Qualcomm announces the Snapdragon X60, its next-gen 5G modem

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5G seems like the only thing carriers can talk about these days and with good reason. The technology promises to change the way we can use our devices. But so far, the reality has been far from the futuristic presentations we’ve seen time and time again.

There’s one thing we tech geeks can get enthusiastic about and that’s the fast progress we’ll see in the field as it matures. And today we’re witnessing a significant improvement in 5G hardware, coming from none other than Qualcomm.

The company has just announced the third generation of its 5G modem, called the Snapdragon X60. The chip was the logical next step in the evolution but getting it so soon shows how hard Qualcomm has been working to improve its tech.

So what does the new modem bring to the table?

Snapdragon X60 — the world’s first 5nm baseband

That’s right, 5nm chips are now a reality. Apple’s A14 SoC and the Snapdragon 875 will undoubtedly use the technology as well later this year, but the X60 is here, taking full advantage of its benefits.

Speaking of benefits, the 5nm architecture will help solve two major issues with 5G modems: power consumption and heat. 5nm chips are expected to be much more efficient which means better performance and longer battery life for your next 5G phone.

Additionally, the new manufacturing process allows Qualcomm to reduce the physical size of the chip, leaving valuable smartphone real estate for other components. 

The new modem comes with a few neat new features as well, here's how the Snapdragon X-series evolution has gone so far:

The X60 enables higher max speeds at both Sub-6 and mmWave

A new modem wouldn’t be a big deal unless it comes with data speed improvements. And luckily, the Snapdragon X60 brings a significant boost to both ends of the 5G spectrum: Sub-6 and mmWave.

Thanks to spectrum aggregation, the X60 can push Sub-6 download speeds to above 5Gbps and with mmWave on top up to 7.5Gbps. Spectrum aggregation allows carriers to combine the different frequencies they have access to in order to transmit more data.

The effect of aggregation will not only be higher speeds but better coverage, another important issue 5G needs to solve before becoming mainstream. But all that wouldn’t be possible without the 5G antennas. So, naturally, Qualcomm is releasing a new one alongside the Snapdragon X60.

The Qualcomm QTM535 antenna is here to help your phone slim down

The importance of 5G antennas shouldn’t be underestimated. Not only because your connection ultimately depends on them, but because they’re a big factor in the design of the whole smartphone. 

Most 5G smartphones use 3 or 4 antenna modules so you can have a stable connection no matter how you’re holding your phone. And they’re positioned at the edge of the device so the size of the antenna largely determines the thickness of the phone.

That’s why Qualcomm is so proud of being able to make the QTM535 antenna slimmer. How slim? We don’t know. There’s a reason for that *Not to scale in the image above. Qualcomm doesn’t want to reveal the actual size of the module just yet as to not give its competitors a hint of how much progress was made.

5G mix and match, Qualcomm edition

The Snapdragon X60 will be integrated with upcoming Qualcomm system chips, but the company is offering it as a standalone solution as well. This will allow other manufacturers to easily integrate 5G into their smartphones without having to spend enormous resources to develop their own technology.

Of course, that’s how Qualcomm does business when it comes to SoCs as well, so nothing surprising here. We’re sure there will be plenty of customers for the new modem and antennas and we expect to see a variety of 5G phones in the upcoming months.

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