Smartphone processor Snapdragon 865: 960 fps videos, Dolby Vision and 7 nm, but without integrated 5G

With the introduction of the smartphone processor Snapdragon 865, manufactured in 7 nm, Qualcomm offers an outlook on the upcoming flagships. Not only do they become a little faster and more economical as usual, but they should primarily benefit from new camera functions. For photos, the new system-on-chip (SoC) offers higher resolutions in the first place, for videos a higher dynamic range thanks to Dolby Vision and a much more powerful slow motion mode. The takes approximately 1000 frames per second (fps) – without time limit. First devices with the new SoC are expected in spring 2020.

The Spectra 480 baptized processor achieves a maximum performance of 2 gigapixels per second (Snapdragon 855: 1.3 gigapixels). This enables much faster processing of the data supplied by the camera sensor. Instead of one pixel per clock cycle, the new ISP can process four. The time saved can be used for image enhancements such as multi-frame noise reduction. The increased performance also allows you to process larger shots. The limit is now at 200-megapixel recordings or twice 64 megapixels without tripping delay.

UHD video encodes the ISP with up to 120 fps, 8K resolution is also possible; Details on frame rate at 8K does not exist. Optionally, UHD videos are also stored with high dynamic range (HDR, High Dynamic Range). In addition to the static HDR10, the Snapdragon 865 also supports the dynamic HDR10 + and – as the first smartphone SoC – Dolby Vision. The format developed by Dolby is characterized by a higher color depth (12 instead of 10 bits) and maximum brightness. But: Dolby Vision capable displays are not supported by the Snapdragon 865. The datasheet shows only HDR10 and HDR10 + at this point.

The Snapdragon 865 is primarily intended for high-end smartphones. A 4G variant will not exist unlike the Snapdragon 855.

The Snapdragon 865 is intended for high-end smartphones. A 4G variant will not exist unlike the Snapdragon 855.

(Picture: Qualcomm)

Improved Qualcomm has the ability to shoot photos during a video recording. So far, it was usually not a real photo, but only an extracted video frame, the Snapdragon 865 parallel to the video up to five 64 megapixel photos in series (burst mode) can record.

There is a big jump in slow motion videos. The spectacular recordings with 960 frames per second have been limited in time – more than short moments with such a high frame rate were not possible due to the technical limitations. This restriction lifts Qualcomm and allows unlimited 960 fps videos. The resolution remains at a maximum HD (720p).

Other enhancements include the increased AI performance of the new DSP Hexagon 698. The fifth generation "AI Engine" achieves 15 TOPS, twice as much as the Snapdragon 855. It is designed for tensor, vector, and scalar calculations This allows, in conjunction with the camera, among other things, an improved real-time detection of objects and an improved real-time bokeh when recording UHD videos.

For the first time since the Snapdragon 805 introduced in 2014 – and unlike the Snapdragon 765, Qualcomm has decided not to use an integrated mobile modem in a SoC of the 8xx series. This is due to the long development time – the work started three years ago. But also the space requirement plays a role. Instead, the company couples the chip to the X55 multi-mode modem, which understands both 5G and 2G, 3G and 4G. It manages 2×2 MIMO in 5G mmWave networks and 4×4 MIMO in sub-6 networks. The maximum transfer rates in 5G networks are 7.5 and 3 GBit / s in the downlink and uplink. For 4G networks, the specifications provide for a maximum speed of 2.5 GBit / s. An alternative to the coupling with the X55 does not qualify Qualcomm. This means that with the Snapdragon 865 equipped smartphones are basically 5G-compatible. Unlike the predecessor Snapdragon 855, where there is 5G only as an option.

The Snapdragon 865 is larger than its predecessor, although there is no integrated modem.

The Snapdragon 865 is larger than its predecessor, although there is no integrated modem.

(Picture: Qualcomm)

There are predominantly changes in detail with regard to the further communication properties. The integrated WLAN module FastConnect 6800 supports Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) including 8×8 MU-MIMO and ideally achieves a transfer rate of just under 1.8 GBit / s. In the 60 GHz band (802.11ad and ay) 10 GBit / s are possible. WPA3 is intended to enable secure connections. Bluetooth is supported in version 5.1, including Qualcomm's audio codecs aptX and aptX Adaptive.

Despite the Snapdragon 855 with the same clock speeds, the performance should be 25 percent higher and the energy requirement 25 percent lower. While the Snapdragon 865 Qualcomm remains faithful to the predecessor's CPU structure: In addition to a "Prime" core, there are three "Performance" cores and four "Efficiency" cores. The Prime core is an ARM Cortex-A77 that clocks up to 2.84GHz and accesses 512K of Level 2 cache. Qualcomm uses the same type of CPU for the performance cores, but limits clock and L2 cache to 2.4 GHz and 256 KB. The four Efficiency cores are up to 1.8 GHz fast Cortex-A55, each with 128 KB of L2 cache.

All eight cores share a 4 MB, which is twice the size of the L3 cache compared to the Snapdragon 855.

The most important innovation with regard to the GPU: The driver can receive updates via the Google Play Store. This creates independence from operating system updates, over which new versions have been distributed so far. Qualcomm makes use of this advantage, new functions can be submitted faster.

The new graphics unit Adreno 650 is said to offer 20 percent more power than the Adreno 640 of the Snapdragon 640. That would land her at about 1200 GFLOPS. In addition to Vulkan 1.1, DirectX 12, OpenGL ES 3.2 and OpenCL 2.0 FP are also considered for playing games in HDR graphics including HDR10 + and Dolby Vision. Launched in late 2018, the Snapdragon Elite Gaming term for Qualcomm's Snapdragon 865 includes support for 144 Hz displays (maximum up to QHD + resolution, above 60 Hz) and desktop forward rendering for games using Unreal Engine 4. While this may reduce the number of shading options, it can result in higher frame rates and faster load times.

Both CPU and GPU can benefit from fast memory. The SoC can be paired with LPDDR4X memory (2133 MHz maximum) and LPDDR5 memory (2750 MHz maximum). Possible are up to 16 GB.

Whether the selected 7nm manufacturing process is the same as the Snapdragon 855 (TSMC N7) or a development is not known. Among the first manufacturers to offer devices with the new SoC are Oppo and Xiaomi. With the Mi 10 Xiaomi has already announced a concrete model.

Note: Qualcomm invited the author to the Snapdragon Tech Summit and paid the travel expenses.


. (tagsToTranslate) 5G (t) processors (t) Qualcomm (t) Snapdragon 865 (t) system-on-chip