In the tech world, there’s plenty of talk of smartphones, but very little said about the processors that power them. But did you know that many of your phone’s innovative new features wouldn’t be possible without technology that’s built into one tiny chip the size of a Scrabble piece (but way thinner)?
Camera performance, battery life, and the fluidity in which videos are rendered are all partially dependent on what your phone’s system-on-a-chip (SoC) brings to the table. And of the companies that build mobile processors, one of the most prolific, if not most dominant, is San Diego-based Qualcomm.
Each year hundreds of smartphones, which includes many by the biggest names in the biz, are powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. Top-of-the-line models run the Snapdragon 800 series, like 2016’s Snapdragon 820, which so far this year, powers at least 7 flagships, including the Samsung Galaxy S7, LG G5, Sony Xperia X Performance, and the Xiaomi Mi5.
Qualcomm says more than a hundred new smartphones are expected to follow suit, and if the 820’s feature set is any indication, your next smartphone could have any or all of the following features:
1. Next-Gen Computer Vision
Your smartphone camera isn’t just for taking photos, it’s also there to give your phone eyes so that it can see and then do smart things based on what it has observed.
For example, when shooting photos of moving objects, processor-based computer vision gives your phone the ability to predict, say, the precise moment a firework explodes. Features like Text Activation can pick up details from a concert poster, prompting you to save the date on your calendar, or providing you with a link to purchase tickets online.
And because Qualcomm aims for its chips to be used beyond smartphones, it also sees a not-too-distant future where computer vision will play a role in cars.
2. Immersive Virtual Reality
Sure, a 4K display on a smartphone may sound overkill, but Qualcomm continues to improve its support for 4K screens, not just because it’s the expected next step forward, but because 4K displays are best suited for virtual-reality applications.
Head-mounted VR goggles like Samsung’s Gear VR bring displays closer to your eyes, and when you have a screen so close, pixels become more obvious than ever before. The Snapdragon 820 can also deliver higher frame rates, meaning smoother video experiences. After all, how can virtual reality be truly immersive if video playback is jittery?
To match the improved visual experiences, audio too has been improved, with support for spatial audio, just like you would hear in a cinema with 3D surround sound.
3. DSLR-like images
You’re right to associate camera performance with factors like lens quality, image sensor size, and maybe even megapixels. But how well your camera performs is also affected by the image signal processor (ISP) in your SoC.
The latest ISP in the Snapdragon 820 supports up to 25-megapixel smartphone cameras and hybrid autofocus (contrast and phase detection) and brings improvements to low-light performance — features you’d find on high-end DSLRs.
You get the same low-light performance when shooting videos, too. The Snapdragon 820 also enables support for up to 3 cameras on a single smartphone like the LG G5, which has two rear cameras, one with an extra wide-angle lens.
4. All Day Battery / Fast Charging
While more powerful than ever, Qualcomm claims the Snapdragon 820 consumes 30 percent less power than its predecessor – meaning your phone should not run out of juice faster, even while it works harder.
It also supports Qualcomm’s latest quick-charging technology, Quick Charge 3.0, that can get your phone from 0 to 80 percent in 35 minutes. Ask your smartphone manufacturer if Quick Charge 3.0 is enabled on your new smartphone.
5. Super Fast Internet Speeds
In markets where it is supported, the Snapdragon 820 enables LTE speeds of up to 600Mbps. That’s crazy-fast Internet on your smartphone, nuff said.
There’s also support for next-generation home WiFi, 802.11ad, and LTE-U that includes LTE in unlicensed spectrum. But hey, who’s keeping track as long as all your applications get what they need from the Internet as quickly as possible.
ASUS ZenBook Pro 15: Is the ScreenPad worth it?
Two screens for double the fun
At first glance, the new ZenBook Pro 15 (UX580GE) may look like an ordinary laptop. There’s nothing out of the ordinary on its solid chassis, and both the keyboard layout and screen are as plain as can be.
On the inside, my unit has some of the best specs around: an Intel Core i9-8950HK processor, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti graphics, 16GB of memory, 1TB SSD storage, and a mouthwatering 15.6-inch 4K touchscreen — but those still aren’t this notebook’s coolest feature.
It’s only when you turn on the device and press a button on the keyboard’s top row when the magic happens.
You can go from this…
… to this!
Yup, the touchpad is a touchscreen called ScreenPad
Besides being able to choose whatever wallpaper you want for it…
You may also play music on it
Check your calendar for upcoming events
Turn it into a handy virtual numpad
Use it as a full-fledged calculator at any time
And add any other function you might need
It even comes with its very own settings menu
Not impressed yet? Let’s try Extension Display mode
Now you can treat it as a secondary screen!
Perfect for watching videos while “working” 😉
Or simply trying to be more productive
Here I am viewing photos while editing on Photoshop
And choosing the next clip to edit on Premiere Pro
It can even handle Photoshop and Premiere Pro at the same time!
Here’s my favorite trick: watching a YouTube walkthrough while playing games
There are a lot more things you can do with the ScreenPad, but these were the most useful ones in my own workflow. ASUS is opening up the magical touchpad to other apps, so the possibilities here are endless and it’ll only get better through time.
So, is the ScreenPad actually worth it? To be honest, I usually left it on wallpaper mode with my favorite pictures to add style to my workspace; I even turned it off completely while the laptop was unplugged to save on battery power.
It’s one of those things you never knew you needed until you got it. The ScreenPad is an evolution for laptops which have been becoming stale in the past couple of years, but not something you can’t live without.
Do I want a ScreenPad on all future laptops? Yes, definitely! Who wouldn’t want two screens at once?
If you want to learn more about the ZenBook Pro 15 and watch it in action, check out our hands-on video:
OPPO drops the F9, Motorola copy-pastes: Weekend Rewind
Why innovate when you can recreate, right?
Here are this week’s top stories on GadgetMatch.
1. OPPO F9 (water)drops!
We were getting teasers of this phone two weeks ago and now it’s finally here! The OPPO F9 is official and it comes with a notch that the company is essentially calling a “waterdrop.” That aside, it’s looking like a lean, mean, midrange machine with its 6GB RAM and 64GB of storage, an AI-enhanced 16MP main shooter with a secondary 2MP depth sensor for portraits, and a 3500 mAh battery.
Our hands-on and unboxing is up on YouTube so make sure you watch it!
Notches and gradients are all the rage in 2019, so we guess it makes sense that Motorola opted to fuse both the iPhone X and the Huawei P20 Pro. The result is the Motorola P30 because Moto probably couldn’t be bothered to think of another name. It’s powered by a Snapdragon 636 chip with 6GB memory. It will come in both a 64GB and a 128GB variant. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery they say. Moto must really want to butter up Apple and Huawei.
Xiaomi’s been cooking something but since this is the Internet and tech leaks are totally a thing, we already know what it is. Coming our way officially next week is the Pocophone F1. A leaked video pretty much already told us a lot of what we want to know: 5.99-inch display, Snapdragon 845, and 6GB of memory.
We’ll have our own video on this soon so definitely stay tuned for it.
Google is being generous in handing out pies. Android Go, a less data-hungry version of the mobile operating system, will also get Android Pie. The Go edition of the newest Android OS only needs half the storage space and can run fluidly, even with just a gigabyte of memory.
Not ready for the responsibility of raising a child? There’s an app for that! The US Food and Drug Administration recently approved Natural Cycles. It’s the very first app to be marketed as a method of contraception. It determines whether a woman is fertile or not then advises which days you should “abstain” or “use protection.”
However, the FDA warns that “no form of contraception works perfectly, so an unplanned pregnancy could still result from correct usage of this device.”
Weekend Rewind is our roundup of top news and features you might have missed for the week. We know the world of technology can be overwhelming and not everyone has the time to get up to speed with everything — and that includes us. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the rewind.
7 best affordable flagship smartphones of 2018
Best specs, lower prices
Putting the words “affordable” and “flagship” seems like an oxymoron at first, but manufacturers have reached a point wherein this magical combination is actually possible.
Yes, affordable flagships are a thing now, and they’re taking away some of the premium segment’s long-standing thunder. Why wouldn’t you want the best specs and features in a cheaper package?
This year has been kind to us with all the affordable flagships launched thus far. Here are the best ones to date:
Let’s begin with the brand that started it all. Originally called the “flagship killer,” the OnePlus line is synonymous with high-end power without the extravagant pricing. The OnePlus 6 is the latest entry, and it’s an absolute stunner from its gorgeous display to the fluid Android interface.
Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S
This is the one time Xiaomi likes to go a little more premium, and we support it a hundred percent. The Mi Mix 2S combines a ceramic body with a massive, notch-free display and incredible hardware for the price. Each generation improves on the predecessor — this is no exception.
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