapdragon 835 apparently, as far as neural processing tasks go.

One application for this is voice assistants. You can expect improved automatic detection, with other voices ignored in a busy environment, as well as more natural interactions.

Of course, AI stretches to almost every other element of your smartphone’s functionality, from the camera to the security.

Connectivity improvements on the Snapdragon 845

The Snapdragon 835 already offered impressive connectivity with its support for Gigabit LTE speeds when you jump online, something that’s beyond what many global networks can currently even offer. This industry leading connectivity has been improved upon with the Snapdragon 845, thanks to the new X20 modem.

This offers a 20 percent improvement on peak and real world speeds over the X16 modem found in the previous chipset, or so says Qualcomm. You can expect up to 1.2Gbps peak download speeds, with up to 12 data streams supported at any one time. That includes full support for dual SIM at those speeds.

WIFi has also been enhanced, with support for two modules to prevent a drop in coverage if your hand is blocking signal to one. Protocol enhancements allow for 30 percent more efficient WiFi performance, plus a connection speed that’s 16 times faster than before.

Lastly, Bluetooth connectivity has also been improved. You can now broadcast your audio to more than one device, including dual wireless earbuds, with your music playing perfectly in sync.

When will phones using the Snapdragon 845 platform be released in the UK?

You can expect the first set of Snapdragon 845 smartphones to hit the UK early in 2018. Xiaomi has already confirmed that it will be launching the world’s first handset to use Qualcomm’s new chipset, while the likes of Samsung, Sony and HTC are likely to offer their own 845 devices from around April onwards.

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