Qualcomm announced a trio - sort of! - of new chips at its AI Day event in San Francisco this morning, and one of them is being aimed directly at the mobile gaming audience. The Snapdragon 730G, as it's called (the 'G' is for Gaming), will offer some nebulous 'Elite Gaming Features' and an overclocked version of the Adreno 618 GPU. There's also a standard 730 chip, and aside from the boosted GPU and those gaming features, it's exactly the same as the 730G.

Why make a chip specifically targeted at mobile gamers, and one that sits at the upper-mid as opposed to flagship tier? In all likelihood, that's because this chip is going to end up almost exclusively in phones bound for the Asian market. Qualcomm's latest and greatest, the Snapdragon 855, is a heavy hitter on all fronts, and comes with a substantial price hike over the chips offered in the 700-series, which typically provide much of the performance of the 800-series chipsets at the cost of features. The 730 and 730G are the most powerful 700 chips Qualcomm's yet produced, and while an apples to apples comparison is a bit tough, I'll try to give you a sense of how they slot into the larger lineup. But first, the basic specs for the 730 and 730G.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 730/730G

CPU Kryo 470 octacore (2x [email protected], 6x [email protected], 8nm)
GPU Adreno 618 (overclocked on 730G for 15% better "performance")
RAM Up to 8GB
DSP Hexagon 688
ISP Spectra 350
Modem Snapdragon X15 (Cat 15 down, Cat 13 up)
Bluetooth 5.0 with aptX Adaptive
Charging Qualcomm QuickCharge 4+ compatible

The 730 has an eight-core Kryo CPU, but it's not the same one you get in an 855. The new Kryo 470 is actually similar to the CPU found in the Snapdragon 675, the Kryo 460 (I know this is getting confusing), which had a "two big six little" configuration. That means two A76 CPUs operating at 2.2GHz, and six A55 low-power cores at 1.8GHz. Unlike the older 460, the Kryo 470 is on a smaller process node of 8nm, meaning it should be significantly more efficient. There's a new modem in tow as well, the Snapdragon X15, which offers peak download speeds of 800mbps with 3x carrier aggregation and support for 4x4 MIMO. A new image signal processor, the Spectra 350, sees the flagship Spectra 380's built-in computer vision processing trickle down the Qualcomm technology ladder, which should bring support for features like real-time video bokeh.

We don't know basically anything about the new "gamer" Adreno 618 GPU Qualcomm has put in the 730G, but we can parse from a lot from the name. Qualcomm positions it below the Adreno 630 from the Snapdragon 845, and if you believe Wikipedia, this slots in just above the Adreno 615 and 616. My guess is that the new name and extra performance are down to a switch to that 8nm process, and probably not much else. Even in "15% faster" 730G gaming trim, this GPU will probably offer roughly 50% of the performance of the Adreno 640. That's not bad (based on benchmarks, that's about on par with a Snapdragon 820), but it's a little puzzling to me that Qualcomm has gone out of its way to bin a gaming chip that seemingly doesn't bring much more gaming performance to the table. A phone with a Snapdragon 845 would still be much better for gaming, and even one with an 835 would easily best the 730G.

The mobile gaming market is exploding in Asia, and manufacturers are eager to capitalize on that trend - a gaming chipset is something they can plaster on ads and boxes to get consumers' attention: this is the one you buy for MAX GAMING PERFORMANCE. As for the non-hardware features, Qualcomm says 730G devices will come loaded with specially tuned profiles for popular games to maximize performance, an "anti-jank" feature to keep rendering smooth above 30FPS, anti-cheating extensions (uh OK), and Wi-Fi priority optimization for games to ensure the best connectivity. It's not really clear why Qualcomm is segmenting these features out for a single chipset, because none of them are relying on hardware specific to the 730G (which, again, is identical to the 730). This whole thing honestly feels a little half-baked as a concept, and I have to wonder if it's going to do more to confuse consumers than anything else. The spec sheets for the 730 and 730G are essentially identical, and the upsell case for the G is extremely murky even to me. If it just boils down to "that's the one they put in gaming phones," OK, sure, I guess that works. But I tend to think of Qualcomm as fairly no-nonsense when it comes to marketing its product lineup, and the 730G pings uncharacteristically high on my nonsense scale. There's no technical reason for this chip to exist.

The third and final chipset Qualcomm launched today is the Snapdragon 665, which in most ways is just a process shrink of the existing 660, from 14nm to 11nm. Updates to the Hexagon DSP, Adreno GPU, and Spectra ISP are all one-digit jumps in part numbers, and so most of the changes are likely owed to the aforementioned process shrink.

So, what phones will you find these chips in? Almost exclusively ones sold in Southeast Asia, if history is any indicator. Brands like Vivo, Oppo, realme, Redmi, and Nubia are probably going to be first in line for the 730G, though you never know what you might see pop up in a Nokia or Motorola phone these days - so US handsets aren't entirely out of the question. And you won't have to wait long, either: Qualcomm says the first phones with these chips will be arriving in the middle of the year, which is fast approaching.