Qualcomm's Snapdragon 480 chip promises 5G for all

A lineup of people using their smartphones against a blue wall
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Qualcomm has launched its first entry-level mobile CPU with an integrated 5G modem and support for the latest networking technology, expected to be fitted into incredibly budget-friendly smartphones.

The 8nm Qualcomm Snapdragon 480 5G is the latest chip in the entry-level 4-series and the first to feature a Snapdragon X51 5G Modem-RF System, which can support mmWave and Sub-6GHz 5G. This is in addition to 2x2 dual Wi-Fi antennas to support key Wi-Fi 6 features, as well as Bluetooth 5.1 compatibility.

The company’s 4-series mobile CPUs are typically designed to be fitted into some of the cheapest handsets on the market. This chip’s predecessor, for example, the 11nm Snapdragon 460 CPU, can be found inside the Oppo A53 and Nokia 3.4, both available for under £150.

Qualcomm claims the architecture of the Snapdragon 480 paves the way for a computing and graphical performance boost versus its previous generation, alongside a 70% AI performance boost and support for the next generation of fast-charging technology.

“Qualcomm Technologies continues to accelerate 5G commercialization globally to make 5G smartphones more accessible, especially as people worldwide continue to connect remotely,” said vice president for product management at Qualcomm, Kedar Kondap.

“The Snapdragon 480 5G Mobile Platform will exceed OEM’s and consumer’s expectations in delivering high- and mid-tier features at an affordable price.”

The chip will also support more advanced photography with the first triple image signal processor (ISP) in a 4-series CPU, branded the Qualcomm Spectra 345 ISP. This will allow photography from three lenses simultaneously, such as ultrawide, wide and telephoto cameras, and could let users capture triple 720p footage at the same time.

The Snapdragon 480 also supports smartphones with a 1080p display running at a smooth 120fps refresh rate, which certainly represents a leap against the Snapdragon 460’s graphical output capabilities.

With 5G still a relatively new technology, only the most expensive handsets had been compatible until a handful of manufacturers last year began releasing mid-range devices with support. One example of an affordable midrange 5G phone is the well-received Oppo Find X2 Lite, while the iPhone 12’s launch was also supposed to signal a major shift to the mainstream for 5G.

The scarcity of affordable devices up to now, however, also reflects the fact that coverage is still relatively thin, although this is expected to improve in 2021.

Keumars Afifi-Sabet
Features Editor

Keumars Afifi-Sabet is a writer and editor that specialises in public sector, cyber security, and cloud computing. He first joined ITPro as a staff writer in April 2018 and eventually became its Features Editor. Although a regular contributor to other tech sites in the past, these days you will find Keumars on LiveScience, where he runs its Technology section.