Inside the Snapdragon 865: Qualcomm reveals the features you'll find in 2020's best Android phones

We dive deep inside the capabilities of Qualcomm's new Snapdragon 865 and Snapdragon 765 chips

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Simply put, Qualcomm plans to decouple the Adreno drivers from the overall Android updates, and it will be up to the phone maker itself to validate the update and ship it to users. Qualcomm will write the drivers, Jacobowitz said, but each individual OEM will qualify and distribute them. Put another way, you’ll receive an Asus-specific gaming update straight from Asus itself.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 game smoother Mark Hachman / IDG

Game Smoother sounds very much like the desktop PC's adaptive sync technology for GPUs.

Qualcomm also launched Game Smoother and the Adaptive Performance Engine, both to enable mobile gaming as smooth as possible, which sounds a lot like Nvidia's own adaptive sync technology, G-Sync. The company's also working with developers to enable high frame rate gaming: 90 frames per second (and even 10-bit HDR) for PUBG mobile, and even with support for 144Hz screens, the same refresh rate as desktop displays.

Qualcomm is also adding support for Game Color Plus version 2.0, which essentially brings HDR lighting effects into platforms that don’t natively support HDR displays—“not just jacking up saturation across the board, and contrast... but taking select parts of the game and making them look better,” Jacobowitz said. Adreno HDR Fast Blend will also accelerate HDR processing.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 gaming Mark Hachman / IDG

"Desktop-quality" lighting on display using the Snapdragon 865.

Even better, Qualcomm worked closely with Unreal and its Unreal 4 engine to bring what’s called the “desktop forward rendering” to the Snapdragon 865 platform. According to Jacobowitz, “many” of the lighting effects used in the Unreal 4 engine will be supported by the Snapdragon 865, allowing them to be used in games. Examples include desktop motion blur, planar reflections, multiple shadows, and more.


Jesse Seed, Qualcomm’s senior director of product, security, also explained that Qualcomm has added aprotected data path for biometric authentication, protecting it from malware elsewhere in the system. It moves from the Spectra, to the Adreno, to the platform security module, and there to the Kryo CPU. The Secure Processing Unit introduced in the 855 is also in the 865, but with one additional feature: it can replace not only one but two SIM cards, or eSIMs.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 digital ID Mark Hachman / IDG

Are digital driver's licenses going to be a thing?

Qualcomm also announced support for Identity Credential APIs, supported in Android R: that will allow electronic identification—even your driver’s license—supported in your phone. 

Meet the Snapdragon 765G and 765, too

There’s another gaming angle that Qualcomm is bringing to the Snapdragon platform, and that’s the Snapdragon 765G. It’s specifically designed for the emerging market of gaming smartphones like the Razer Phone 2, which is much more PUBG than Candy Crush.

qualcomm snapdragon 765 5g mobile platform chip front Qualcomm

A chipshot of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 765 5G.

Qualcomm built the 765G with a pumped-up Adreno GPU that increases performance by 20 percent over the base Snapdragon 765. It also adds 5.5 TOPS of AI performance, Qualcomm said. Both the Snapdragon 765 and 765G were designed as cheaper alternatives to the top-tier 865 chip, keeping the most important attributes—5G and AI—while cutting a bit from some of the other elements.

The Snapdragon 765 and 765G share the same basic characteristics. Both are paired with the X52 modem, a 5G-capable discrete modem that’s “only” capable of 3.6Gbps download speeds and 1.6 Gbps up, with support for both mmWave and sub-6GHz frequencies. Inside them, too, is Qualcomm’s 5th-gen AI engine. 

In comparing the specifications of the 765 and 765G, we could only find only one significant difference: The 7nm octo-core Kryo 475 CPU at the heart of the 765 is clocked at 2.3GHz, while the 765G’s Kryo is clocked at 2.4GHz. (Remember, Qualcomm’s not disclosing the GPU clock speed.) 

  • Kryo 475 CPU: Octo-core architecture, otherwise unknown
  • Memory support: up to 2133 MHz, 12GB total
  • Adreno 620 GPU: displays up to 3200x1800 (QHD+) at 60Hz; FHD+ (at least 1080p) at 120Hz; HDR10+ support
  • Spectra 355 ISP: 192 megapixel still photos, 36MP single-cmaera with zero shutter lag; 4K HDR video capture; Rec 2020, 10-bit color depth
  • Hexagon Voice Assistant accelerator: Total Harmonic Distortion + Noise (THD+N) Playback: -108dB
  • Connectivity (5G): X52 5G modem (3.7Gbps down, 1.6Gbps up, via 5G); mmWave (400MHz bandwidth, 2x2 MIMO), Sub-6GHz (100 MHz bandwidth, 4x4 MIMO); LTE support (CBRS, WCDMA, HSPA, TD-SCDMA, CDMA 1x, EV-DO, GSM/EDGE)
  • Connectivity (Wi-Fi): FastConnect 6200 (802.11ax-ready, 802.11ac Wave 2)
  • Connectivity (Bluetooth): Bluetooth 5.0, with support for Qualcomm aptX specifications
  • Qualcomm Sensing Hub: Always-on far-field detection and echo cancellation; support for multiple voice assistants
  • Power: Quick Charge 4+ plus Quick Charge AI

Qualcomm hasn’t disclosed its 6-series Snapdragon chips, which are designed for even more inexpensive devices. It’s the Snapdragon Snapdragon 865, 765, and 765G that you should care about, however, as they’ll be powering premium smartphones throughout 2019.

Note: Because Qualcomm would provide certain information only via an in-person briefing in Hawaii, with no alternative venue in the continental United States or by virtual means, we accepted the company’s offer to pay for the flight and hotel in order to get the story.

This story was updated at 12:53 PM Hawaii time with additional information and photos.

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