Snapdragon 780G 5G gives Qualcomm a midrange Android heavyweight

Qualcomm has revealed the latest chipset in its 7 Series, with the new Snapdragon 780G 5G Mobile Platform promising to cherry-pick some of the best tech from the more expensive Snapdragon 888 flagship. Expected to arrive in new Android phones sometime from Q2 2021, the Snapdragon 780G marks a number of "firsts" for the series, and looks likely to continue the trend of midrange devices to be arguably more exciting than their most expensive brethren.

That's because, while it's easy to throw everything and the kitchen sink at a four-figure flagship phone, it's a whole lot harder to make something truly compelling when you're working to a stricter budget. As you might expect, then, Qualcomm has focused its attentions on camera tech, gaming performance, and 5G connectivity.

So, there's the Kryo 670 CPU running at up to 2.4 GHz, paired with the Adreno 642 GPU with HDR playback, 10-bit Rec.2020 HDR gaming, and support for OpenGL ES 3.2, OpenCL 2.0 FP, and Vulkan 1.1. The Hexagon 770 processor promises 12 TOPs of AI performance, more than double that of the Snapdragon 780G's predecessor, and works alongside the 2nd-Gen Sensing Hub for the first time in a 7 Series chipset. That means an ultra-low power mode for sensors, Qualcomm says, offering features like background noise cancellation without a big hit on battery life.

On the connectivity side, meanwhile, it's a measured compromise for that price/performance balance. The Snapdragon 780G uses Qualcomm's Snapdragon X53 5G Model-RF System, which means Sub-6 GHz connectivity but no mmWave. Downlink speeds top out at a theoretical 3.3 GHz as a result.

Given the relative paucity of mmWave 5G networks still, that's probably not a sacrifice most owners of 780G-based phones will be too upset about. The X53 modem still has support for standalone and non-standalone modes, FDD and TDD, Dynamic Spectrum Sharing, Sub-6 4x4 MIMO, and global 5G multi-SIM, which are far more likely to make a day-to-day difference in the speeds users see.

The same could be said about the FastConnect 6900 System, which powers the Snapdragon 780G's WiFi 6E (802.11ax), Bluetooth 5.2, and – in a first for the Snapdragon 7 Series – Snapdragon Sound. That means up to 24-bit 96kHz music streaming, with lower latencies, along with 32kHz super-sideband voice support.

For cameras and imaging, the Spectra 570 uses triple 14-bit ISPs and can deal with up to 192-megapixel stills or up to three 25-megapixel sensors at 30 fps operating simultaneously. Or, you could have up to a 64-megapixel sensor and a 20-megapixel one, again at 20 fps, with Qualcomm promising no shutter lag. An 84-megapixel single camera could shoot at 30 fps in the same conditions.

There's 4K HDR video capture, and 4K + 64MP photo capture, plus 720p @ 480 fps slow-motion. The Snapdragon 780G supports HDR10+, HDR10, and HLG, plus 4K HDR video with Portrait Mode. All the usual AI features packed into modern phone cameras are supported as well, including low-light, real-time object classification/segmentation/replacement, and multi-frame noise reduction.

Quick Charge 4+ is supported, plus up to 16GB of LPDDR4 memory, USB Type-C 3.1, and up to FHD+ 144Hz on-device displays or 4K 60Hz external displays. The new Qualcomm 3D Sonic Max fingerprint sensor is supported too, plus the Qualcomm Aqstic smart speaker amplifier, Voice Assistant Accelerator, and the Aqstic audio codec.

Qualcomm hasn't said which phone-makers might be launching devices based on the Snapdragon 780G first, though we won't have long to wait to find out.