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Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders review: Not for most people

With major telephone manufacturers like Apple, Google and( in some regions, at least) Samsung construct their own processors, Qualcomm’s fee Snapdragon CPUs are facing stiffer challenger than ever. But there were some companies that there is a need those chipsets — ASUS being a illustrious precedent. The Taiwanese electronics giant’s ROG phones have high-end components aimed at the most demanding useds and portable gamers.

That’s exactly the public for the new “Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders, ” a phone that Qualcomm built with help from ASUS “for its fans”. It boasts aspects like a 6.8 -inch screen with a 144 Hz refresh rate, exhaustive 5G help, fast blaming and special audio improvements. Clearly, this $1,499 manoeuvre is a showcase for Qualcomm’s concentrations, and though its name says it’s for Snapdragon Insiders, anyone can buy it. But should you?


That depends on a few things, one of which being your liking on phone immensities. This is a big phone. At 210 grams( or 0.46 pounds ), the Smartphone for Snapdragon Insider( which I’m going to call SSI from now on) is one of the heavier phones I’ve exploited recently. Many machines with such large-scale screens tend to weigh about the same — the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is lighter, but the iPhone 12 Pro Max and Galaxy S2 1 Ultra are actually even heavier.

A man holding the Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders. The picture shows the phone in his hands, with its rear facing us.Cherlynn Low/ Engadget

The SSI likewise examines notably different from the iPhones and Galaxy which, will vary depending on your smell, could be a good or bad thing. Its rounded rectangle figure has a matte blue finish with shiny red accents on the camera bump and capacity button. And you know how bezels for selfie cameras is away over the last two years on most flagships? That’s not the case here — there’s still a thin mete above the screen where the sensor sits. That, working in partnership with the silhouette and finish, shape the SSI look pretty outdated.

Another polarizing feature on the SSI is an decorated Qualcomm Snapdragon fireball icon on the rear, below the fingerprint sensor. You can give the beacon to “breathe”( i.e ., glow on and off ), turn it off altogether, or have it stay on all day. Even when it’s not lit, though, the symbol is pretty obvious. It adds clutter to the phone, and offset feeling for the fingerprint scanner disorient whenever I wanted to unlock the manoeuvre without looking at its back.

One last notation on blueprint: The bump for the SSI’s triple-camera array on the back is a astonishingly compact horizontal sequence that’s neatly tucked away in the top left. It’s smaller and thinner than those on the Galaxy and iPhones, though it still protrudes fairly that the handset doesn’t lie flat when you situated it on a table.


Topping the index of the SSI’s premium specs is its showing. The AMOLED panel is from Samsung, and it runs at 2,448 x 1,080. It also freshens at 144 Hz, which constitutes one of the most wonderful on modern smartphones, beating the Galaxy S2 1 and Note series , not to mention the iPhone family. To ensure that you’re shooting at your antagonists as quickly as you can tap on them, the presentation also offers a 1ms response time.

A man holding the Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders with its screen facing out. Cherlynn Low/ Engadget

I strenuously scrolled up and down on the Engadget homepage, as well as my Instagram feed, and the showing keeping with my digit. Shooting at my adversaries on League of Lore Wild Rift was similarly responsive, and a first-person shooter like Call Of Duty was also satisfyingly speedy.

Since it’s an AMOLED panel, it also delivers vibrant colors and deep blackness on videos and photos. Its peak brightness of 1,200 nits likewise stimulates for easy viewing under sunlight. It’s worth noting, though, that the 20.4: 9 phase ratio movements some content to be cut off — the ends of long messages in Telegram, for example, disappear into the edges of the screen. Qualcomm doesn’t appear to have optimized its display to accommodate all apps.


The Smartphone for Snapdragon Insider is one of the first to peculiarity Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Sound technology, which promises low Bluetooth latency, several listening charts and smart amplifier software. It also has four mics and Qualcomm’s “High Dynamic Range Audio Record, ” which the company says is capable of delivering studio-quality recording. The SSI comes with a duo of wireless Master and Dynamic earbuds, very, but most of the audio enhancements will work through the phone’s loudspeakers too.

Side view of the Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders laid on a wooden surface, showing its power and volume buttons on the right edge.Cherlynn Low/ Engadget

The Master& Dynamic headphones were built exerting Qualcomm’s Bluetooth Audio SoC and will support high-res 24 -bit 96 kHz audio with active racket abandonment. Qualcomm also said these should stay connected to your telephone even if there are lots of other RF devices around, so audio drop-outs should be minimal.

I haven’t inspected many hectic locates during my testing, so I can’t vouch for how well these headphones stay connected in those situations. Plus, the headphones that Qualcomm referred reviewers were pre-production and do “not show commercial-ready Snapdragon sound quality.” The company said that when the maneuvers do carry later this month, they’ll have features like high-res audio and super wide party articulation in the interests of greater order clarity. For now, though, all I can say is the earbuds accomplish penalize. Songs like “Say So” by Doja Cat and “Next Level” by aespa likewise seemed richer than on the Pixel Buds 2.

The SSI itself also delivered loud and clear audio, though I don’t often expect enormous character from telephone talkers since I rarely play music through them. Sound accomplishes and background racetracks on games and YouTube videos rang out neatly, and that’s pretty much all I need from a phone’s sound system.


Like numerous modern flagships, the SSI has a trio of cameras on its rear. The 64 -megapixel main sensor with f/ 1.8 hole is complying with a 12 -megapixel ultrawide option and an 8-megapixel telephoto. That’s a jolly normal setup, though the main camera here is sharper than those you’ll find on iPhones and Pixels.

A close up view of the Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders' three rear cameras at an angle. Cherlynn Low/ Engadget

Qualcomm said an over-the-air update is coming later this month that will enable, among other things, a full settlement state for better “snapshot performance.”

Other enhancements that the update is supposed to bring include “better texture/ interference act, ” “improved night shot quality, ” “Video Super Resolution, ” “upgraded camera tuning” and “best autofocus experience.” The busines said here today will also “fully optimize” HDR via the ultra-wide and telephoto cameras and multi-frame noise reduction. That’s far too many things coming that could sway how I feel about the camera, and I wish they were available to test before the phone punches shelves later this month. For now, I’m supposed to take Qualcomm’s word for it and that’s not how re-examines work.

Without the updated software, the SSI delivered lackluster photos that sallowed in comparison to the Note 20 Ultra and Pixel 5’s. The Qualcomm phone’s images had a blue-blooded( sometimes light-green) assign and weren’t vastly sharper or clearer than the Pixel’s, which expenditures hundreds less. Google’s portrait mode is also superior, and it never failed to keep the lantern fly I was taking photographs of in focus. Meanwhile, the insect came out blurry in 90 percentage of the shots on the SSI.

A screenshot of the camera app in the Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders, demonstrating an Auto Tracking video recording mode. There is a yellow square surrounding a man and Stop and Pause buttons on the right.. Screenshot( Cherlynn Low/ Engadget)

One thing I was able to test is a unique Auto Tracking mode. Qualcomm re-architected its AI engine to run machine-learning-based enterprises better, and one of these features is an Auto Zoom tool in the camera. When you use the Auto Tracking mode, you can tap on the viewfinder to designate a subject, and the camera will automatically adjust enclose to make sure your pet or loved one is always in the scene.

And by the way, this isn’t an autofocus tool that utters sure your boys or fur children always search clear. Qualcomm’s method will actually zoom in and out to give your adopted subject the spotlight. When this worked, like when I shot a excerpt of our video farmer, Brian Oh’s cute puppy Zen as she dawdled around the room, it was lovely. The camera zoomed in till Zen’s face made up half the screen and we were staring into her mournful noses, and zoomed out when she moved out of frame so we always received her.

But in my testing, the system was not ever good at identifying people’s faces and separating them from the background. That would be fine if it simply didn’t do anything in those cases, but the resulting footage was nauseatingly jerky and looked like the camera was searching for the subject. This is a nice tool in theory, but even though they are it cultivated perfectly I’m not reassured I’d use it much.

The Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders with its rear facing the camera against a yellow background. Cherlynn Low/ Engadget

Another thing I’m not sure I like is the 24 -megapixel front camera. Sharper sensors are nice in general, but the better clarity here didn’t make a big difference over selfies shot on other phones. Again, I don’t know if the coming OTA update will be effective so I can only evaluate the selfie camera as I’ve experienced it.

Performance and battery life

With a Snapdragon 888 CPU, 16 GB of RAM and 512 GB of storage, the SSI has batch of muscle and ran smoothly for most of my day with it. I encountered periodic hitches when shooting portrait procedure paintings in rapid inheritance and when trying to shift focus in auto-tracking mode, but those are pretty specific to the camera. When I toy League of Tale Wild Rift with screen recording on, the phone never lagged.

It’s worth noting that the SSI often loped sizzling, though. After a couple of minutes of coinciding gaming and screen-recording, or a few cases aims at captivating video in auto-tracking mode, or even precisely a round of Settlers of Catan, the region below the fingerprint sensor got noticeably warm.

The 4,000 mAh battery now commonly got me through a daylight and a half, and sometimes more, which is impressive given its screen length and refresh pace. That’s also in line with most manoeuvres in this class, like the Note 20 Ultra and the iPhone 12 Pro Max, and better than the S21 Ultra.

A man using the Smartphone for Snapdragon InsidersCherlynn Low/ Engadget

I didn’t go out a lot so I wasn’t using 5G much — if you’re a heavy data consumer or you gave the logo on the back to stay lit all day, the runtime will likely drop. Speaking of, the SSI subscribes both mmWave and sub-6 5G, though your experience of the move progress this creates will depend chiefly on your carrier and assistance area.

When you do run out of juice, it won’t take too long to get recharged. Qualcomm includes a Quick Charge 5 adaptor in the box that it says will get you up to 70 percent in 30 minutes or a full charge in 52 instants. I did get the phone fully blamed in under an hour, which is impressive given the magnanimous artillery size.


On paper, the Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders seems like a spec chaser’s dream. But headline pieces like Snapdragon Sound aren’t ready yet, 5G rendition is reliant on your carrier and coverage, while the camera is still pending a major inform that may improve performance. Not exclusively does this phone seem like it’s not ready for review, it also feels far extremely niche. Even necessitating users who might like a smartphone like this will get more out of a Galaxy Ultra or the OnePlus 9 Pro. Unless you’re a rabid Qualcomm fan or need a brawny, long-lasting honker of phone calls with a 144 Hz screen, few people should get the Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders.

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