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Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 will bring speed, security and smarts to high-end phones

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On Wednesday, Qualcomm revealed its first concrete details of the Snapdragon 845, the next-generation mobile chip that stands a good chance of being in your next smartphone. The 845 will ship in early 2018, and appear in phones sometime after that.

Qualcomm calls the Snapdragon 845 a chip to improve both artificial intelligence and immersion, blending the future of smart devices with the past. At its heart lies the Kryo 385, the semi-custom, upgraded CPU. It’s still an eight-core device, with four performance cores running at 2.8GHz and four energy-efficient cores running at 1.8GHz. That represents a 25- to 30-percent improvement over the existing Snapdragon 835 in the performance cores, and a 15-percent improvement in the smaller, energy-efficient cores. 

Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Mark Hachman / IDG

While speeds and feeds may not be as important in the mobile space, the Kryo core inside the Snapdragon 845 still matters.

Phones that use the new Snapdragon 845 will be able to loop more than 20 hours of continuous HD video before expiring, executives said. Those phones will also be able to capture four hours of continuous video playback, or play VR games for over three hours. Talk time, using what Qualcomm calls Ultra HD Voice, will last over two days, the company said.

Qualcomm believes in “heterogenous” computing, a fancy name for designing specific parts of the chip for specific tasks. With the Snapdragon 845, Qualcomm has focused on five different areas: “immersion,” AI, security, connectivity, and performance. 

Immersion: Cameras with better brains

Immersion is seamlessly capturing the world around you, said Tim Leland, vice president of product management for Qualcomm. The 845 improves in two different areas: capturing the world around you, and improving on those experiences.

The key to Qualcomm-powered cameras is the Spectre 280, the image signal processor that’s designed to deliver best-in class image quality even when there’s a lot of movement or not a lot of light. Previous Snapdragons—the Snapdragon 820, for example—focused on 4K playback at 60 frames per second. The key feature for the Snapdragon 845 is to capture Ultra HD Premium content at 60 fps—that’s the 4K standard that includes 10-bit color depths as well as Rec. 2020 color space representation. According to Leland, your smartphone videos will look more lifelike than ever before.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Mark Hachman / IDG

Camera powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon chips have steadily improved. With the Snapdragon 845, Qualcomm is supporting higher-quality images.

Qualcomm also believes that 845-powered smartphones can break the 100 mark in DXomark, generally considered the standard for image quality in smartphones.

Camera phone resolutions have settled into the 12- to 16-megapixel range, so chip makers like Qualcomm are moving to other aspects, such as color quality. (The Shapdragon 845 supports up to 32MP cameras with no shutter lag, at 30 fps, executives said.)

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