Whether we need it or want it, 5G is being forced upon us. 5G is part of the next round of mid-range smartphones ($799-999). And the Qualcomm SD768G 5G mobile platform is the safest bet to power them.
When I say safest – the Qualcomm SD768G 5G mobile platform (an update from the SD765G 5G) has been tested and proven. So far it’s the only one that has BOTH NR sub-6GHz (Australia) and mmWave for the most comprehensive 5G coverage – where, when or if ever you can get it.
That is not to disparage other makers 5G chipsets from MediaTek or Huawei, but those focus on mmWave in China or the US and leave technologically challenged Australia off the roadmap.
Here is what we know of the Qualcomm SD768G 5G system on a chip (website here)
Let’s look at 5G first.
Australia has crippled NSA sub-6Ghz 5G, and it looks that way for some time to come. We may see some mmWave for commercial use, but poor Joe and Jane Average will have to put up with 4G on steroids – Tel$tra’s patchy and pathetic excuse for 5G.
The SD768 uses the Qualcomm X52 Modem and its RF antenna system (as does the SD765). This a large step down from the flagship X55 modem in the SD865. Both are Gen 2 – there is a long way to go to reach 5G nirvana.
The X52 has a maximum rated 5G download/upload speed of 3.7/1.6Gbps, and the X55 is 7/3Gbps. Ditto for 4G (which it will run on most of the time). It is 1.2Gbps/201Mbps versus 2.5Gbps/316Mbps.
These are a lot of issues with even quoting these figures (Tel$tra initially claimed 20Gbps!). Our experience is (when we can find a mythical 5G tower) that speeds are not much better than Telstra 4GX – somewhere around 200-400Mbps DL and 50Mbps UL. Again, we have had faster 4GX speeds during those very same tests.
And while Qualcomm touts ‘truly global connectivity’ you are going to need to sign up to each country’s 5G carrier as there is no such thing as global 5G roaming yet or in the foreseeable future.
Transaction Network Services states that you should expect 5G global roaming to be a five-to-10 year rollout.
Why so long you might ask? Standalone (SA) 5G roaming will not happen in the near term due to complexity of network slicing, massive capital investment involved, business models and ill-defined charging principles. Simply put the incentive to replace global 3G/4G technology is too small when it will co-exist with 5G for some time.
So, if you have a 5G use case, can get reception, and want a knobbed X52 5G modem that will mostly run 4G then you will need SD768G.
But on the bright side, the Qualcomm SD768 is an excellent all-around performer.
No, it is not the powerhouse 8XX series. It is the equivalent of the Toyota Camry 4-cylinder – gets you from A-B, but you don’t want to tow a boat or caravan.
Again, Qualcomm’s marketing prowess comes to the fore. It uses cites ‘Next-level’ performance (why would you release something slower than its predecessor?), Captivating graphics (15% performance increase over the SD765), Immersive gaming (Adreno 620 GPU is OK), dazzling entertainment (HDR is a feature of most SoCs)…
Now you may ask if I am a Qualcomm basher?
To the contrary, I would prefer a Qualcomm SD under the bonnet more than any other chip (except for the Samsung Exynos that is an SD in all but name).
For starters, Qualcomm SoCs works with all my diagnostic software. MediaTek and Kirin do not! And Qualcomm returns accurate speed tests. Other brands do not (smells like the VW fiasco all over again).
Qualcomm SoCs seldom throttle to the extent that the others do. Mind you MediaTek is getting better as it moves to thinner SoC, but it has been found guilty of ‘optimising’ results for test software.
And the Qualcomm SD768G has exclusive Qualcomm features like
7nm construction for better battery life
SBC and aptX/LL/HD (as well as AAC and LDAC) codecs
The Aqstic and True Wireless audio DAC and amplifier
BT 5.0 stack that works all the time
Wi-Fi 6 AX but more importantly 2×2 and dual-stream to get 1.2Gbps instead of 866Mbps.
120Hz display support with autosensing that works
Dolby Vision (HDR/HDR10/HRD10+) and Dolby Atmos
H.265 (HEVC), H.264 (AVC), VP8, VP9
Always on to support Google Assistant
Qualcomm QC 4+, extended battery life cycles and better battery management
USB-C 3.1, dual-band GPS, NFC
And some great AI smarts in the image signal processor supporting new 64MP+ cameras
Supports LPDDRX4-2133 Ram and UFS 3.1 storage
100% Android compatibility
So, when you buy a Qualcomm based device, expect to pay a little more.
What we have noticed is that very few phones use what we call the ‘Qualcomm reference design’.
So, it is no guarantee that it has all the Qualcomm features enabled. Typically lower cost phone makers will use lower-cost wrap-around components like inferior RF antenna, older BT chips and different sound amplifiers etc. We try to identify that in our reviews.