Most of the fancy new 5G phones on the market run on the Snapdragon 865, but that’s old news. Qualcomm has announced a new mobile chip, the Snapdragon 865 Plus. What’s “plus” about it? Well, not as much as you might hope. It’s a little faster across the board, and it has a “plus” in the name. Despite the modest upgrade, you can expect phone makers to adopt it for 5G phones in the next few months.
The Snapdragon 865 Plus mirrors the 855 Plus from last year. The 865 Plus has a new Kryo 585 CPU core, which reaches a maximum clock speed of 3.1GHz. That’s 10 percent higher than the non-Plus 865. There’s a new GPU as well, known as the Adreno 650. And guess what? It’s also 10 percent faster than the old 865’s GPU. Finally, the new chip has Qualcomm’s FastConnect 6900 connectivity suite. That means phones with the 865 Plus can support Wi-Fi speeds up to 3.6 Gbps, but only if OEMs choose to integrate the necessary antennas.
The architecture remains unchanged for this refreshed chip — it’s still an 8-core ARM system-on-a-chip with four lower-power cores and four high-power. One of the faster cores is known as a “Prime core” that has a higher clock speed than the other three. The significance of the win, at least from a marketing perspective, is that Qualcomm has pushed clock speeds over the 3GHz mark. While ARM has made various claims about CPU performance at that clock speed for years, commercial designs have never tapped it. Qualcomm is the first company to do so.
The most anticipated upgrade for Qualcomm’s mobile processors won’t come to the 865 Plus. It will still rely on the external X55 5G modem. This marked a major shift for Qualcomm after years of insisting that modems integrated with the SoC were more efficient. It didn’t explain why the move to 5G necessitated the use of an external modem, but the 765 does have a slower 5G modem integrated in the chip. Analysts expect Qualcomm’s flagship 2021 chip will move back to an integrated modem.
The 855 Plus appeared mostly in “gaming phones” like the Asus ROG Phone II and Nubia Red Magic 3. OnePlus also used it in the OnePlus 7T Pro. So, any device that focuses strongly on the spec race should end up with the 865 Plus instead of the regular 865. Qualcomm’s 865 has already been cited as a major driver of price increases in 2020. Even OnePlus, which has traditionally priced phones much lower than the competition, is bumping up against the $1,000 mark. The 865 Plus could push prices even higher.
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