Meet Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, Qualcomm’s latest flagship mobile chipset.
Announced at this year’s Snapdragon Tech Summit in Hawaii, the 8 Gen 1 is the first in a new line of high-performance 8-series smartphone platforms, as well as the first Qualcomm chip to use 4nm and the new Armv9 architecture this year.
Don’t be confused by these first ones; Despite the new name, this is not so much a radical rethinking as a natural next step up from last year’s Snapdragon 888 and its overclocked successor 888+. It is expected, like this chip, to run on the latest generation of premium smartphones, although we’re still waiting to find out what exactly. which the phones that will be.
At the heart of the 8 Gen 1 is the new Kryo processor, which is no longer assigned its own unique numbering or model number, the first of several signs that Qualcomm no longer wants fans to pay so much attention to individual specs.
The new Kryo leads the 2.995GHz Cortex X-2 core, backed by three powerful 2.5GHz Cortex-A710 cores and a quartet of efficient A510 cores clocked at 1.8GHz. Qualcomm says it offers up to 20% better performance than last year’s chip, combined with 30% less power consumption.
This is exactly the same configuration as the processor in the recently announced MediaTek Dimensity 9000, which is actually slightly faster across its cores, although it remains to be seen how the two chipsets compare in actual use.
The CPU is backed by the new Adreno GPU – also unnumbered – which appears to deliver 30% faster graphics rendering in tandem with 25% more energy efficiency. Qualcomm says it can drive displays with refresh rates up to 144Hz at QHD + resolution – an interesting counterbalance to its competitor MediaTek, which can go up to 180Hz, but only at lower FHD + resolutions.
Specs experts may appreciate another area where Dimensity has an edge – support for the new LPDDR5X RAM standard – although one might suspect that the average smartphone buyer won’t notice or pay attention to the fact that it is limited to LPDDR5 instead.
For its part, Qualcomm is more focused on the AI and cameras of the new platform. The former is a particularly important battleground since Google unveiled its own Tensor chip, which is used in the recent Pixel 6 series, with a focus on machine learning.
7th The Generation AI Engine boasts an expanded sensor array and twice as much memory, among other enhancements, resulting in, according to the company, AI processing four times faster. Qualcomm speculates it could provide new use cases like unlocking a phone without ever touching it thanks to an always-on image signal processor (ISP), but the bigger test could be improved natural language processing – a key strength of Google’s Tensor chip in new ones. pixels.
The improved AI performance is paired with another improved 18-bit ISP to enhance photos and videos. Capable of handling up to 3.2 gigapixels per second, the main spec it opens up is 8K HDR video recording at 30fps – although with existing 8K capture, which has yet to be largely adopted, this could still be a niche perspective.
The updated Night Mode capabilities, which allow 30 images to be captured at once, can have a more direct impact on the average user, as can the updated ability to recognize and focus on faces.
The newest use case that Qualcomm has demonstrated is the ability to capture panoramic images in real time. 8 Gen 1 is capable of stitching together the outputs of two overlapping camera lenses to create a wide-angle panoramic image that appears in the camera’s viewfinder – up to 140 degrees in a demo I’ve seen, which is much larger than and without a typical ultra-wide lens. typical edge distortion. Qualcomm representatives have even hinted that this technology will soon appear in a real phone, so this is not just a hypothesis.
Naturally, 5G is backed up again with a built-in Snapdragon X65 modem providing both mmWave and sub-6GHz connectivity both offline and offline. Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E are supported again, as is Bluetooth 5.2, with the latter being bolstered by new support for lossless CD quality audio and some new Bluetooth LE Audio tricks that should help conserve headphone battery life.
As mentioned above, we’re still missing the biggest piece of the puzzle: the phones that will be powered by Snapdragon 8 Gen 1. Qualcomm says it expects the first devices to launch this year, while Motorola and Xiaomi are expected to be one of the first. including the upcoming Xiaomi 12. In 2022, it could also appear in the Samsung Galaxy S22 and OnePlus 10 among others.
However, all of this remains officially unconfirmed, and for the first time this year there is some doubt in the form of renewed competition from MediaTek.
While last year’s Dimensity 1200 never felt like a true competitor to the Snapdragon 888, on paper the Dimensity 9000 is more than 8 Gen 1 fit and the two performed similarly in the first leaked benchmarks.
Processor benchmarks are just one aspect of a smartphone’s chip quality, and it remains to be seen how close the two platforms actually are. But if Qualcomm’s refusal to release specs is any indication, the company may know it no longer stands head and shoulders above the competition and may rely more on the power of the Snapdragon brand than ever before.