Latest Snapdragon chip should give high-end phones another option

Snapdragon 870G
(Image credit: Qualcomm)

The Snapdragon 888 may be making its debut in phones like the Samsung Galaxy S21 and Xiamoi Mi 11 right now. But Qualcomm isn't done adding new chipsets to its 8 Series of high-end mobile processors.

The chip maker has taken the wraps off the Snapdragon 870 5G, described as a follow-on to the Snapdragon 865 Plus. That system-on-chip debuted in the second half of 2020 and powers phones like the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 lineup.

Since the Snapdragon 865 Plus' arrival, Qualcomm has rolled out its flagship Snapdragon 888 mobile processing platform, which is expected to power many of the leading Android flagships released this year. But not every phone needs to have a top-of-the-line processor. And last year, phone makers who wanted to add 5G compatibility but didn't want to pay up for the Snapdragon 865 went for chipsets in the less expensive — and not as powerful — Snapdragon 7 series.

The Snapdragon 870 5G figures to give phone makers another option — and since the new chipset has more in common with the Snapdragon 865 Plus than the 888, it seems likely to offer a slightly lower cost.

For instance, the Snapdragon 870 5G shares the same Spectra 480 image signal processor found in the Snapdragon 865 lineup, and it uses the 5th Gen Qualcomm AI engine. The Snapdragon 888 features a newer ISP as well as the 6th Gen AI Engine.

Qualcomm isn't skimping on performance with the Snapdragon 870 5G, though. It's boosting the Kryo 585 CPU to have an improved clock speed of 3.2GHz for the chipset's prime core. The Snapdragon 865 Plus topped out at 3.1GHz.

Given the boost in speed and support for Qualcomm's Snapdragon Elite Gaming features that promise desktop-style gameplay on mobile devices, it's clear Samsung sees the Snapdragon 870 5G as geared for mobile gaming. Graphics-boosting features include Qualcomm Game Smoother for reducing jank, complex visual rendering via Adreno Fast Blend and True 10-bit HDR gaming support.

The Snapdragon X55 modem that's paired with 870G works with both sub-6GHz and mmWave-based 5G networks. So phones using this silicon should be able to work on the 5G networks available in the U.S.

We'll find out soon enough which phones will feature the Snapdragon 870 5G. Qualcomm says that phones featuring the new system-on-chip are due out in the first three months of 2021. Motorola, iQOO, OnePlus, OPPO, and Xiaomi are among the phone makers who are set to announce devices with the new chip.

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.