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Qualcomm's Snapdragon 480 paves the way for sub-$250 5G phones in 2021

Snapdragon 480
Snapdragon 480 (Image credit: Qualcomm)

What you need to know

  • The Snapdragon 480 is Qualcomm's first 5G-enabled chip in the 400 series.
  • The chipset has a built-in X51 5G modem that delivers both Sub-6 and mmWave 5G connectivity.
  • Qualcomm is touting a 100% performance improvement for both the CPU and GPU.
  • Nokia, OPPO, and Vivo will launch the first wave of phones powered by the Snapdragon 480.

A few months ago, Qualcomm teased the launch of a 5G-enabled Snapdragon 400 series chipset that will make its debut in 2021. The chip vendor is formally announcing the chipset today: the Snapdragon 480 5G will be making its way to sub-$250 phones later this year.

Qualcomm has steadily lowered the barrier to entry for 5G with the introduction of the Snapdragon 765G, 690, 750G, and now the 480. Basically, you can look forward to the best Android phones under $300 now offering 5G connectivity in 2021.

The Snapdragon 480 features an integrated X51 5G modem that includes both Sub-6 and mmWave connectivity on standalone and non-standalone modes, and it even comes with dynamic spectrum sharing — which was introduced on the Snapdragon 888.

The Snapdragon 480 includes a lot of innovations from the Snapdragon 600 and 700 chipsets.

But the biggest standout feature on the Snapdragon 480 is the performance. Qualcomm is touting a massive 100% gain in performance for both the CPU and GPU over the previous generation, with the chipset featuring Kryo 460 cores that go up to 2.0GHz and an Adreno 619 GPU — the same as the Snapdragon 750G. The 480 also delivers up to a 70% uptick in AI-related use cases, includes Quick Charge 4+ charging tech, and is built on the 8nm node.

The Spectra 345 ISP has the ability to capture photos from three 13MP cameras at once, or the ability to handle three 720p video streams simultaneously. It also lets you shoot photos in HEIF and HEVC video, and has slow-motion 720p video at up to 120fps. There's no 4K video here, but you get the ability to shoot 1080p video at 60fps.

You also get AptX audio, and Qualcomm even added the ability to run high refresh rate screens. The Snapdragon 480 can handle FHD+ displays up to 120Hz, so it is entirely possible that we'll see budget phones with 90 or 120Hz panels this year. The platform also includes Qualcomm's FastConnect system and has Wi-Fi 6 integration, Bluetooth 5.1, and dual-frequency GPS along with NavIC, India's satellite positioning system.

Qualcomm hasn't shared information on when the Snapdragon 480 will be available, but Nokia, OPPO, and Vivo will be in the first wave of manufacturers launching phones based on the chipset. We should be hearing much more from the manufacturers in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.

Harish Jonnalagadda
Harish Jonnalagadda

Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, contributing to reviews, features, and buying guides. He also writes about storage servers, audio products, and the semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.

3 Comments
  • I'm glad to see high performance coming to the 400 series. I've spent a lot of time on phones of this segment and I've come to appreciate them for the feisty little work horses they actually are although Daniel Bader called these little guys "$200 **** phones" and the bleeped word rhymes with fit.
  • Considering that major carriers are making changes that will mean old phones no longer work, a reasonably priced chip with support for the new telcom tech is kind of a necessity. If we don't start seeing low priced phones with the new capability, millions of customers who have low end phones now will be cut off from service next year. If you have been out of work half of last year, buying a new phone might not be your first priority.
  • I'm pleased that Qualcomm's mid-range offerings have seen such big leaps in the past year. I wonder if we'll see any plays for the low end (I'm talking phones that start at $100 or less) this year, or whether they've decided to leave that segment to others. Given what the company has proven they can do on a budget, I'd be genuinely interested to see what they might come up with. Perhaps a revival of the Snapdragon 200 series?