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Qualcomm's Snapdragon 480 brings 5G to more budget phones

You'll also see upgrade to camera and graphics performance.

Published onJanuary 4, 2021

qualcomm snapdragon 480 5g
  • Qualcomm has introduced the Snapdragon 480, offering 5G in 4-series chips for the first time.
  • It also improves camera, charging, and graphics performance.
  • Expect the first phones based on the system-on-chip in early 2021.

You can get Snapdragon-based high-end and mid-range phones with 5G, but budget models have proven elusive — until now. Qualcomm has launched the Snapdragon 480, the first system-on-chip in the 4-series with 5G support.

The Snapdragon 480’s centerpiece is an X51 modem that provides “multi-gigabit” 5G speeds for both millimeter wave and sub-6GHz frequencies, according to Qualcomm. You won’t get the X60 modem from the Snapdragon 888, but this should give you brisk app downloads and streaming videos. Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1 will improve your short-range wireless connections, too.

This also represents a stride forward for performance. The Snapdragon 480 is built on Qualcomm’s 2GHz Kryo 460 processor with eight cores, two of them based on Arm’s Cortex-A76 performance architecture and six on the more efficient Cortex-A55. That’s a significant leap over last year’s Snapdragon 460 (based on the A73 and A53). Combined with improved Adreno 619 graphics and an 8-nanometer manufacturing process, Qualcomm is claiming up to 100% boosts in CPU and GPU performance over the last generation as well as a 70% gain for AI.

Read more: The best budget phones you can buy

You can likewise expect upgrades to basic functionality. The Snapdragon 480 is Qualcomm’s first 4-series part to boast a triple imaging processor, letting it capture from three 13MP cameras at the same time. On top of general graphics upgrades, the 48 also supports up to 120FPS on FHD+ screens for gaming or any other app that demands ultra-fluid visuals. Accordingly, this is the first 4-series chip with Quick Charge 4 support for speedy top-ups.

Qualcomm expects the first phones based on the Snapdragon 480 to debut in early 2021. The company didn’t name specific devices, but it’s clear about some of the early customers. Nokia, OPPO, and vivo have all committed to using the new chip in future entry-level devices.

This isn’t the first low-cost SoC with 5G. Rivals like MediaTek have been rolling out ever-more-affordable 5G chips for a while. Qualcomm’s rollout could still expand the reach of 5G, though, particularly in North America and other regions where phones based on competing chipsets are relatively rare. It’s also good news even if you don’t care for 5G — the overall jump in speed might spare you from buying a more expensive phone just to get adequate performance.