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Qualcomm's New Snapdragon Chip: What You Need To Know
By Shirley Siluk
Posted: December 7, 2017 9:45am PST

The Snapdragon 845 is manufactured using 10-nanometer FinFET (for "fin field effect transistor") process technology, which uses thin, vertical silicon "fins" to improve electrical control in transistors. The technology helps minimize the usual performance-versus-power tradeoffs in processor manufacturing.

The artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities in Qualcomm's new Snapdragon 845 system on chip (SoC) will help transform your mobile device into "the ultimate personal assistant," the company said yesterday upon announcing the new processor platform. The updated SoC will also dramatically improve mobile video and photo processing abilities for immersive, extended-reality (XR) applications, and introduce a new secure processing unit (SPU) for "vault-like" security, according to Qualcomm.

Designed to support advanced mobile technologies, the Snapdragon 845 will help service providers pave the way for the coming rollout of 5G connectivity, Qualcomm said. Currently being tried out by some of Qualcomm's customers, the Snapdragon SoC is expected to begin appearing in smartphones, XR headsets, and "always-connected" PCs hitting the market early next year.

'Designed with AI in Mind'

The latest generation of SoC to come out since Qualcomm began branding Snapdragon as a mobile platform earlier this year, the Snapdragon 845 features an image signal processor and visual processing subsystem for "cinema-grade" videos as well as virtual-, augmented- and mixed-reality applications on mobile devices. It also comes with a third-generation version of Qualcomm's AI mobile platform that triples the AI performance of its previous SoC, the company said.

"The Snapdragon 845 Mobile Platform is redesigned with AI and immersion in mind," Qualcomm senior vice president of product management Keith Kressin wrote in a blog post yesterday. "We've built new architectures that are designed to work together collectively and not in isolation. This is the foundation of what heterogenous computing is -- various engines working together to enhance the user experience."

Driven by the Snapdragon Neural Processing Engine (NPE) SDK, the new SoC supports a variety of AI technology frameworks and is designed to support voice-enabled intelligent digital assistants with "improved always-on keyword detection and ultra-low-power voice processing," according to Qualcomm.

Despite its performance enhancements, Kressin said the Snapdragon 845 will also help improve the battery life of mobile devices.

"Our new Qualcomm Spectra camera and Adreno graphics architectures boost power efficiency by up to 30 percent compared to our previous generations," he said, adding that the SoC's Quick Charge 4+ technology will also enable devices to achieve a 50-percent charge in 15 minutes.

Driving Gigabit LTE Adoption

Other updates are aimed at boosting the security capabilities of the Qualcomm chip. For example, a new hardware-isolated SPU enhances previous mobile security features for improved biometric security and data key management for encryption.

The Snapdragon 845 is manufactured using 10-nanometer FinFET (fin field effect transistor) process technology that uses thin, vertical silicon "fins" to improve electrical control in transistors. The technology helps minimize the usual performance-versus-power tradeoffs in processor manufacturing.

Qualcomm's new SoC also targets mobile technology and service providers that are beginning to prepare for the arrival of 5G connectivity. It includes the company's second-generation gigabit LTE modem, the Snapdragon X20, for a wider range of frequency band configurations, and download speeds of up to 1.2 Gbps.

"In 2017, 43 operators in 25 countries have launched Gigabit LTE networks and more are on the way," Kressin said. "Many more mobile operators can utilize the speed and spectral efficiency of our X20 modem, which now supports LTE carriers, advanced antenna configurations, and up to 12 total LTE spatial streams. This expanded flexibility allows for 90 percent of the world's cellular networks to upgrade to Gigabit LTE."

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