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Qualcomm Finally Unveils Snapdragon 820: Here Are All The New Features To Expect In 2016 Flagships

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After several months of drip-feeding bits of information about the Snapdragon 820, Qualcomm has finally revealed its next-generation chipset that will power the newest, hottest flagship smartphones of 2016.

As revealed by Qualcomm at a sneak preview in New York City, the Snapdragon 820, the first to be developed using 14 nm FinFET technology, houses a custom-made 64-bit Kyro CPU that promises double the performance and power efficiency of the Snapdragon 810. It's an ambitious claim, considering it's just a single-generation leap, but Qualcomm has gone back to designing its own Kyro cores instead of using ARM's designs.

This is paired with an Adreno 530 GPU, which Qualcomm already said before provides 40 percent more power than Adreno 430 on the Snapdragon 810. The new chipset also comes with an X12 LTE modem to provide users up to 600 Mbps of download speeds, at least in theory, and a Hexagon 680 DSP (digital signal processor) to take some of the load off the CPU for better performance.

What this all means for consumers is that the Snapdragon 820 will enable an entire host of advanced features on next year's smartphones. Not all flagships will see all these features, though. It will still be up to OEMs to incorporate these features into their phones. But if they do, users can expect a slew of new smartphones with cool new features ready to take over 2016.

Better Performance, More Efficiency

As expected the Snapdragon 820 is faster than its predecessor. But more importantly, it is also more energy efficient than the Snapdragon 810. Qualcomm says its new chipset consumes around 30 percent less battery, allowing users to prolong the battery life on their smartphone, without the overheating issues that plagued the Snapdragon 810. Why is this important? Currently, OEMs are struggling to develop new technology that can extend the life of battery-powered devices. With little development on this front, it boils down to chipmakers to address the situation and deliver solutions.

Quick Charge 3.0

The Snapdragon 820 features support for Quick Charge 3.0, the latest fast charging standard from Qualcomm. The firm says Quick Charge 3.0 is 38 percent faster than Quick Charge 2.0, which is found in some of the 2015's most popular devices, including the LG V10, Moto X Pure Edition and Droid Turbo 2, and four times faster than regular charging times.

Photorealistic Graphics

With the upgrade to an Adreno 530 GPU, which Qualcomm says offers a 40 percent bump in power and efficiency, we can expect even more stunning graphics in next year's smartphones. This has become even more important as mobile devices take the jump to support 4K resolutions. As Engadget's Devindra Hardawar, who was at the NYC demo, says, graphics powered by the Snapdragon 820 have richer details, with the lighting looking similar to what you would see on consoles.

Smarter Camera With DSLR-Quality Photos

Qualcomm's new Scene Detect lets the camera recognize different objects in photos, and a similar feature called Intelligent Camcorder is also available for videos. This could be especially useful in instances when the user wants to zero in on a certain object or person while taking a photo or recording a video, or when they simply want to have the camera automatically organize their photo and video albums based on their content.

Qualcomm also taps into the Snapdragon 820's Hexagon 680 DSP to deliver clearer, crisper photos taken in low-light conditions using Low Light Vision. The firm says this technology employs adaptive brightness and noise reduction while compensating for HDR scenes caused by movement by the subject or the user. The result, Qualcomm says, are photos that look like they were taken by a DSLR.

3D Audio

Audio often gets overlooked in many devices, even in the high-end flagships. However, Qualcomm wants to put sound back on the stage with Immersive Audio, a technology it says will deliver surround sound for smartphones with front-facing speakers.

Up to 600 Mbps LTE and 6 Gbps Wi-Fi

The Snapdragon 820 adds support for Cat-12 LTE technology, which can accommodate LTE download speeds of up to 600 Mbps and upload speeds of 150 Mbps. The chipset also has support for 802.11 a/d Wi-Fi, the newest Wi-Fi standards, even as devices are still upgrading to support 802.11 a/c. Theoretically, this provides users the ability to connect via Wi-Fi at speeds as much as a whopping 6 Gbps, which will be extremely useful when technologies such as virtual reality and 4K start to go mainstream.

In the meantime, however, real-world LTE and Wi-Fi speeds will be more likely capped at below 1 Gbps, as Internet service providers take their sweet time upgrading their networks.

Ultrasonic Fingerprint Sensors

Qualcomm's Sense ID will pave the way toward the development of robust smartphone fingerprint readers using ultrasonic sound waves that can penetrate barriers such as glass and aluminum to accurately sense the user's fingerprint.

What this means is that OEMs can finally get rid of fingerprint readers usually integrated into the home button or on a button at the back of the device and place the fingerprint reader anywhere, even on the display or on the aluminum case itself. Demo attendees attest the Snapdragon 820's Sense ID is just as fast as the new Touch ID on Apple's iPhone 6s.

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