Every year, Qualcomm comes up with a mobile platform upgrade that stands tall as the flagship chip for most of the high-end phones from majority of the smartphone brands. Last year, it was an excellent processor in the form of Snapdragon 845 that powered the likes of Samsung Galaxy S9, OnePlus 6 and OnePlus 6T, Pixel 3 and 3 XL, LG G7+ ThinQ, and several other flagships, and it was indeed proving to be the table topper to contend the likes of Kirin 980 that powered the Huawei and Honor flagships.

Now, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 mobile platform is official and we get to see some major upgrades being done here, especially with the network compatibility upgrade with the 5G support now incoming. But, how really is the Snapdragon 855 different from the Snapdragon 845 mobile platform?

To begin with, the Snapdragon 855 is the first 7nm FinFET chip made by Qualcomm, while it was a 10nm FinFET process for the Snapdragon 845. The smaller process nodes would mean two things here – a smaller chipset size, and better battery efficiency. Also, unlike how the Snapdragon 845 had four big and four little cores, the Snapdragon 855 utilizes a large core, three big cores, and four little cores, which means there is a tri-cluster CPU design in the new mobile platform.

Now, let’s check out the cores.

The large single core on the Snapdragon 855 is Cortex-A76 based design with the clock speed of 2.84GHz. The best that the Snapdragon 845 had was the Cortex-A75 that had a clock speed of 2.8GHz, and there were four Cortex-A75 cores in it. The other three cores in the Snapdragon 855 are also based on the Cortex-A76 design and they have a clock speed of 2.42GHz.

The little cores on both the platforms are Cortex-A55 ones with the clock speed of 1.8GHz on the Snapdragon 855 and 1.7GHz on the Snapdragon 845.

The GPU Upgrade and Differences

There’s rather a regular upgrade from the previous gen to the new chipset, with Adreno 640 GPU replacing the Adreno 630. The new GPU is said to be offering about 20% better graphics performance, and there will be support for true HDR gaming and games built around Physically Based Rendering (PBR).

Now, unlike the 845, the Adreno 640 on Snapdragon 855 will be able to support HDR 10+ and Dolby Vision formats. The frame rate support for gaming is for 120fps, and the 360-degree videos can be captured with support for 8K resolution.

The DSP, ISP, and NPU changes

The new Snapdragon 855 has a dedicated AI engine and this is the first Qualcomm chipset to have that. The AI assistants will see an improved processing with the new voice assistant module that is included with the Hexagon 690 DSP. The upgraded DSP also has Tensor Xccelerator, which is acting as a dedicated Machine Learning inferencing engine, and thus the Snapdragon 855 is the first processor to have a dedicated NPU.

The Spectra 380 ISP is going to include newer features for the camera, such as HDR in portrait mode, and also the inclusion of portrait mode in 4K video recording. The chipset manufacturer has mentioned that the HDR 4K video capturing is going to use 30% lesser power than the previous chipset.

Connectivity – 5G support!

The Snapdragon X50 modem is going to support 5G and that will be a part of the Snapdragon 855 mobile platform. The new chip is also the world’s first Wi-Fi6 11ax-ready mobile solution. It also supports Wi-Fi 6 standard (802.11ax) as well as the new 60GHz “Wi-Gig” 802.11ay.

Overall comparison

The Snapdragon 855 is a good upgrade from the Snapdragon 845 and certainly there is that effect from the 7nm process that is here, and with the Cortex A76 cores in it. The latest flagships that are coming out now, i.e. the OnePlus 7 and OnePlus 7 Pro, and the Samsung Galaxy S10 series have the Snapdragon 855 and these are proving to be better than the predecessors especially because of the new processors.

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