Here's what 8K video shot by the Galaxy S20 could look like

(Image credit: Qualcomm)

A big part of the Galaxy S20's appeal could be its rumored ability to capture 8K video when it launches later this month. And now we're able to see what that 8K footage might look like, thanks to the company building the processor expected to power the Galaxy S20.

Qualcomm, whose chipsets wind up in the leading Android phones, just posted footage of 8K video shot by a device using its new Snapdragon 865 system-on-chip. The device wasn't a Galaxy S20 — Qualcomm said it used a prototype smartphone powered by the Snapdragon 865 and featuring a Sony IMX586 image sensor. But the footage does give us some clue as to what phones capable of filming 8K video will be able to produce.

We don't have any lower-resolution video of the same scene to act as a reference point, but Qualcomm's 8K footage looks pretty sharp. Shot around Arizona in November 2019, the 2-minute, 12-second video showcases different scenes in different lighting, with some vivid detail and eye-catching colors. According to Qualcomm, the footage in the video was captured at 33 megapixels per frame.

A few times, the video seemed a little jittery to me, though I'll chalk that up to the vagaries of streaming over YouTube. (Update: Indeed, Qualcomm noticed the jitters to and posted a new version of the video; we've updated the link in our story.) What impressed me was the ability to capture the different textures in a headdress and the etchings in a cave wall with a lot of clarity and detail. The shots of Arizona mesas and cave dwellings impress, too.

Samsung has a lot riding on 8K video, and not just for its upcoming phones. The electronics giant also makes television sets and 8K TVs figure to be quite plentiful in 2020. There's just one problem — there's not a lot of 8K-ready content to enjoy on your new Samsung TV. So part of Samsung's solution is to give you a device — in this case, the Galaxy S20 — that can shoot a lot of 8K footage to enjoy on a bigger screen.

When Qualcomm revealed the Snapdragon 865 in December, it said the new chipset would be able to support 8K video captured at 30 frames per second. The new mobile processing platform features a Spectra 480 image signal processor that also boasts features like Dolby Vision video capture, the ability to shoot slow-motion video capture at 960fps with no recording limit and 200-megapixel photo capture. Snapdragon 865-powered phones are also able to shoot 4K HR video while also capturing 64MP still images at the same time.

Neither Qualcomm nor Samsung have confirmed that the Snapdragon 865 is slated for the Galaxy S20, but Samsung's flagship phones have always featured Qualcomm's top-of-the-line mobile processor, at least for handsets released in the U.S. (In other countries, Samsung tends to go with its own Exynos chips.) 

We'll find out for sure if the Snapdragon 865 will power Samsung's next phone on Feb. 11, when Samsung is expected to announce the Galaxy S20 at its Unpacked event.

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.