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Qualcomm boosts the brains on its flagship Snapdragon 810 chip

The leading maker of mobile processors showcases the capabilities of its newest top-end chip, set to ship in devices starting early next year.

The new Snapdragon 810 should provide more computing power and speed for 2015's phones. Dan Graziano/CNET

NEW YORK -- Qualcomm is narrowing the gap between what can be done on a desktop or gaming console versus a mobile device.

The leading maker of computing chips for smartphones came to the Big Apple on Thursday to show off some of the capabilities of the Snapdragon 810, its newest mobile chip designed for premium phones and tablets. The chip was first introduced in April and will ship in devices starting early next year.

The event also served as a preview of some of what the San Diego, Calif.-based firm plans to present at next month's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

"You're going to get a peek into the future," Tim McDonough, Qualcomm's head of marketing, said at the penthouse of The Standard hotel.

The Snapdragon 810 provides a notable boost from its predecessor, the 805, which is already tucked into Google's Nexus 6 and Samsung's Galaxy Note 4 smartphones, and Amazon's Fire HDX tablet. The new chip provides improved data speeds, longer battery life and fuller support of 4K video, the next step up from high-definition video. On top of that, the 64-bit double quad-core processor is a kick up from just a single 32-bit quad-core processor in the 805, which should give mobile devices a big bump in speed and computing power.

Qualcomm is hoping smartphone and tablet makers will use the 810's bigger brain and higher speeds to create devices that can come even closer to replacing your laptop or desktop -- which in turn could help Qualcomm sell more of its mobile chips. Also, having a new top-of-the-line chip is critical to maintaining its leadership over lower-cost competitors like MediaTek.

At The Standard, Qualcomm representatives walked reporters through several scenarios that the 810 can allow that weren't really possible before.

For example, a Qualcomm employee showed off a few complex, graphics-heavy games, with the 810 resting inside a test tablet that serves as a reference design for device manufacturers. Qualcomm claims the new chip, using the company's new Adreno 430 graphics processor, provides 30 percent improved graphics performance over the 805, offering smoother gameplay even with lots of graphics.

The chip could be used to eventually create mobile games that rival console titles. Graphics-chip maker Nvidia, too, is working on amping up mobile gaming with its Tegra chip and Shield gaming devices.

Qualcomm showed off another 810-powered tablet wirelessly docked to a keyboard, mouse and large screen. Using the chip's improved processing power and Qualcomm's new sample wireless docking station, an employee showed how he could use his tablet essentially the same way as he would a laptop or desktop.

The chip's support of 4K video also allows mobile device markers to create much sharper screens, with crisper edges on letters and richer pictures. That kind of capability could allow app makers to add more details into phone displays, a big benefit for a screen with very little real estate. Qualcomm also showed for the first time a sample dongle a device manufacturer could make that can stream 4K video shot on a phone directly to a big-screen TV.

So far, laptops and gaming consoles have survived the huge shift created by consumers moving to mobile devices, but they have suffered sagging sales for years. Next year will show whether the 810 keeps the transition moving in Qualcomm's direction.

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