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Qualcomm Snapdragon 800: Hands-on with the Future of Mobile

When Qualcomm first announced that its next-generation Snapdragon 800 series processors would run at a maximum clock speed of 2.3-GHz, we were instantly blown away. After all, that would make the chip one of the fastest in the land. But the Snapdragon 800 is more than just a speed demon. This processor also packs a wide array of impressive features that sound too good to be true, including the ability to capture and output 4K photos and videos, run high-quality games, play 7.1 Dolby audio and enable 4G LTE Advanced connectivity. To get a closer look at this processing behemoth, we stopped by Qualcomm's booth here at Mobile World Congress 2013 to see what the future of mobile tech holds.

4K Video Capture and Playback

The tech buzzword, er, phrase, of the moment is "4K resolution." TV manufacturers ranging from LG to Samsung are all working on their own 4K TVs sporting the latest in super sharp, high definition technology. At four times the pixel density of a standard 1080p display, 4K images and videos require serious horsepower to run smoothly. And yet somehow Qualcomm has managed to get its Snapdragon 800 to do just that.

Not only that, but the chip is also capable of capturing video and images in 4K and outputting them to a 4K display via HDMI. During one demo, Qualcomm representatives showed us a clip from the film "Life of Pi" in 4K resolution running off of a Snapdragon 800-powered Android tablet, and at no point did we notice any lag. During a second demonstration, we used a Snapdragon 800-equipped phone to capture 4K pictures of a Qualcomm representative and immediately transfer them to a 4K television.

Carrier Aggregation

Next we checked out the processor's ability to run a 4G LTE Advanced data connection. Such data speeds, which can reach as high as 145 Mbps, are possible as a result of a technique Qualcomm is using called carrier aggregation, which combines a carrier's radio channels across non-adjacent bands.

So what can a 145 Mbps data connection do for you? How about stream 4K resolution video as Qualcomm did during our demo? Qualcomm says it's not just making changes to its chipset to bring users such high data speeds, the chip-maker is also working with carriers to improve their networks efficiently and bring LTE Advanced to market in the not-too-distant future.

Mobile Gaming Powerhouse

Of course, we would be remiss if we didn't check out how well the Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 can handle mobile gaming. So we stopped by the company's gaming kiosk where we saw the Snapdragon 800 running three games, including the Android game "Modern Combat."

What really blew our socks off was the number of polygons the processor was able to handle while running a game demo of a group of dragons attacking a castle. At one point during the demo the lead dragon spits out a stream of fire that, when viewing the game as a collection of wire frames, turned into a seemingly infinite number of polygons.

After spending some time with the Snapdragon 800, it's clear that Qualcomm's next-generation chip is destined to be one of the most important pieces of silicon in the coming years. From 4K resolution and 7.1 Dolby sound to incredible network speeds and gaming power, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor is in a category all its own.