Qualcomm teased the Snapdragon 888, its latest flagship smartphone processor equipped with 5G, on day one of its Snapdragon Tech Summit. But during the opening speech on day two, the company provided full details on the new chipset, which will be the brains of nearly all of the major Android 2021 flagships.
First, the basic specs: The new processor will feature Qualcomm’s new Kryo 680 processor, which will be one of the first devices to feature Arm’s latest custom Cortex-X1 core and promises up to 25% performance. % higher than last year’s chip with a maximum clock speed of 2.84 GHz. And the company’s new Adreno 660 GPU promises a 35% increase in graphics rendering, which it says is the biggest performance jump for its GPUs to date. The new processor and GPU are also more energy efficient than the Snapdragon 875, with an improvement of 25% for the Kyro 680 and 20% for the Adreno 660.
Another key difference between the Snapdragon 888 and last year’s 865 is that Qualcomm has finally integrated its 5G modem directly into the SoC. This means that manufacturers won’t have to find the space (and the power) for a second external modem. Specifically, the Snapdragon 888 will feature Qualcomm’s 5nm X60 modem, which the company announced last February, and will allow better carrier aggregation and download speeds of up to 7.5Gbps on new devices. The Snapdragon 888 will also support Wi-Fi 6 as well as the new 6GHz Wi-Fi 6E standard, which should boost that rollout by making it the default on most Android flagships.
As is tradition for a Snapdragon update, Qualcomm is also focusing on improvements to its camera. The new Spectra 580 ISP is Qualcomm’s first to offer triple ISP, allowing it to capture three simultaneous 4K HDR video streams or three 28-megapixel photos at a time at up to 2.7 gigapixels per second (35% more faster than last year).
It also offers enhanced burst capabilities and is capable of capturing up to 120 photos in a single second at 10 megapixel resolution. Finally, the upgraded ISP adds compute HDR to 4K videos, improved low-light capture architecture, and the ability to take 10-bit color photos in HEIF. That said, it will be up to the phone makers to build cameras that can take advantage of the new features.
The latest major changes are in AI performance, thanks to Qualcomm’s new Hexagon 780 AI processor. The Snapdragon 888 features Qualcomm’s sixth-generation AI engine, which promises to improve everything from computer photography and gaming to voice assistant performance. The Snapdragon 888 can perform 26 trillion operations per second (TOPS), compared to 15 TOPS on the Snapdragon 865, while delivering three times the power efficiency. In addition, Qualcomm promises great improvements in scalar and tensor AI tasks as part of these upgrades.
The Snapdragon 888 also features the second-generation Qualcomm Sensing Hub, a low-power AI processor dedicated for smaller hardware tasks, like identifying when you lift your phone to light up the screen. The new second generation detection center is significantly improved, which means that the phone will be able to rely less on the Hexagon main processor for these tasks.
This all adds up to a substantial increase in the capabilities of Qualcomm – and therefore almost all of Android’s flagships – for what our smartphones will be able to do. The first Snapdragon 888 smartphones are expected to appear in early 2021, which means we’ll be able to try out the next generation of Android flagships soon.