Qualcomm unveils Snapdragon 690, a mid-tier 5G smartphone chipset

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Qualcomm unveils Snapdragon 690, a mid-tier 5G smartphone chipset.
Image: Qualcomm

Qualcomm debuted its new Snapdragon 690, its first 6-series chipset with fifth-generation mobile network connectivity, earlier this week. The San Diego-based semiconductor company explained its latest handset processor offers significant performance upgrades from the previous generation.

However, for all of its impressive qualities, the firm’s latest innovation lacks one significant feature: millimeter-wave (mmWave) compatibility.

Snapdragon 690 Details

In a press release, Qualcomm revealed all the ways its new chipset surpasses the performance of the previous generation. It’s fifth-generation artificial intelligence engine, and tensor accelerator makes its 70 percent more robust than its predecessor. In terms of user experience, the processor’s enhancements will optimize video recording.

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On a related note, the new Snapdragon product comes with an embedded Spectra 355L ISP, which allows for seamless 4K video and 129-megapixel photo capture.

The company also equipped the 690 with an Adreno 619L GPU, which offers a 60 percent improvement from the last 6-series line. That means the component will enable budget handsets to render gorgeous full high-definition plus imagery at 120 Hz.

Given its specifications, this chipset could power some exceptional and affordable gaming phones if paired with quality display panels.

The 690’s processing capabilities also represent a meaningful progression for the 6-series. The component’s 8nm Kryo CPU is 20 percent better than its prior iteration, which means it can launch apps and execute complex tasks very quickly. Plus, its globally unlocked X51 5G Modem enables fixed broadband-level download speeds of up to 2.5 Gbps.

Is mmWave Support a Real Necessity?

Although Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 690 represents a significant progression for its 6-series chipsets, it is designed to work on sub-6 GHz 5G networks. As such, smartphones housing it will not be as fast as mmWave-enabled handsets. That said, the semiconductor brand’s decision to leave that feature off its latest mobile processor makes a lot of sense.

For one thing, the company would have to charge more for the component to justify its production. Consequently, smartphone manufacturers would have to bump up the price for their mid-range 5G products in response. As the firm is positing the 690 as a budget solution, the inclusion of mmWave technology could have undercut the offering’s commercial viability.

Besides, Qualcomm’s recently introduced Snapdragon 786G as a mid-tier mobile device chipset with low, mid, and high band spectrum connectivity.

5G deployments, both sub-6 GHz and mmWave, are still in progress in most major markets. In the U.S., fifth-generation mobile networks are currently only available in densely populated urban areas, and no spectrum type is dominant. Therefore, the 690’s advanced processing capabilities are its real appeal, and it’s better than LTE bandwidth is a nice add-on.

Indeed, it is easy to imagine smartphone manufacturers using Qualcomm’s newest Snapdragon product in their iPhone SE rivals.

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