What you need to know
- Qualcomm has unveiled the X60, its first 5G modem built on a 5nm node.
- The X60 includes carrier aggregation between Sub-6 and mmWave, with a maximum bandwidth of 7.5 Gbps.
- The 5nm node means the modem has a smaller footprint while delivering better energy efficiency.
Qualcomm has unveiled its third 5G modem, the X60, and there's a lot to like. The modem has a smaller footprint than the X50 and X55, and has better energy efficiency figures. But what's even more impressive is that it comes with global 5G connectivity, thanks to Qualcomm's third-gen QTM535 mmWave antenna module.
The highlight here is that the X60 offers carrier aggregation between Sub-6 and mmWave bands in FDD-TDD, leading to higher maximum throughput. The X60 will be able to achieve downloads of an incredible 7.5 Gbps over mmWave, and 5 Gbps on Sub-6. Basically, the X60 is the closest we've come to a universal 5G modem yet, and that should make it easier for device makers to roll out 5G-enabled devices.
Another major change is the manufacturing node: the X60 is manufactured on a 5nm node, with the X50 and X55 fabbed on a 7nm node. Switching to 5nm allows Qualcomm to deliver better energy efficiency, and the modem itself takes up less room on the chipset. It's interesting to see Qualcomm making the shift to a 5nm node, because the only fab that's currently able to do so is Samsung. Qualcomm's long-time foundry partner TSMC just doesn't have the yields to mass-produce on the 5nm node just yet, and that gives Samsung a distinct edge.
In fact, a report from Reuters suggests Samsung is manufacturing the initial batch of X60 modems for Qualcomm. This isn't the first time Qualcomm has done so either — Samsung was the foundry behind the Snapdragon 835, back when Qualcomm made the switch from 14nm to 10nm. TSMC is also expected to fulfil orders for Qualcomm once it kicks off its 5nm production later this year.
The X60 will be going out to device manufacturers this quarter, and you'll have to wait until early next year to see the first phones with the modem. If history is any indication, we'll see the public debut of the X60 on Samsung's 2021 flagship.
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