The latest and greatest in Qualcomm's long line of mobile processors, the Snapdragon 845, is now set to touch down along with the Galaxy S9 and S9+. And as gorgeous as Samsung's newest flagships are, the processor that powers them under the hood is just as highly anticipated.
The Snapdragon 835 marked a historic shift for Qualcomm, as it was the first SoC to be manufactured using 10nm FinFET process. The processor was a huge success, going on to power almost all the subsequent flagships like the S8 and OnePlus 5T without a hitch. Now that Qualcomm has this manufacturing process down pat, Android aficionados the world over are excited to see what it has up its sleeve with the official arrival of the Snapdragon 845.
Qualcomm's Snapdragon 845 has been redesigned from the ground up, engineered to be less compartmentalized. This means that separate modules are now better able to communicate with each other, which results in significantly better efficiency and faster performance when compared to its predecessors.
With the Galaxy S9's imminent arrival, we decided to focus on what's under their hood and touch upon several features and improvements this latest SOC brings to the table — after all, it will be powering almost all major Android flagship phones in 2018.
The 835's machine learning skills were a vast improvement over its predecessors and made strides towards understanding verbal commands, most notably in listening for hotwords to summon AI assistants like Bixby and Google. There was a notable limit, however, as the Snapdragon 835 and its counterparts allowed for only one hotword to be supported.
The Snapdragon 845 will come with one key upgrade in this regard, thanks to a more powerful third generation Hexagon DSP, which will allow for significantly better machine learning. In fact, David Ruddock, an editor for AndroidPolice, has gone on to claim that the 845 will support the use of two hotwords, a notable first in the industry. As he explains:
btw I don't know how many people know this, but "OK/Hey Google" is really just one hotword: "ay Google." Try it. It's actually a pretty clever little trick, because current hardware only supports one hotword on a device at a time. Future chipsets (like SD845) will support two.
Having one more hotword to listen for has huge implications for how we summon our AI assistants moving forward, as it frees us up from having to say "Hey" or "Okay" and gives us more options to call for either Bixby, Google, Alexa, or even Cortana. In fact, such tech could be used to give you two virtual assistants on one device. So if you thought your device was smart before, wait until the S9 and subsequent 845-equipped flagships roll out.
The Snapdragon 845 is poised to be a significant improvement over the 835 with regards to sheer processing power. According to Qualcomm, the latest chipset will render graphics 30% faster with a 2.5X higher display throughput, all while performing visual processes 30% more efficiently than its predecessor.
Several tests seem to confirm this, with Anandtech showing the 845 blowing the 835 out of the water in a series of overall performance and GPU tests. Astonishingly, the 845 kept up with Apple's vaunted A11 in a series of GPU tests, even outpacing it in a few.
Though these numbers likely don't reflect real life usage as the chipset enters the mainstream market, they do give us a picture of the 845's capabilities and potential. The race for a faster, more efficient processor has been ongoing even before the first Android G1 and iPhone touched down, and the arrival of the Snapdragon 845 will surely take this race up a couple notches — which will be good for everyone in the end.
One of the limitations of previous Snapdragon chipsets was a lackluster ISP, which placed undue limitations on camera performance. Because of this, other companies were left with no choice but to create their own, most notably Google and its in-house Pixel Visual Core ISP. Thankfully, Qualcomm has appeared to remedy this with the Snapdragon 845, and has come up with the Spectra 280 ISP.
This new ISP should greatly improve overall camera performance and will allow for Ultra HD Premium video playback and encoding at 4K up to 60 fps. It also supports slow-motion video capture at either 720p up to 480 fps, or 1080p up to 240 fps. In addition to these, the 845's ISP will be capable of selective motion capture, "deep" portrait mode, along with various depth sensing technologies.
The implications are enormous for subsequent handsets that'll utilize the 845, as this can potentially revolutionize the quality in which we capture images and videos on our smartphones. True 4K photos and videos are right around the corner, with Snapdragon 845 leading the way.
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