Qualcomm has a new flagship smartphone processor: the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, announced at the company’s annual Snapdragon Tech Summit, giving a first look at the brains behind the most powerful smartphones of 2022.
The successor to last year’s Snapdragon 888, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 is the first chipset to carry Qualcomm’s new naming scheme (which the company already teased last week), ditching the three-digit numbering system that Qualcomm did. previously used for newer generations. -based nicknames.
Like every year, Qualcomm promises major improvements in the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, with better performance, camera technology, AI capabilities, security and 5G.
Let’s start with the hardware specifications. As expected, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 is Qualcomm’s first chip to use Arm’s latest Armv9 architecture. Specifically, the new eight-core Kryo processor will feature a single main core based on the 3.0GHz Cortex-X2, along with three performance cores based on the 2.5GHz Cortex-A710 and a quartet of 2.5GHz cores. efficiency based on the Cortex- Design A510 at 1.8 GHz. Additionally, the new chip goes to a 4nm process, up from the 5nm process the Snapdragon 888 was built on.
All in all, Qualcomm promises that the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 will deliver up to 20% better performance and up to 30% more energy efficiency compared to last year’s model.
Meanwhile, the new Adreno GPU (much like the Gen 1 Kryo processor, Qualcomm didn’t give a specific number for the updated hardware here) promises to deliver 30% faster graphics rendering, by over 25% higher energy efficiency compared to the Snapdragon. 888. It will also offer a new GPU control panel to fine tune the way games work on your phone.
Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X65 modem debuts on the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, which promises a whole suite of features and 5G firsts. As Qualcomm’s fourth generation 5G modem, it builds on existing mmWave and sub-6 GHz compatibility, adding support for speeds up to 10 Gbps and the latest 3GPP Release 16 specification. As is always the case, you almost certainly won’t see this kind of speed in the real world.
The Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 also supports Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth LE Audio (a first for Qualcomm) and the company’s Snapdragon Sound technology to enable AptX Lossless wireless audio.
As is tradition with Qualcomm’s high-end processor, the company is emphasizing its enhanced camera capabilities, which the company is consolidating for the first time under a new brand “Snapdragon Sight”.
While Spectra ISP is again a triple ISP system, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 upgrades things to an 18-bit system (up from 14-bit on the 888). This translates to 4,096 times more camera data and up to four additional dynamic range stops for very bright or very dark scenarios. The triple ISP (Image Signal Processor) also allows taking 240 12-megapixel photos in a single second or simultaneously taking 8K photos with HDR while taking 64-megapixel photos thanks to an increased bit rate of 3, 2 gigapixels per second.
Qualcomm also has more high-end camera features out of the box, including support for 8K video shooting with HDR 10 Plus and 18-bit RAW shooting (assuming your phone has camera hardware to remove it).
The 8 Gen 1 also features a variety of other imaging enhancements, including better dark mode images that can use data from up to 30 images in a single take (compared to six images on the 888). There are also a host of better AI processing techniques, with improved auto exposure, autofocus, and auto face detection technologies, a dedicated ‘bokeh engine’ for adding portrait effects to the camera. 4K video and an “ultralarge engine” that can distort and remove chromatic aberration from shots.
Qualcomm also adds a Fourth ISP, located in the dedicated detection hub on the SoC: unlike the triple ISP for the main camera, the new ISP is specially designed to power an always-on camera that is active at all times. Qualcomm has big ambitions for what developers can do with the camera always on, like automatically turning your screen off when you put your phone down or if it detects someone trying to read over your shoulder.
And while the idea of a constantly-on camera raises obvious security concerns, Qualcomm argues that this feature is intended to make your device easier to use. Suite secure, with all camera data for the still-on camera remaining locally on the device in the chip’s secure enclave. Additionally, customers will be able to choose to use the camera always on, in the same way that they can choose whether or not to use an always-on microphone feature for voice assistants.
Still, the extra capacity – and how manufacturers implement it into their devices, if they do – will be something to watch out for when the first chips with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 roll out.
On the AI side, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 features Qualcomm’s latest Hexagon processor, with its seventh-generation AI engine, which the company claims is four times faster than its predecessor and up to 1.7 times. times more energy efficient.
The company showcased a variety of use cases that the improved performance of AI can enable, including the aforementioned camera functionality, a “Leica Leitz Look mode” that emulates Leica lens effects, and improved camera detection. where you hold your phone to optimize the antenna. performance. Additionally, Qualcomm adds AI-powered sampling to deliver a DLSS-style effect to enhance mobile games, which it says will happen automatically when playing on 8 Gen 1.
Finally, there are security improvements. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 adds a new layer of hardware-level security with a “dedicated trust management engine”, in addition to offering support for the Android Ready SE standard, allowing support for car keys digital, driver’s licenses, credentials and e-money wallets. There is also built-in iSIM support for direct connection to cellular networks.
Despite the rebranding, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 doesn’t appear to break the mold of Qualcomm’s chips, delivering the usual generational upgrades we’ve come to expect from the company’s annual flagships. Still, in a world where bespoke chips like Google’s Tensor or Apple’s A-series processors are becoming more popular, it’s good to see that Qualcomm has no intention of slowing down. of its own state-of-the-art chips, even as competition intensifies.
And with the first Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 smartphones expected before the end of 2021, it won’t be long before we can see how powerful Qualcomm’s latest chip is for ourselves.