Qualcomm launches new Snapdragon 690 processor to add 5G to budget phones

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Qualcomm is launching its next 5G chipset today, the Snapdragon 690, the first product in its 6-series chips to get support for the next-generation networking standard — although it’ll only support the slower sub-6GHz versions of 5G, not the faster mmWave standard.

The new Snapdragon 690 also promises a variety of other improvements over the previous 6-series chips. Qualcomm says it’ll offer 20 percent better CPU performance and 60 percent faster graphics rendering compared to the Snapdragon 675.

But the addition of 5G support — by way of a new Snapdragon X51 modem — is particularly important for the broader adoption of 5G, given that the company’s 6-series chips tend to show up in midrange and budget phones, like those from HMD’s Nokia, Motorola, and LG. (The recently released Moto G Fast and Moto E, for example, use Snapdragon 632 and Snapdragon 665 chipsets, and they cost $199 and $149, respectively.) Previously, 5G was limited to just Qualcomm’s top-tier 8-series chips (like the flagship Snapdragon 865) and the semi-premium Snapdragon 765 and 768G.

And while it’ll still take time for phone makers to start using the Snapdragon 690 (and, presumably, even longer before you can buy a 5G phone that costs in the $150 to $200 range), it’s an exciting development that should help the technology reach more customers than just those who are buying the most expensive phones.

In addition to 5G, there are a few other high-end features that are trickling down to the 6-series for the first time. The Snapdragon 690 will support 120Hz displays for faster refresh rates, along with 4K HDR video capture (both a first for the 6-series). The Snapdragon 690 will also enable up to 192-megapixel cameras on midtier devices.

Expect to see the first 5G phones powered by a Snapdragon 690 in Q2 2020, with HMD, LG, Motorola, Sharp, and TCL among the companies that are planning to release devices with the new chipset.

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