Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 gets speed boost for gaming phones, with Asus ROG Phone II up first

The Snapdragon 855 Plus has a 15% faster GPU and will appear in new devices later this year.

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Shara Tibken was a managing editor at CNET News, overseeing a team covering tech policy, EU tech, mobile and the digital divide. She previously covered mobile as a senior reporter at CNET and also wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. Shara is a native Midwesterner who still prefers "pop" over "soda."
Shara Tibken
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Gaming phones, like the Asus ROG, feature fast processing and graphics speeds, advanced cooling systems and other tweaks for intensive game play. 

Josh Miller/CNET

Gamers, rejoice. Qualcomm's newest mobile processor has been built for speed -- just in time for the rollout of ultra-fast 5G cellular networks. And Asus will be the first to use the chip, in its upcoming ROG Phone II. 

Qualcomm on Monday introduced the Snapdragon 855 Plus, a souped-up version of its high-end chip that powers many of the latest and greatest Android smartphones on the market. The Plus features 15% faster graphics and a CPU clock speed of up to 2.96GHz. The regular Snapdragon 855 maxes out at 2.84GHz. 

The new chip is aimed at gaming phones and other devices that will tap into 5G, the new cellular standard that promises download speeds in the multi-gigabits; artificial intelligence; and augmented and virtual reality. Devices using the chip will hit the market later this year. 

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"Snapdragon 855 Plus will raise the bar for elite gamers with the increase in CPU and GPU performance," Kedar Kondap, Qualcomm vice president of product management, said in a press release. 

Asus will be the first handset maker to use the chip, it said in a press release. It didn't provide details about the phone beyond saying the ROG Phone II will build upon last year's ROG Phone. The older device has an AMOLED display that can refresh 90 times a second and something called AirTriggers -- pressure-sensitive corners that double as bumper buttons for games. 

Asus said it will share more details about the ROG Phone II in the coming weeks.

Qualcomm designs the mobile processors used in most high-end Android smartphones. As phone demand slows, companies are looking for new ways to get customers to upgrade their devices. The components inside the phones are vital for enabling new features that make the devices must-have. It's key for Qualcomm to continuously improve its chips.

It unveiled the Snapdragon 855 during a conference in January. Since then, it has launched in Samsung's Galaxy S10 lineup, the OnePlus 7 Pro and various other high-end smartphones. When paired with Qualcomm's X50 modem, the Snapdragon 855 lets phones get on the new, super-fast 5G networks that are launching around the globe. 

The Snapdragon 855 Plus also will need to be paired with the X50 modem to tap into the new 5G networks. Like the regular Snapdragon 855, it contains the X24 LTE 4G modem. 

Gaming phones are becoming more popular. As CNET's Patrick Holland noted, "gaming phones are designed especially for gaming with features like superfast processor speeds, advanced cooling systems, gaming-specific controls and displays with a high refresh rate." The popular models run on Android today, but Apple will launch its Arcade subscription gaming service this fall, which will allow people to play new and exclusive games on their Apple devices.

From Apple to Samsung: 5G phones available right now

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