Qualcomm announced that 5G is be taken beyond their flagship products with the Snapdragon 690 being the first. What is the Snapdragon 690, and how will it help designers cope with modern technological challenges?
The pace at which technology is advancing puts enormous amounts of pressure on consumers, designers, and manufacturers. A device, which would be considered acceptable by today standards will find itself obsolete in a matter of years, and the way that devices communicate also continues to change. When 3G was released, it was considered to be the high-tech solution for mobile connections. Move forward a decade, and we now see that even 4G is insufficient for modern applications including 4K video streaming, and cloud-based platforms. 5G, the latest mobile technology, offers devices with significantly higher data rates (up to 10Gbps), low latency, and higher capacities. But the introduction of a new mobile technology means that any devices currently on the market will not be able to work with it. Thus designers are required to create new products which can. While 5G is now established in its definition and function, it is still to be rolled out globally. SoCs and mobile processors do exist that are compatible with 5G, but most are for high-end devices making 5G devices expensive. However, Qualcomm aims to challenge this with the release of their Snapdragon 690 mobile SoC.
The Snapdragon is the first non-flagship product by Qualcomm to integrate 5G support in an effort to target lower-end markets. The Snapdragon 690 incorporates the Qualcomm Snapdragon™ X51 5G Modem-RF System while supporting SA and NSA modes, TDD and FDD, Dynamic Spectrum sharing and global 5G multi-SIM. Also integrated into the Snapdragon 690 is a Qualcomm Spectra 355L ISP which supports high-megapixel cameras, fast autofocus, noise reduction, 4KHDR video, and over a billion shades of colour. The Adreno 619L GPU provides up to 60% performance increase compared to its predecessors, and supports FHD+ displays with a refresh rate up to 120Hz. The onboard CPU is a Kyro 560 which integrates the latest ARM Cortex architecture, and the 8nm technology helps with power efficiency; an essential property in any mobile device. The Snapdragon 690 also hosts a range of security features which are becoming ever more essential in modern devices. Security features found on the Snapdragon 690 include biometric authentication (fingerprint, iris, voice, and face), Qualcomm mobile security, key provisioning, trusted execution, cypto engine, malware protection, and secure boot.
One feature, in particular that stands out with the Snapdragon 690 is the integrated onboard AI hardware. Providing up to 70% improvement when compared to its predecessors, the Snapdragon 690 utilises AI hardware acceleration including the 5th gen Qualcomm Artificial Intelligence (AI) Engine and Qualcomm Hexagon™ Tensor Accelerator (HTA). This allows for AI applications utilising TensorFlow to run more efficiently, free up processor resources, and reduce energy consumption. When combined with 5G capabilities, designers will be able to develop AI solutions that require a low-latency connection to a remote system. Such capabilities not only help with edge-computing applications, but will also help with AI algorithms in fast-paced environments such as self-driving vehicles.
While 5G technology is concerned with data transmission, the advances in communication technologies also helps to advance others such as AI, IoT, and IIoT. With the number of connected devices continuing to rise, 5G is set to become the dominant wireless technology. Technologies such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth may be practical today; current trends show that shows that technologies with higher data rates and larger device support will be preferred.