Qualcomm is looking to deliver more on-device AI experiences with its powerful new mobile processor, which is bound for top-tier smartphones beginning later this year.
Qualcomm on Tuesday announced the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, its flagship mobile system-on-a-chip that will power the world’s top Android phones and tablets for the next year. The company focused on adding features across the silicon that it says will bring “groundbreaking AI” to multiple aspects of the mobile experience.
The tentpole features include Snapdragon Smart, which boosts the chip’s AI performance, Snapdragon Sight for better object recognition, Snapdragon Elite Gaming, which adds support for hardware accelerated ray tracing, Snapdragon Connect for AI-driven connectivity, and Snapdragon Sound for spatial audio and lossless support.
The first commercial devices are expected to reach the market before the end of the year.
Qualcomm is banking on its re-architected CPU combined with updates to the GPU, Hexagon processor, and Sensung Hub to create new artificial intelligence smarts in the 8 Gen 2. It’s relying on a 4nm process in the Kryo CPU, which is made up of a single prime core driven by an Arm Cortex-X3 at up to 3.2GHz, four performance cores at up to 2.8GHz, and three efficiency cores at up to 2.0GHz. The 8 Gen 1, by way of comparison, had one prime core, three performance cores, and four efficiency cores. Qualcomm says this new arrangement delivers 40% more performance without impacting battery life.
The company overhauled the Hexagon processor with a fused AI accelerator architecture with an updated Tensor accelerator, Vector extensions, Scalar accelerator, and Direct Link. Combined with the new Sensing Hub, which contains dual AI audio processors and always-sensing camera support, and the 8 Gen 2 brings up to 4.35x the AI performance of the previous generation chip while increasing efficiency by 60%. This will also allow phone makers to bring more on-device natural language processing to their hardware in a manner similar to Google’s Tensor-powered Pixel smartphones.
Snapdragon Sight takes real aim at boosting the power of smartphone cameras. The Spectra image signal processor supports image sensors up to 200MP in various configurations as well as 8K video capture with 64MP stills, 8K60 playback, 10-bit color, and AI-based autofocus, facial recognition, and exposure. Qualcomm says these new features allow for secure facial recognition for phone locks, with future devices able to account for facial features, hair, eyes, skin, and more. Moreover, Qualcomm is working more closely with image sensor makers Samsung and Sony to better integrate these features into future phone-base cameras.
Qualcomm says the 8 Gen 2 will bring new and richer entertainment experiences to mobile devices. For example, the revised GPU is 25% faster and supports hardware-accelerated ray tracing. This will be a boon on the mobile gaming front, offering more lifelike lighting and shadow effects in games. The GPU also supports HDR 10, HDR 10+, Dolby Vision, 10-bit color, hardware accelerated H.265 and V9 decoding, as well as OpenGL ES 3.2, OpenCL 2.0, and Vulkan 1.3. These will allow game developers to really push boundaries and create more immersive worlds.
Display support ranges up to 4K screens at 60Hz or QHD+ displays at up to 144Hz. Most of today’s top phones have QHD+ screens with up to 120Hz refresh rates, but the 8 Gen 2 will let phone makers bump those specs up a notch. The chip also supports subpixel rendering for OLED uniformity and OLED anti-aging compensation to reduce burn-in.
The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 pushes audio boundaries thanks to a new version of Snapdragon Sound. The revised audio enables 48KHz lossless audio for music streaming, helping bridge the last mile between mobile phones and wireless headphones. It also features spatial audio with dynamic head-tracking for a complete surround sound experience. Qualcomm didn’t forget about gamers, who will be able to take advantage of new low-latency gaming modes that reduce audio delay to 48ms.
Qualcomm claims that its new Snapdragon Connect platform is the “world’s most advanced 5G platform.” It takes every potential connection and adds a dose of AI for on-device performance improvements across the board.
Snapdragon Connect is paired with the Snapdragon X70 5G modem and RF system, which banks on artificial intelligence to balance 5G upload and download speeds with coverage, latency, and power efficiency. Importantly, it’s the first to support dual 5G SIMs, meaning people can run two 5G connections to a device at a time for personal and work numbers. Top download speeds can reach 10Gbps over 5G, while upload speeds top out at 3.5Gbps. It supports 5G mmWave and sub-6GHz in standalone and non-standalone modes.
Despite the fact that the Wi-Fi Alliance hasn’t finalized the Wi-Fi 7 spec, Qualcomm is moving forward with Wi-Fi 7 via the Qualcomm FastConnect 7800 connectivity system. The company says the 7800 offers low latency Wi-Fi 7 performance with downloads reaching 5.8Gbps. Other Wi-Fi features of the 7800 include 8×8 MIMO, 4K QAM, dual-band simultaneous (2×2, 2×2), as well as WPA3 enterprise-grade security.
Bluetooth support ranges up to version 5.3 with aptX, aptX Adaptive, aptX Lossless, and LE audio codecs.
The chip includes nearly all global location systems, such as GPS, Glonass, Galileo, QZSS, and NavIC. It has dual-band L1/L5 GPS for better urban pedestrian tracking, which will lead to better street-level map experiences when walking amongst tall buildings.
Other minor features of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 include support for up to 16GB of LPDDR5x memory up to 4200MHz, USB 3.1, USB-C, UFS 4.0, and a secure processing unit for better enterprise security performance. Qualcomm QuickCharge 5.0 is on board for rapid power-ups.
Qualcomm announced that a wide number of hardware partners have already signed up to adopt the 8 Gen 2. Some phone makers include Asus, Honor, Motorola, OnePlus, Oppo, and Sony. Some of the device makers will have 8 Gen 2 products in the market by the end of the year.
Notably absent from Qualcomm’s initial list of supporters? Samsung.
You can expect a large number of 8 Gen 2 devices to launch during the first quarter of 2023, particularly around the forthcoming Mobile World Congress trade show.