The Qualcomm Snapdragon 845‘s octo-core Kryo 385 probably won’t be the most powerful mobile CPU on the market—and Qualcomm is okay with that. The chipmaker spent a lot of time at its Snapdragon Summit this week explaining how it’s all about heterogeneous computing, using different parts of its chip—like digital signal processors, the image processor, and the GPU—to handle different workloads.
Qualcomm’s approach stands in stark opposition to Apple’s, where it’s been CPU above all until this year. Qualcomm goes for more cores; Apple goes for fewer. On CPU benchmarks like Geekbench, the A11 very well might still outpace Qualcomm’s four altered ARM Cortex-A75 and four variant A55 cores, especially on single-core workloads. (We haven’t been able to benchmark the 845 yet, so we don’t know.)
But Qualcomm’s multifarious approach has its own rewards. On these four aspects, the Snapdragon 845—which is likely to appear in Samsung’s Galaxy S9, possibly as soon as the CES trade show in January—could show up in Apple’s competing mobile chipset.
Apple’s “wide color gamut” photos and videos use the DCI-P3 color space, which covers about 53 percent of the overall CIE 1931 color range and is used to measure other color gamuts. The Snapdragon 845 captures and displays photos and videos in the Rec 2020 color space, which bumps up to nearly 76 percent of CIE 1931. It’ll be possible to build Snapdragon 845 phones with some really shocking screens, if the panel technology is available: the chip supports 2K screens at up to 120 frames per second with both Rec 2020 and HDR for the most realistic possible images. That means Galaxy S9 photos may look livelier and more realistic, and the screen more brilliant, than on Apple’s devices.
Although Apple’s modems don’t reside on the A11, both the 845’s LTE and Wi-Fi are superior to the versions Apple is using. Apple’s phones are restricted to 600Mbps LTE (or 800Mbps in Australia.) The 845 uses 4×4 MIMO, 5-carrier aggregation, and LAA to push that up to a potential of 1.2Gbps.
Those are theoretical speeds, of course. The more realistic way to put it is that 845-based phones are going to be able to access open lanes of LTE that Apple’s devices won’t even be able to perceive, making speeds better in congested situations as well.
The 845 also supports WiGig, a super-fast way to transmit data over short distances, and faster acquisition of networks on 802.11ac, meaning you’ll be able to connect to Wi-Fi networks very reliably and easily.
Apple has hands-free Siri. Snapdragon 845 supports multiple hands-free wake words directly on its audio codec, which means Google, Alexa, and Cortana will be able to happily co-exist, hands-free, on Snapdragon phones. The HTC U11 had both Google Assistant and Alexa running on the Snapdragon 835, but the 845 makes it work in a more power-efficient way.
Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore are uninspiring. They can only map flat, horizontal surfaces, which is nothing like the dynamic, room-scale mapping you need for rich augmented reality experiences. With the Snapdragon 845, Qualcomm says it can do room-scale, 3D mapping using only one camera (although two work better, it pointed out.) Dual-camera smartphones like the presumed Galaxy Note 9 will be able to keep track of objects in a room and even try to recognize people.