Qualcomm presented a number of new processors and technical solutions at the Tech Summit last week. We were there to take a look. Some trendsetting products were revealed, but also some rather moderate impressions have been left behind. Here are our tops and flops from the Tech Summit for 2019.
These are the tops of the Qualcomm Tech Summit
Qualcomm showed six new processors in Hawaii. From the VR/AR chip the Snapdragon XR2 to the mid-range processor for smartphones, the Snapdragon 765G, there was a lot to admire. In addition, some interesting features were to be examined in the demos of what the new chips can do. Examples included AI-supported simultaneous translation and a new fingerprint sensor that can measure the pulse through metal.
AI personalizes translations
Driven by the hexagon module in the AI engine in the processors, artificial intelligence now pervades all areas of the chip manufacturer. You can feel it all over the place and it is very impressive how far the technology has already been developed. Whether in the battery management, camera, graphics calculation or sensor technology for future mixed reality glasses: AI is everywhere.
The best example is the simultaneous translator, which translates the spoken word directly into another language and above all translates its own voice and voice modulation into the new language. Thus, no robot voice in one's own language is presented to the counterpart, but a personalized version of the spoken word.
A fingerprint sensor with new possibilities
The new fingerprint sensor is getting closer. The 3D Sonic Fingerprint is especially huge. With a size of 20 x 30 millimeters, it scans a large area. It is no longer necessary, for example, to hit a specific point on the display. But that's not all. The sensor uses ultrasound not only to scan the fingertip, but also the inside of the finger. Through the muscle contraction, it can measure the pulse and thus not only recognize whose finger is there, but also whether it is supplied with blood. This is not possible with previous optical solutions.
With its size, the new fingerprint sensor also has another feature: it can scan two fingers at the same time. So you can increase the security of critical applications in future smartphones. For example, a child's finger can be used to unlock the smartphone. An additional fingerprint of a parent is required to make an in-app purchase. In theory, this could also be combined with face recognition in order to use even more biometric data for security.
5G in MR glasses: Your own reality always with you
With the Snapdragon XR2, Qualcomm has launched a new platform for mixed reality glasses. With it, future VR, AR or mixed-reality glasses can be plugged into the fast network of the future and are thus finally detached from cables, the Wi-Fi at home or the smartphone. This could be the starting signal for a new wave of smart glasses, which might finally not only be a shadowy existence on the market. The fact that with the new platform you can achieve up to 3K resolution per eye and control seven cameras at the same time is almost irrelevant, but no less impressive.
The flops of the Qualcomm Tech Summit
Qualcomm is best known for its smartphone processors. At the product marathon, there were three of them to marvel at. The mid-range processors Snapdragon 765 and Snapdragon 765G are designed to make 5G affordable. This could also happen, after all, they are designed for smartphones far below the $500 limit.
At the upper end of the scale is the powerful flagship Snapdragon 865. The SoC offers 5G, of course new speed records, a lot of AI, and a powerful image engine. But what the chip doesn't offer are two things: real innovation and an integrated 5G modem. Both disappoint somewhat.
Is it higher, faster, further?
If you take a look at the Snapdragon 865, it quickly becomes clear that almost all the technical data is pushed a little more than with its predecessors. However, there are no real innovations. Yes, 8K videos are now possible, even 4K videos with 120 fps are a powerful tool. In the end, however, the existing developments are merely driven forward without any real innovations.
An integrated modem would have been one such innovation. With the flange-mounted X55 modem, there will continue to be many smartphones that do not support the new standard but are still considered top models. This may not be as important for Android devices as it is for Apple's iPhones, for example. But the signal's a false one.
While Qualcomm propagates "5G is now" in every situation that arises, the Americans are now pulling in the tail of the top model. The Qualcomm CEO's reasoning also doesn't sound convincing: an integration of the 5G modem would have meant compromises either on the modem side or on the performance side. Why integration in the middle-class platforms then worked is at least questionable.
Computer Chips from Qualcomm - Stepmotherly
Qualcomm also wants to get involved in mobile computing. That means nothing other than laptop processors. With the 7c and the 8c, Qualcomm has added two slimmed-down versions to the well-known 8cx. Among other things, they will be used to power laptops in the $500 ish range. Whether this succeeds is rather questionable.
"Always on, always connected" is the motto. But is this the right approach for a Windows laptop? At least it's strong that you put an LTE module into the smallest processor. This means that even inexpensive laptops will soon hang natively online. It clearly depends on how the processors perform in the initial tests and how the OEMs package the processors. But based on the success of the 8cx, I see a rather gloomy future in this area. Here, too, you have to make a name for yourself as a manufacturer. It's mostly about the flagships. And that's where Qualcomm didn't go.
Conclusion of the Qualcomm Tech Summit
Qualcomm has been strong in a number of areas and should once again be the measure of all things in mobile processor performance. The AI applications and penetration are also impressive. They presented a great fingerprint sensor and a software solution to share frequencies for LTE and 5G. So the Americans continue to march into the future. I had expected more in detail, especially with the 5G integration in the processor portfolio and the laptop division. The bottom line is a very positive impression with small beauty spots.
What do you think? Will Qualcomm be able to compete with the growing competition from Huawei and Samsung?