Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 480 chip will power the cheapest 5G phones of early 2021
5G finally went mainstream in 2020, but even the most affordable 5G phone released last year is too expensive for millions of people to consider. That’ll this year as 5G-compatible modems are making their way into cheaper chipsets. Today, Qualcomm has announced the Snapdragon 480 mobile platform, the chip design firm’s most entry-level system-on-chip yet that supports next-gen 5G connectivity.
The Snapdragon 480 is the first mobile platform in Qualcomm’s 4-series to support 5G, and it promises to bring 5G to even lower price-points than Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 690 powering the OnePlus Nord N10 and LG K92. Featuring the integrated Snapdragon X51 modem-RF system, the Snapdragon 480 can connect to the sub-6GHz 5G networks used by the majority of carriers around the world with 100MHz of bandwidth and 4 antennas, but it can also connect to the less common millimeter-wave 5G networks with 200MHz of bandwidth and 2 antennas. The modem-RF system also supports both non-standalone (NSA) and standalone (SA) 5G network modes as well as technologies like TDD, FDD, DSS, and a multitude of Qualcomm’s proprietary networking technologies.
Of course, a 5G modem isn’t the only connectivity component of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 480. The chipset also features Qualcomm’s FastConnect 6200 mobile connectivity subsystem which supports dual WiFi antennas, 8-stream sounding with multi-user MIMO, Bluetooth 5.1, Qualcomm’s aptX Adaptive codec, and Qualcomm’s TrueWireless technology. In addition, the chipset supports dual-frequency GNSS for more accurate location tracking, and it also supports India’s NavIC satellite navigation system.
For the rest of the specs, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 480 won’t excite any power users, but the chip seems surprisingly decent for what it’s worth. The chip is fabricated by Samsung using an 8nm process and has an octa-core CPU comprised of a cluster of 2 ARM Cortex-A76 cores clocked at up to 2.0GHz for high-performance tasks and a cluster of 6 ARM Cortex-A55 cores clocked at up to 1.8GHz for less demanding tasks. Qualcomm says the Snapdragon 480’s CPU performance is over double that of the Snapdragon 460, which is found in many recently-launched budget smartphones. The GPU is Qualcomm’s Adreno 619, which also promises over twice the performance of the Snapdragon 460, but it’s unclear how the GPU compares in frequency and core count to the Adreno 619L in the Snapdragon 690 and the Adreno 619 in the Snapdragon 750G 5G. Qualcomm has packed the Hexagon 686 DSP in the new Snapdragon 480, which was previously found in the Snapdragon 665, as well as a Sensing Hub for low-power, always-on audio and voice processing. The combination of improvements in the CPU, GPU, and DSP lend the Snapdragon 480 a 70% bump in AI performance over the Snapdragon 460.
To process images, Qualcomm embedded 3 Spectra 345 ISPs, the first SoC after the flagship Snapdragon 888 to feature a triple ISP. This allows the Snapdragon 480 to process images from 3 image sensors simultaneously, though the throughput is limited to 13MP for 3 stills and 720p for 3 videos. Otherwise, the Spectra 345 supports single 64MP or dual 25MP + 13MP image capture with zero shutter lag. 4K UHD video recording is not possible, with the maximum video capture resolution from a single stream limited to 1080p at 60fps. Slow-motion video capture is possible at up to 120fps at 720p resolution.
Lastly, the Snapdragon 480 supports Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 4+ for fast wired charging, driving Full HD resolution displays at up to 120Hz refresh rate, UFS storage chips (up to 2.2 spec), and LPDDR4X RAM at up to 2133MHz.
The first commercial devices with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 480 5G mobile platform are expected to launch this month. HMD Global, OnePlus, and OPPO have confirmed their intentions to launch mobile devices with the new SoC, but Motorola is also expected to launch a smartphone with the Snapdragon 480 if a recent leak from TecknikNews is to be believed.