The Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 is the small, but powerful chipset expected to be at the heart of some of the best Android phones in 2018 – and now we know how powerful it will be.
We tested the performance of the Snapdragon 845 inside a reference device at Qualcomm’s San Diego headquarters last week and we were able to run several independent benchmarking tests. This gives us an idea how far the chipmaker will be able to push Android phones.
While we could also see the new 845 chip inside tablets, laptops and IoT devices in the future, it’ll get its start the next set of flagship smartphones. Here’s how it fared in our tests and why it’s shaping up to be such a big update.
Snapdragon 845 benchmarking comparison
Your next Android phone is about to be supercharged by the Snapdragon 845, the new fastest chipset for Android smartphones, according to our benchmarking tests. It managed to carve out a Geekbench 4.0 multi-score of 8,427, the highest we've seen yet on a phone running Android 8.0 Oreo.
It’s over 30% faster than last year’s best phones with the Snapdragon 835, and over 27% faster than the new Huawei Mate 10 Pro running Huawei’s own Kirin 970 chipset, we discovered in our tests.
While TechRadar primarily tests new chips through Geekbench 4.0, we did run a number of different tests using Antutu and a few web-based apps, and we got similar results. The Antutu score was 256,206 on the Snapdragon 845 reference design vs the 177,423 on the Mate 10 Pro.
Here's the raw data for our Snapdragon 845 tests:
8,427 (multi-core score)
2,465 (singe-core score)
That extra power is important for more weighty applications – 3D gaming, VR and AR among them. Expect less wait time when recording and editing a video on your smartphone, too.
Buying a phone with the Snapdragon 845 inside should give you can edge if you’re looking for a powerful Android handset in 2018. There’s nothing faster among Google-based phones – yet.
Snapdragon 845 vs Samsung Exynos 9 (9810) vs Apple A11 Bionic
There’s room for competition from both new and existing chips. We weren't able to benchmark Samsung’s Exynos 9 Series (9810) chip, which is slated for the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus later this month everywhere but the US.
In the US, Samsung is almost certainly going to use the Snapdragon 845, so expect a lot of performance and feature parity between the two chips, even if Samsung’s chip usually maintains a slight performance edge Qualcomm's chip.
There are three phones that currently outperform the Snapdragon 845. All three come from Apple: the iPhone X, iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus. iPhone chipsets are built differently, of course, which is why we ended up with Geekbench multi-scores of 10,249 for the new Apple handsets (all have the same chips inside).
The raw benchmarking scores prove that Qualcomm is looking to take the chipset crown among Android phones for now. But does that all mean? What are the specs and features to come from such phones.
Let’s dive into the likely phones and the biggest highlights to come.
Snapdragon 845 phones
The first Snapdragon 845 phones launch this month, and while the exact lineup hasn’t been confirmed, we’re fairly confident we’ll see it in the US version of the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus.
Samsung is helping Qualcomm manufacture its latest Snapdragon chipset, so it may again be the first in line to boast the chipset. Sure enough we were told that we'll "probably see announcements at MWC 2018," according to Alex Katouzian, Qualcomm's SVP of its mobile business.
The timing is perfect for Samsung’s February 25 launch event in Barcelona. From there, we could see more follow-ups with the 845: the LG G7, Moto Z3 Force, Google Pixel 3 and the ZTE Axon 9, among others.
Qualcomm loves to boast that last year's Snapdragon 835 chipset is now in over 120 devices, from the tried-and-true Samsung Galaxy Note 8 to newcomers like the Essential Phone. With the exception of Huawei, Apple and Samsung outside of the US, expect every other flagship phone maker to use this chipset.
Snapdragon 845 specs
There’s a lot going into the Snapdragon 845, so it’s important to know its specs of the chip and also the configuration of Qualcomm’s reference design. Not all phones with it will have the same exact internal specs.
Here’s the geeky stuff: The Snapdragon 845 contains an eight-core Kryo 385 CPU with a clock speed of up to 2.8 GHz. Its graphics chip, the Adreno 630 visual processing subsystem, is 30% faster at graphics rendering, but also 30% more power efficient in this generation, according to Qualcomm.
Cameras should get a big upgrade via the Spectra 280 Image Signal Processor that’s onboard the chipset. It’s possible to control up to seven different cameras, according to the specs – just in case phone makers shoot beyond three cameras and go straight to seven (they probably won't, but the capability is impressive). Even more exciting are the possibilities of HDR video, which we’ll touch on later.
Also embedded onto the 845 chipset is a cellular modem, the Snapdragon X20. It has a peak download speed of 1.2Gbps and peak upload speed of 150Mbps. This is a step toward the 5G future that Qualcomm and carriers and eager to roll out to devices in 2019.
- Read more: The first 5G smartphones are coming in 2019
Qualcomm’s 845 chip reference handset contained 6GB of RAM, a 5.5-inch LCD display with a 2.5K resolution and a pair of Sony-made cameras – the IMX320 and IMX386. Since Geekbench scores can very between devices and even in individual tests, it’s best to take these specs into account. Not every Snapdragon 845-powered phone will have 6GB of RAM, for example.
The results may vary from phone to phone based on the specs, but the general performance upgrade should stay consistent.
Incredible HDR video and upgraded camera
Your next smartphone won't just be able to display brilliant-looking HDR video, it will be skilled at recording in HDR, too, according to Qualcomm. For that reason alone, the new Snapdragon 845 chipset is enough to make video takers excited for the top Android phones to come in 2018.
Starting with a completely redesigned image sensor processor, the chipset is poised to pave the way for giving users the power to capture HDR footage on a phone camera. It can also record 4K Ultra HD at 60 frames per second.
"The videos you capture are going to be more lifelike than they were before," said Tim Leland, Qualcomm Vice President of Product Management. "We're going to see an increase in the quality of pixels, not just the quantity of pixels."
Just like the Snapdragon 800 was the first to capture 4K video in 2013, the 845 is going to be the first to have a sensor that soaks up 64 times the color data compared to standard sensors, going from 8 bits to 10 bits of color.
That's what gives HDR content so much "pop" and you'll be able to see the difference for yourself in 2018.
Qualcomm says it has substantially improved its algorithms, added multi-frame noise reduction and video at 720 in HD10 for 480 frames per second for slow motion video.
ImMotion, something we haven't seen before, will allow future smartphone cameras users to capture a mix of moving video and pause portions of the scene. Qualcomm illustrated this with a motionless girl staring at her goldfish moving about a bowl. The user will be able to edit thanks to new post-processing powers.
Why this is such a big deal
There are already smartphone screens that can show HDR Premium content, which, given the size of a smartphone screen, is more important than the jump to a 4K resolution. We don't need more pixels, we need better pixels.
Here's the bad news: Even if you're recording video in 4K, you've been recording video without HDR up to this point. So you haven't been been able to make full use of your top-end HDR display on a phone.
However, the new phones will change that. Equipped with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chipset, a huge wave of HDR content is about to wash over, changing both the ways in which people can capture HDR video and view it.
The best part is all of those older devices with HDR-ready displays will be dazzled by your HDR video. Expect friends with older phones to have phone envy whenever that see your videos on YouTube and Facebook.
What else can the Snapdragon 845 do?
You can also expect power advancements and battery life savings from the new chipset. Additionally, it'll push high resolution depth-sensing in cameras that it powers, offering a three-fold performance boost compared in graphics compared to last year's phones – yet it will require 30 times less power. That's a big deal for Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality.
The new Qualcomm chipset comes down to five pillars: immersion, AI, security, connectivity and performance.
We'll have more on the Snapdragon 845 in the coming weeks, in the lead up to the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus launch event on February 25.
- Ready for it? MWC 2018 starts in less than two weeks