Qualcomm has announced the Snapdragon 865, its latest platform that's going to be powering a full range of devices into 2020 and beyond. It takes the great work of previous Snapdragon 800 series hardware and boosts it in a number of key areas, looking to give you the best smartphone experience out there.

Here's a breakdown of the key benefits that you'll see as a consumer, when you have a Snapdragon 865 device.

Summary of advancements

  • Optimised 5G system
  • Advanced AI increases
  • Huge camera advancements
  • Gaming boost with evolved graphics
Pocket-lintQualcomm Snapdragon 865 image 5

Built for 5G 

The Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 has been built and optimised for 5G, partnered with the X55 modem. But 5G isn't fully integrated, so there will be versions that don't support 5G too. However, Qualcomm says that it has been designed as a system to offer the best 5G performance.

When it comes to 5G, the X55 supports mmWave and sub-6, standalone and non-standalone 5G networks, as well as supporting previous bands - 4G, 3G, 2G - from the same modem. It's a jump over the X50 modem in the first-gen 5G handsets from 2019.

The result is that the Snapdragon 865 with X55 modem will be compatible with global 5G standards already available and in the future.

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AI gets a huge boost

Artificial intelligence has seen a huge boost in application over the past 5 years. Moving from predominantly cloud-based AI, we're now seeing a huge range of on-device AI features, like voice-to-text services or music recognition, something that Google has been evolving fast.

Beyond customer-facing features, there's a huge range of AI technology in other parts of the phone, from power management to the AI-enabled sensor hub. That means you need more power for AI and that's what the Snapdragon 865 delivers.

The Hexagon 698 processor will power the AI side of the Snapdragon 865, claiming a 2x boost over the Snapdragon 855. It's designed to take the AI load on the device for a more seamless experience, with support for faster LPDDR5 - that's faster RAM.

Moving on from the hardware, the software plays a huge part in the AI experience, with wide support for developers to power their AI use cases. Qualcomm says that its AI solution will give you a 3x power saving and 30 per cent lower latency so everything feels more seamless. 

Pulling this into the real world, take Snapchat for example: working with the new hardware on the Snapdragon 865 you'll get a smoother and faster experience, with higher frame rates, so everything looks better. Previously Snapchat had a low frame rate because of the intense AI processing - but now you'll get a smoother result.

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Big gains in camera capabilities

There's a new Spectra 480 image signal processor and Qualcomm says this is the biggest step forward in camera power that they've put into a Snapdragon.

The 865 will support 2 gigapixel speed - that's 64-megapixel capture at 60fps - which is massive amounts of data. With a lot more power, there's a lot more that can be done - like boosting the number of focusing points, powering-up noise reduction for better low-light photos and video, with Qualcomm saying that noise reduction in video get a 40 per cent boost in pixel processing. 

There's also a boost to simultaneous capture, meaning that you can grab a 64-megapixel photo while capturing 4K video. On the photo front, the 865 now supports up to 200-megapixel cameras, paving the way for huge increases in zoom - with confirmation that we'll see 200-megapixel devices launched in 2020.

There's also support for HEIF data, which means that the depth map from something like a portrait photograph can have all the data stored meaning that you can easily edit that image after the fact using this container format. 

But the headline feature is likely to be support for Dolby Vision HDR capture. This is the first time that a consumer device has offered this function, so user-generated Dolby Vision content will be easy to capture. 

You'll also be able to capture up to 8K resolution video, as well as 4K at up to 120 frames per second. Of course, the manufacture of the phone needs to offer these features, but at least the core support is there. 

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Graphics adds desktop features

It's all about sustained performance from the Adreno 650 GPU, giving a 25 per cent boost in graphics rendering over the previous edition, while also supporting 90fps delivery - and beyond. Qualcomm says that you'll get 35 per cent better power efficiency when it comes to 90fps display. Basically, your phone is going to last longer as faster displays are optimised. 

Qualcomm Snapdragon Elite Gaming looks to boost the performance giving smoother results. There's a new game smoother feature that will support higher refresh rates, as well as an adaptive game performance engine to make adjustments to the system performance to keep the game running at its best. 

There's support for 90fps gaming in PUBG Mobile, as well as stretching up to 120fps and beyond to 144Hz displays - so you could be getting that on a future phone, something we've only seen in desktop gaming before.

The Adreno 650 GPU also supports 10-bit HDR gaming - again coming to PUBG Mobile - to boost the visual dynamics. For games that don't support 10-bit HDR, there's a Game Color Plus feature to ensure that you're getting the best visuals. This can boost the tone mapping and saturation, giving graphics a lift.

But one of the big changes to the hardware arrangement is that the Adreno 650 GPU can be updated via Google Play. This will mean you can update as and when new firmware is available, so you'll get wider support for new performance features and optimisation.

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When will Snapdragon 865 phones be available? 

As the platform has only just been announced, it's going to be some time before the first devices come to market. However, that hasn't stopped the likes of Xiaomi and Oppo stepping forward to confirm that they'll be launching Snapdragon 865 devices in the near future. 

The only confirmed device at the moment is the Xiaomi Mi 10, but there's no confirmed launch date. We expect that we'll be seeing Snapdragon 865 devices from January 2020 - certainly there will be announcements in Q1 2020 and we're likely to see a slew of launches at Mobile World Congress 2020 in February.