Qualcomm is launching its next 5G chipset today, the Snapdragon 690, the first product in its 6-series chips to get support for the next-generation networking standard — although it’ll only support the slower sub-6GHz versions of 5G, not the faster mmWave standard.
The new Snapdragon 690 also promises a variety of other improvements over the previous 6-series chips. Qualcomm says it’ll offer 20 percent better CPU performance and 60 percent faster graphics rendering compared to the Snapdragon 675.
Cheaper phones can now get 5G support
But the addition of 5G support — by way of a new Snapdragon X51 modem — is particularly important for the broader adoption of 5G, given that the company’s 6-series chips tend to show up in midrange and budget phones, like those from HMD’s Nokia, Motorola, and LG. (The recently released Moto G Fast and Moto E, for example, use Snapdragon 632 and Snapdragon 665 chipsets, and they cost $199 and $149, respectively.) Previously, 5G was limited to just Qualcomm’s top-tier 8-series chips (like the flagship Snapdragon 865) and the semi-premium Snapdragon 765 and 768G.
And while it’ll still take time for phone makers to start using the Snapdragon 690 (and, presumably, even longer before you can buy a 5G phone that costs in the $150 to $200 range), it’s an exciting development that should help the technology reach more customers than just those who are buying the most expensive phones.
In addition to 5G, there are a few other high-end features that are trickling down to the 6-series for the first time. The Snapdragon 690 will support 120Hz displays for faster refresh rates, along with 4K HDR video capture (both a first for the 6-series). The Snapdragon 690 will also enable up to 192-megapixel cameras on midtier devices.
Expect to see the first 5G phones powered by a Snapdragon 690 in Q2 2020, with HMD, LG, Motorola, Sharp, and TCL among the companies that are planning to release devices with the new chipset.