Snapdragon 810 Hands-On: Meet Qualcomm's 2015 Superchip

It seems like only yesterday that Qualcomm introduced its powerful 64-bit Snapdragon 805 chip, featured in such flagship phones as the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and the Google Nexus 6. But just in time for CES 2015, the company has announced its new Snapdragon 810 processor, which will provide the ability to film and stream 4K video, better security, and greater and more power-efficient performance.

Scheduled to debut sometime during the first half of the new year, chances are that you'll see the 810 in many flagship smartphones and tablets in 2015.  Here are  the top features the new chip has to offer.

MORE: Samsung Galaxy S6 Rumor Roundup

4K Video Boost

There are several smartphones that can capture video in 4K resolution already, such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and the LG G3. However, the Snapdragon 810 chip will improve the experience of viewing that video, as it will be able to power 4K displays on smartphones and tablets, and will boost colors where appropriate to create a more true-to-life image.

During the demo, a rep captured a slow panning video of the New York City skyline that was streamed from one of Qualcomm's experimental smartphones to a 4K Sony Bravia television. The detail of the video was clear and detailed enough to show intricate details like the etching on a stone flower pot. However, the image on the television was a few shades darker than the real scene.

Next-Level 3D Gaming

Nvidia's Shield tablet is about to get some competition. The Qualcomm Adreno 430 GPU in the 810 processor offers 30 percent better performance while using 20 percent less power than the previous generation Adreno 420. That means more laptop-like graphics quality, as we saw in a demo of Skylander. Not only did the game play smoothly on the Qualcomm tablet, but it also hummed along nicely on an HDTV.

Computational Photography

The two-camera setup as seen on the HTC One M8 may be a more common occurrence in the future. That's because the Snapdragon 810 will have two image signal processors, enabling more of the adjustable-focus-like features of the One M8. At the Qualcomm demo, a smartphone with the 810 chip had both a regular and a telephoto lens, which let us zoom in much closer on an object than we'd be able to do on a traditional smartphone camera. In this case, a Peanuts comic strip pasted on the side of a model train was a bit more legible than with a smartphone lens relying only on digital zoom.

Better Audio

Audio on smartphones and tablets has improved over the years, but in many cases, it's not going to be as good as the quality on your home stereo. That could all change, as Snapdragon 810 will support Dolby's Atmos technology, which means it can deliver up to 11.1 channels of sound for a truly immersive experience. Watching a demo of "Transformers: Age of Extinction," I could hear every crumpling car and Autobot as they flew around the screen.

You'll be able to better record sound, too. The 810 is capable of processing audio from multiple microphones, and then isolating sound coming from a particular direction. Even better, the user can set "listening zones," telling the device to only record noise from a particular area. Qualcomm demonstrated this by having a group of carolers sing in one corner of a room, while a loud conversation was being held in another corner. As the carolers were being recorded on a white-label 810 smartphone, we could tell the app to concentrate its listening on the singers, the speakers, or both.

Beefed-Up Security

With more than 3 million smartphones stolen last year, better security is essential. Recognizing that a software-based solution isn't the most effective, the Snapdragon 810 will incorporate hardware-based verification, so that a thief can't simply wipe your phone. Although it already exists with third-party software, this technology will also let users remotely lock their phones and protect their data.

802.11ad Wi-Fi

The Snapdragon 810 processor will feature Qualcomm's VIVE 802.11ad Wi-Fi technology, which uses the 60-GHz band to wirelessly transfer data at speeds of up to 4 Gbps. While you probably won't see it in your home router anytime soon, this technology can let you set up a direct wireless connection to, say, a TV with an 802.11ad dongle, so you can stream your 4K video right from your phone or tablet.

Outlook

Next year can't come fast enough. We're very interested to see what devices will use the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 -- the early money is on the Samsung Galaxy S6 -- but it wouldn't be a shocker to see it in all the major flagship smartphones and tablets. Stay tuned, as we'll get a better look at the 810 CPU at CES 2015.