Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders light-up logo

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Qualcomm unveiled its Snapdragon Insiders group program again in early 2021 and unveiled the Asus-made Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders in July. Designed to attraction to the fanatic market, the handset packs within the newest and biggest know-how Qualcomm and its companions have to supply. Put merely, that is Qualcomm’s imaginative and prescient of what a smartphone must be. Having examined the clumsily named Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders for over per week (the unit was supplied by Qualcomm), I can actually say it’s an fascinating imaginative and prescient.

Headline specs embrace a Snapdragon 888 processor, 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM, 512GB of inside UFS 3.1 storage, a 144Hz Samsung AMOLED show, a Sony-powered triple digicam setup, Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2 help, and blazing quick 5G mmWave capabilities. However there’s rather more than that tucked underneath the hood. Qualcomm has personalized massive elements of the Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders (SFSI) to present energy customers higher options and larger management than ever earlier than.

Qualcomm is eager to allow you to (and everybody else) comprehend it’s a Snapdragon-styled cellphone too. The SFSI boasts a light-up Snapdragon brand and branding on the again. The colour scheme can also be imbued with Qualcomm’s signature purple and purple hues, culminating in a moderately unconventional look.

Regardless of appearances, this isn’t an idea cellphone or one-off technological showpiece. It’s a fully-fledged handset with an all too actual $1,499 price ticket. So let’s dive into the know-how inside the best Qualcomm smartphone to see what that price ticket buys you.

Constructed for efficiency, cautious of battery life

Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders Performance Mode Settings Menu

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Because the Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders is predicated on the gaming-oriented Asus ROG Cellphone 5, most efficiency from the cellphone’s Snapdragon 888 processor is in fact on provide right here. Oddly the corporate isn’t utilizing its very personal souped-up Snapdragon 888 Plus right here. In actuality, the 5% CPU velocity improve in comparison with the usual Snapdragon 888 received’t be missed, but it surely’s nonetheless a obvious omission for a Qualcomm-branded product meant to showcase its finest applied sciences. Moreover, the cellphone releasing so late within the yr additionally means we’re not far off from a brand new Snapdragon chip, so the SFSI received’t keep innovative for lengthy.

The cellphone contains a Snapdragon 888 processor, not the 888 Plus.

We’ll get into the benchmarks in a minute however earlier than {that a} phrase on software program. Qualcomm gives not one, not two, however 5 completely different efficiency choices: Excessive efficiency to chug down the battery, a balanced Dynamic setting, Sturdy for lengthy battery life, Extremely Sturdy, and an Superior mode the place you’ll be able to configure CPU, GPU, refresh fee, and different settings.

Curiously, this reveals slightly about what Qualcomm considers excessive, steadiness, and conservative efficiency ranges for the Snapdragon 888. So I ran every mode by a collection of benchmarks to see the place these all sit within the grand scheme.

Operating at full potential, the SFSI is among the quickest smartphones on the market. It matched the OnePlus 9 Professional in our in-house Pace Take a look at G benchmarks whereas beating different common current-gen telephones in GeekBench 5 and 3DMark by an affordable margin. Nonetheless, this mode saps battery life fairly rapidly and the cellphone turns into highly regarded after quarter-hour of intense benchmarks. It verges on too scorching to carry.

When gaming with precise titles, akin to Name of Responsibility Cellular, the cellphone’s temperature fortunately stays cooler and battery life isn’t strained fairly so vigorously. However you’ll have to accept only a few hours of high-performance use. Benchmarks are rather more excessive than most cellular video games, even with the graphics cranked up. You’ll be able to actually benefit from the high-performance mode on this cellphone, a minimum of whereas the battery lasts.

Qualcomm’s default Dynamic setting adjusts efficiency radically based mostly on temperature and battery life.

It’s fascinating that Qualcomm asks you to flip this mode on moderately than defaulting to it. Out of the field, the handset’s Dynamic setting varies between barely extra and rather more reserved. In addition to dynamically adjusting the show refresh fee, this mode lowers CPU and GPU efficiency relying on temperature and remaining battery life. Whereas a cool gadget nearly matches the high-performance setting, stressing the handset with excessive temperatures drops efficiency nearer to final technology’s Snapdragon 865 — typically scoring even decrease, though efficiency sometimes ranged between these two extremes. The Sturdy mode sits on the decrease finish of this efficiency vary, whereas the Extremely Sturdy setting pushes the handset down nearer to a mid-range chipset however will take you thru two days of use.

Snapdragon SoC information: All of Qualcomm’s smartphone processors defined

After all, with a smaller 4,000mAh battery than the Asus ROG Cellphone 5’s 6,000mAh cell, Qualcomm might be taking part in it protected to assist maximize the cellphone’s screen-on time and guarantee it lasts all day (which it does). I’m fairly a fan of giving customers this degree of management over their handset’s efficiency. However this evaluation actually received’t assist quell experiences that the Snapdragon 888 is power-hungry and runs slightly too scorching at full tilt.

Qualcomm’s newest bells and whistles

Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders finger hovering over fingerprint scanner

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

The Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders actually is a showcase of Qualcomm’s newest applied sciences. For example, there’s a rear-mounted Qualcomm second-gen 3D Ultrasonic fingerprint reader. Qualcomm claims it’s 50% snappier than the first-gen mannequin and it’s moderately snappy, taking not more than a second between touching the pad and unlocking.

Should you’re not a fan of fingerprint scanners, Qualcomm leverages the ability of its AI Engine for face unlocking too. This know-how solely makes use of the entrance digicam, so isn’t essentially the most safe implementation obtainable, but it surely’s unbelievably quick. The setup course of acknowledged my face in a fraction of a second, and the cellphone unlocked just about as quickly as I pressed the ability button.

For the avid gamers on the market, the handset sports activities Snapdragon Elite Gaming options. This contains variable-rate shading, 144Hz refresh fee help, and sooner contact response. I clocked a number of hours gaming on the gadget and the efficiency was flawless, as you’ll count on. Even with the graphics and body fee cranked up, I didn’t have to flip on high-performance mode to make sure every part ran easily. As you’d count on from an fanatic handset, Elite Gaming choices empower customers to customise graphical settings, efficiency, and refresh fee on a per-game foundation too. So you’ll be able to maximize these gaming hours or ramp up the visible constancy, relying in your desire.

The SFSI is constructed with enthusiast-level customization in thoughts.

You’ll discover a comparable assortment of Qualcomm applied sciences packed into the cellphone’s triple digicam setup too. Leveraging the cellphone’s triple ISP and AI Engine, the cellphone sports activities AI Auto Zoom to maintain your topic in body whereas taking pictures video, EIS and OIS stabilization know-how, “professional-quality” bokeh blur, and low-light taking pictures.

Regardless of the great-sounding specs, the digicam setup of the unit I examined was shambolic. I couldn’t change digicam lenses whereas taking pictures video, regardless of Qualcomm touting this as a serious advantage of its triple ISP. Night time mode and video weren’t supported utilizing the telephoto lens and the app usually froze after snapping pics and altering taking pictures modes. In a nutshell, a lot of Qualcomm’s signature images applied sciences aren’t applied within the cellphone but. The precise footage it captured have been equally hit or miss and the selfie digicam is especially oversharpened.

Broadly talking, footage can look fairly good in respectable lighting, though colours is usually a bit oversaturated and the publicity isn’t at all times proper. Bokeh blur and edge detection are notably good. However HDR typically leaves ghosting and also you’ll discover clipped highlights within the odd image. The telephoto zoom digicam holds up moderately nicely at 5x and even 10x, though there’s a notable sharpening move on this digicam. Sadly, the setup isn’t nearly as good in low gentle, with a noticeable quantity of noise. Night time mode helps quite a bit, but it surely’s fairly blurry and doesn’t work for the wide-angle and zoom cameras. As a showcase for Qualcomm’s digicam tech, I’m left upset.

Take a look at: The very best digicam telephones you will get

The corporate states that an OTA replace will arrive someday in August that features Video Tremendous Decision and Cascaded Noise Discount, in addition to enhancements to digicam noise, autofocus, HDR, and night time taking pictures high quality. Apparently, Dxomark has examined this model and awarded the cellphone a rating of 133, rating it sixth general. This OTA was not made obtainable to us on the time of testing. As at all times, we will’t suggest telephones based mostly on the promise of enhancements through updates, particularly ones which might be this costly.

Extra than simply smartphone tech

Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders headphone and charger bundle

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Whereas finest recognized for its cellular processors, Qualcomm’s know-how ecosystem extends to a lot extra. The SFSI comes bundled with the corporate’s 65W Fast Cost 5 charger, two USB-C cables, a protecting case, and a pair of Grasp & Dynamic true wi-fi energetic noise-cancelling earbuds.

Associated: The very best true wi-fi earbuds

The earbuds are constructed utilizing Qualcomm’s QCC5141 Bluetooth Audio SoC. Sporting the corporate’s high-end aptX, aptX HD, and aptX Adaptive audio codecs, sturdy connectivity, in-ear detection, and a wi-fi charging carry case, these are designed to showcase the very best audio know-how that Qualcomm has to supply. They sound fairly nice too, after struggling to seek out the proper match for my ears. Qualcomm notes that the retail model will embrace help for top definition audio and ultra-wideband voice through aptX Voice, which wasn’t applied within the pre-production unit I examined.

In addition to a strong processor, Qualcomm packs in its finest audio and charging tech too.

Sticking with audio options, the SFSI is provided with Qualcomm’s broader Snapdragon Sound suite. In addition to help for its newest codecs and wi-fi connectivity options, the solid-sounding twin audio system are powered by Qualcomm’s WSA8835 amplifier, which helps 32-bit 384kHz audio over a USB-C connector. There are additionally 4 beamforming MEMS Microphones with a 73dB Sign-to-Noise Ratio and 114dB Dynamic Vary. Qualcomm rounds this out with a collection of sound optimization software program options, catering to music, gaming, video, and voice profiles. Nonetheless, there’s a little bit of a software program oddity, as some aptX-capable headphones default to Sony’s LDAC, the place obtainable, moderately than utilizing Qualcomm’s know-how.

Qualcomm’s bundled Fast Cost 5 plug gives as much as 65W of energy. My testing clocked it nearer to 45W, taking the cellphone from empty to full in between 42 and 51 minutes. That’s not the quickest charging know-how round, however this implementation is temperature and usage-aware to make sure that the battery and handset final a few years of use. Fast Cost 5 can also be appropriate with the common USB Energy Supply PPS normal, making this charger appropriate for all of your different devices too. It’s an excellent charging setup.

Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders specs

Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders
Shows 6.78-inch AMOLED
144Hz refresh fee
2,448 x 1,080 decision
20.4:9 side ratio
1,200 nits peak brightness
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
Storage 512GB
UFS 3.1
No expandable storage
Energy 4,000mAh battery
65W wired charging
Fast Cost 5
Cameras Rear:
– 64MP huge, 2×1 OCL PDAF, 0.8μm, OIS, ƒ/1.8
– 12MP ultra-wide, twin pixel PDAF, 1.4μm, ƒ/2.2
– 8MP telephoto, 3x optical zoom, OIS
– 24MP
Audio Stereo audio system
Dolby Atmos help
No 3.5mm headphone port
aptX Adaptive Bluetooth
Wi-fi Wi-Fi 6E (802.11a/b/h/n/ac/ax)
Bluetooth 5.2
5G sub-6GHz (Bands n1, n2, n3, n5, n7, n8, n11, n12, n13, n14, n18, n20, n21, n25, n26, n28, n30, n38, n40, n41, n42, n43, n46, n48, n66, n71, n77, n78, n79)
5G mmWave (Bands n257, n258, n260, n261)
Biometrics Rear-mounted Qualcomm 3D Sonic Sensor Gen 2
SIM Twin 5G nano-SIM tray
Software program Android 11
Dimensions and weight 173.15 x 77.25 x 9.55mm

Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders evaluate: The decision

Qualcomm Smartphone logo on display

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

I’m fairly against gaudy branding, and solely an actual Qualcomm fan (if there’s such a factor) may love a cellphone and earbuds plastered with the Snapdragon brand. Wanting previous the emblems, the thick bezels, rear fingerprint placement, and customarily chunky design really feel old-fashioned for such an costly piece of {hardware}. The cellphone is constructed for specs moderately than aesthetics, however Qualcomm and Asus may have made extra effort with the design to justify a price ticket that exceeds top-tier Galaxy and iPhone handsets.

Appearances apart, the cellphone and bundled equipment are an actual showcase for among the finest Qualcomm applied sciences round, notably within the 5G, audio, gaming, and charging departments. However you’ll discover many of those options inside different Snapdragon-powered handsets, as that’s the character of Qualcomm’s enterprise, in any case. The place the handset stands out is its broad collection of tweakable settings to handle the cellphone’s battery life, efficiency, sound, and different capabilities. The SFSI provides an additional tier of customization that positively performs to the power-user crowd.

The SFSI stands alone for its sheer collection of battery life, efficiency, sound, and different settings.

Sadly, digicam points (each {hardware} and software program) are a giant drawback for a cellphone focused on the flagship tier of the market. Likewise, the cellphone doesn’t boast an IP mud and water resistance score, in-display fingerprint scanner, or wi-fi charging capabilities which might be ubiquitous in at this time’s high-end smartphones. The SFSI isn’t a slam-dunk within the {hardware} division.

Then there’s the value. $1,499 is steep in anybody’s e-book, even with the equipment bundled in. The Asus ROG Cellphone 5, on which this cellphone is predicated, prices a nonetheless moderately steep $1,000 direct from Asus, however you’ll be able to seize one for ~$800 on Amazon. You’re buying and selling a smaller battery and headphone jack for an iffy telephoto digicam too, which can not go well with each shopper, but it surely’s nonetheless a much better deal. As good because the earbuds are, $500 may purchase you some actually premium audio gear. You’ll be able to actually get extra on your cash elsewhere.

Qualcomm’s imaginative and prescient for the best smartphone emphasizes tech, specs, and customizable efficiency, however that comes on the expense of the finesse we count on from premium handsets. Brute {hardware} might go well with a small group of efficiency fans however even energy customers will discover higher choices elsewhere.

Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders Qualcomm and Asus 1

Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders

In-built partnership with Asus, the Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders is a showcase for the very best cellular know-how Qualcomm has to supply.