Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 480 heralds a new wave of budget 5G phones
January 4, 2021
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Qualcomm has officially announced the Snapdragon 480 5G, the company’s latest 5G-capable processor and the first in its Snapdragon 4-series of chips which power budget Android devices that tend to be far cheaper than most of Qualcomm’s 5G efforts to date.

The news of a 4-series chip with 5G was originally teased at IFA 2020, but today’s announcement marks the first real details for the new processor. The Snapdragon 480 features an integrated Snapdragon X51 modem with support for both mmWave and sub-6GHz networks.

The addition of 5G to the 4-series could be one of the biggest factors yet in making the next-generation networking standard more accessible to users around the world. Right now, most 5G phones tend to cost upward of $500 — the technology is generally limited to mid-tier and flagship phones. But by adding it to the Snapdragon 4-series lineup, Qualcomm is making it possible for manufacturers to easily add 5G to their cheapest phones in the $125 to $250 range. That means that 2021 may be the year that truly budget 5G phones arrive.

But the Snapdragon 480 isn’t just interesting because of its 5G support — it also promises to offer a massive leap in performance compared to its predecessor, the Snapdragon 460. Specifically, Qualcomm says that the Snapdragon 480 should offer twice the performance of the old model for both the CPU and GPU, with a 70 percent improvement for AI tasks. (Specifically, through new Adreno 619 GPU, Kryo 460 CPU, and Qualcomm Hexagon 686 chipsets.)

There are also several features that have trickled down from past premium Snapdragon products, making their debut on the budget line for the first time. The Snapdragon 480 is the first 4-series chip to use an 8nm process, the first to support Quick Charge 4 Plus, the first to support 120fps FHD+ panels, the first to offer 64-megapixel still images, and the first to offer a triple ISP for triple camera integration that can shoot up to three photos at once. Again, none of these are new features, but they should vastly expand what budget-priced phones will be able to do — especially when combined with the performance improvements coming to the CPU and GPU.

The first phones featuring the Snapdragon 480 are expected to arrive in Q1 2021. Vivo, Oppo, Xiaomi, Motorola, and HMD’s Nokia are among the major companies that are expected to release phones powered by the new chip in the coming months.

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