Qualcomm's Snapdragon 870 is a souped-up version of last year's flagship

For those phones where the 888 isn't an option.


The Snapdragon 888 isn’t Qualcomm’s only high-end mobile chip for early 2021. The company has introduced a Snapdragon 870 system-on-chip that should deliver speedy performance in those phones where the 888 isn’t an option. Ultimately, it’s a slightly faster Snapdragon 865 Plus, which itself was a speed bump for the 865. It’s still using the familiar Adreno 650 graphics and X55 5G modem, it just ramps up the Kryo 585 CPU to 3.2GHz instead of 3.1GHz in the Plus.

The first batch of Snapdragon 870 phones will arrive in the first quarter of 2021, and early customers include OnePlus, Motorola, Oppo, iQOO and Xiaomi.

It may seem odd to release yet another slightly improved Snapdragon 865 when the 888 is a more substantial leap and doesn’t carry a huge premium — the 888-equipped Galaxy S21 costs less than its predecessor, after all. The addition might well confuse people wondering why Qualcomm would have such a crowded high-end SoC lineup.

However, the manufacturing might provide a clue. The Snapdragon 870 is built on a 7-nanometer process where the 888 uses cutting-edge 5nm tech. This new chip might not only keep costs down by using older production techniques, but could give phone makers a reasonably fast chip if 888 supplies are tight. You won’t have to settle for last year’s performance in a flagship or upper mid-range phone, even if the gains are very modest.