WAILEA, Hawaii — The Snapdragon 865 mobile processing platform announced here this week will likely get the lion's share of attention from the smartphone world. It is the 865, after all, that will appear in most of the top-tier Android phones starting early next year. But the Snapdragon 765, announced alongside that higher-end processor and also arriving in phones during the first quarter of 2020, could prove to be just as vital when it comes to speeding up adoption of the emerging 5G networking standard.
The Snapdragon 765 will be the first in Qualcomm's 700 series of processors aimed at devices a step or two behind premium flagship phones to feature a 5G modem. That broadens the pool of potential handsets featuring 5G, which could mean a drop in prices for 5G-ready phones down the road. What's more, the Snapdragon 765 and its gaming-focused counterpart the Snapdragon 765G feature integrated 5G, something the Snapdragon 865 can't claim. That means phones powered by the 765 won't have to include a separate modem.
5G in more devices
That said, the X52 modem built into the Snapdragon 765 won't be as powerful as the X55 modem that's paired with the Snapdragon 865. Qualcomm's higher-end 5G modem is capable of delivering 7.5 Gbps speeds at least on networks that can support that kind of performance. (At present, that would be none of them, but it simply means that Qualcomm is building its modems to be future-proof as 5G networks improve.) The X52, in contrast, supports download speeds of up to 3.7 Gbps, which is still faster than what today's 5G networks are capable of.
More importantly, the Snapdragon 765's integrated 5G modem works with both millimeter-wave and sub-6 GHz-based 5G networks, and it supports the alphabet soup of nodes and spectrum usage techniques (5G SA and NSA, TDD and FDD with Dynamic Spectrum Sharing, or DSS). That should make for devices that are compatible with different 5G networks around the world.
"Now you can give a diverse set of solutions," explained Durga Malladi, Qualcomm's senior vice president and general manager for 4G and 5G, when I asked him about the Snapdragon 765's impact on 5G adoption. "There is a premium offering, there is a mid- to high-tier kind of an offering that makes 5G go everywhere. Every person will be able to get some kind of 5G."
Camera, AI and gaming features
But integrated 5G isn't the only thing the Snapdragon 765 has going for it. Qualcomm is promising other improvements that should bring some welcome capabilities to devices powered by this new chipset. As with the Snapdragon 865, this lower-tier processor hopes to bolster camera, artificial intelligence and gaming features in not-quite premium phones.
Take the Snapdragon 765's image signal processor. Qualcomm says it's capable of supporting a 192-megapixel camera. Camera phones with a Snapdragon 765 will be able to shoot 4K HDR video in more than a billion shades oof color, and a multi-camera capture feature will let you easily alternate between telephoto, wide and ultra wide lenses.
Like the Snapdragon 865, the Snapdragon 765 will feature a new 5th-generation Qualcomm AI Engine. In the case of the 765, that engine can handle 5 trillion operations per second, or TOPS, which is short of the 15 trillion TOPS the Snapdragon 865 can handle and just shy of the 7 TOPS that last year's Snapdragon 855 can pull off. But the AI engine included with the Snapdragon 765 has a Hexagon tensor accelerator that's twice as fast as what came in the last Qualcomm AI Engine.
The result should be snappier AI-powered features for camera, audio, voice and gaming. Qualcomm also says that Snapdragon 765-powered devices will be contextually aware of voice commands without sapping your phone's battery.
The Snapdragon 765 features a 2.3GHz Kryo 475 CPU and Adreno 620 GPU with a 20% performance improvement. But phones featuring the gaming-focused Snapdragon 765G chipset can count on a 20% improvement to graphics rendering on top of that.
The Snapdragon 765G will include Snapdragon Elite Gaming features, which are hardware and software optimizations Qualcomm makes to its chipsets with enhanced gaming in mind. Among those features will be support for ture 10-bit HDR for enhanced details and colors in games.
Both Motorola and HMD Global, which makes Nokia smartphones, have said that they'll use Snapdragon 765 mobile processors in upcoming phones during 2020.
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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.