Snapdragon 850 unveiled: Windows-on-ARM gets a speed and battery boost

Qualcomm's reference design for a Snapdragon 850 Windows system.                  Qualcomm

Qualcomm has unveiled its Snapdragon 850 processor, which was designed for always-connected Windows 10 PCs. That's why the new Qualcomm X20 LTE modem inside Snapdragon 850 helps so much: with peak speeds of 1.2 Gbps and much higher average speeds than last year's model, the data transmission is shorter, and the modem can be turned off sooner.

The chipset features ARM processors, integrated LTE, long battery life, and an instant-on resume with no hibernation.

One of the first manufacturers to use the new chip is Samsung, which will produce Windows 10 PCs with the 850.

Qualcomm has been very clear that Snapdragon 850 is a PC/Windows product and we should not see it in a smartphone product.

Even this tablet will have better cooling than phones, so the Kryo 385 Gold cores are now clocked at 2.95 GHz, a small bump in speed over the phone chip. It has a faster 2.96GHz clock speed, which makes the processor about 30 percent faster than the SD835. That 30% performance increase estimate is evenly weighted across the two primary processing blocks, 30% each.

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On the audio front, it has improved dynamic range and reduced harmonic distortion metrics on its audio codec, and both analog and digital audio output is supported with Qualcomm's Aqstic and aptX technologies. No word on what sort of pricing we might expect, but Qualcomm has already confirmed that it's working with Samsung on at least one design.

In addition to improved Gigabit LTE capabilities, the mobile platform also offers new features for multimedia, including virtual surround sound, up to Native DSD format support, aptX HD support, Ultra HD Premium playback and 4K video capture.

Though the AI market for Windows is still nascent, Qualcomm does support the Microsoft Machine Learning SDK and Windows ML with the AI Engine integration. A lot of the the AI experiences will be hardware accelerated as well.

Of course, since it is running on Windows, a different set of drivers is required.

Microsoft has been making headway in this space including with its release of the April 2018 OS update. Roanne Sones represents the software and ecosystem, Alex Katouzian represents the Snapdragon 850 and all the hardware and drivers necessary for Samsung's EVP Kyungsik Cho a representation of OEM to make the think and light always connected PC. Microsoft Edge is also going to be re-optimized for the platform. That could mean faster and more prevalent coverage for the Snapdragon-powered PCs.

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