The chipset that will power the next generation of Android phones is here, and it’s not a Snapdragon 895, 890, or 898. Qualcomm has completely flipped its naming scheme. The new flagship Qualcomm chip is the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1.
The Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 will likely power the next Samsung Galaxy phone, the next OnePlus phones, and more. To learn more about the next-gen chipset, Qualcomm flew me out to its annual Snapdragon Summit event. Here’s everything you need to know about the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1.
The camera is easily one of the most important aspects of our phone, and the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 will support next-level camera technology.
The Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 will come with a new Spectra ISP, which is actually a triple 18-bit ISP. According to Qualcomm, this is the first-ever 18-bit ISP for mobile, and the result should be images with more dynamic range, more accurate colors, and more. The chipset actually supports speeds at up to 3.2 gigapixels per second, meaning that phones will be able to capture more camera data than ever.
One of the advantages of being able to capture so much data is the fact that phones with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 will be able to capture 8K video in HDR, including the HDR10+ format. And, the processor has a new Bokeh Engine, which can blur the background in video. It remains to be seen, of course, how well this works in practice. Lastly, the camera can capture 30 images in night mode shots, combining the best parts for a better shot.
While in practice the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 has a triple ISP, it actually also has a fourth always-on ISP. This allows for always-on face unlocking and other security features. This is another feature that may or may not be used by phone makers, especially given the privacy implications.
The Snapdragon 8 is the first chip to feature Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon Sound technology. The goal here is to create lag-free mobile gaming, and true-to-life calls. The Snapdragon 8 is able to stream lossless CD audio, which means that users will be able to wirelessly stream high-quality audio to their wireless headphones, as long as those headphones support the tech.
Qualcomm has been seriously emphasizing connectivity over the past few years, especially given the rise of 5G. Of course, 5G in practice has been a little hit-and-miss, but Qualcomm has at least made sure that devices are ready for 5G as it gets better and better.
The Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 features Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X65 5G modem, which was announced earlier in the year, and supports up to a hefty 10-gigabit download speed. It also comes with the Qualcomm FastConnect 6900 system, which supports Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E. The X65 is now integrated into the Snapdragon 8 — in previous years, modems were not necessarily integrated into the platform, but rather available as an add-on.
Qualcomm wants to improve mobile upload speeds too. This makes sense, given the fact that video-conferencing has become so common, and things like game-streaming are getting increasingly popular. The Snapdragon X65 is capable of up to an impressive 3.5 Gbps upload speeds, on the right 5G mmWave network.
Basically, whether you’re on 5G or on Wi-Fi, you should be able to take advantage of the fastest speeds possible.
AI is an increasingly important aspect of any smartphone experience. Using things like Google Assistant, smart camera features, and more, all require AI chops. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 features a 7th-generation Qualcomm AI Engine. Qualcomm says this chip will deliver a 2x faster tensor accelerator and 2x larger shared memory than the Snapdragon 888.
According to Qualcomm, the new chipset uses on-device AI to faster analyze a user’s speech, and in partnership with Sonde Health, that data can be used to determine if a user is at risk for things like asthma, depression, and even COVID-19. And, AI can be used for things like upscaling the resolution of games when game-streaming, allowing the game to use less data while still looking great.
The Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 will take mobile gaming on Android to the next level too. The chipset offers Qualcomm’s new Adreno GPU, which the company says delivers a 30% boost in graphics rendering capabilities compared to the Snapdragon 888. Not only that, but it also brings a 25% improvement in power savings. And, it can use the Adreno Frame Motion Engine to generate two times the framerate while still preserving energy.
According to Qualcomm, mobile gaming is now a mainstream way to game, which is partly due to the rise of game streaming. Qualcomm is partnering with ESL, however its currently unclear exactly what will come from that partnership.
Next up is security, which is becoming increasingly important to users over time. The Snapdragon 8 comes with Qualcomm’s new dedicated Trust Management Engine, which Qualcomm says gives give the chipset heightened security and offers additional Root of Trust for apps. The Snapdragon 8 also supports Android Ready SE, which means that it can store things like digital car keys, drivers licenses, and more. Lastly, it supports iSIM, which is an integrated SIM technology that avoids the need for a physical SIM.
Perhaps none of this stuff really matters — maybe all you care about is raw performance. The Snapdragon 8 is built on a 4nm process, and comes with a clock speed of up to 3.0GHz. That said, Qualcomm isn’t really emphasizing the basic performance of the chipset — which makes sense. These days, mobile platforms like the Snapdragon 8 handle different tasks with different components. And with an Adreno GPU, basic CPU performance isn’t necessarily as important as it once was.
Of course, it’s not unimportant, and when we get a chance we’ll be benchmarking the platform to find out just how well it performs.
When will there be phones with a Snapdragon 8?
Very soon. In the past, new Qualcomm platforms have taken at least a few months to feature in new phones. Qualcomm, however, says that the Snapdragon 8 is expected to feature in commercial devices before the end of 2021. Companies like Honor, Black Shark, Motorola, OnePlus, Oppo, Sony, Xiaomi, and ZTE, have all committed to using the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 mobile platform.