Qualcomm’s Snapdragons power most high-end Android smartphones. This Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip could therefore be in your future phone.
With AI capabilities – not just computing power – becoming core features of smartphones and even PCs, Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 8 Gen2 smartphone chip leans heavily on how AI can improve photos and your other mobile experiences, company officials said. Key additions include real-time hardware ray tracing, the ability to detect and optimize different “layers” in photos, and significant connectivity improvements.
Specifically, AI will be used to power a number of additional experiences in Snapdragon-equipped phones, which will launch this fall. Smarter cameras will try to interpret what you’re shooting and improve it before you even take the shot, not after, executives said. What Qualcomm now calls an “always-on” camera will also remain in low-power mode, scanning the world around it; you’ll be able to hold the phone to scan a QR code even if it’s in sleep mode, they said. The phone will also use its AI capabilities to improve cellular connections, as previous phones have done.
Vastly improved performance
So far, Qualcomm hasn’t said much about the ARM Snapdragon 8 Gen2 chip, but the company promises to give more details at its Snapdragon Technology Summit, which is taking place in Maui, Hawaii. Qualcomm launched the Snapdragon 8 Gen1 last year, and the chip’s capabilities, as well as its name, imply an upgrade rather than a generational refresh. From an overall performance perspective, Qualcomm claims that the Hexagon DSP, which powers its “Snapdragon Smart” functions, will be 4.35 times faster than the Gen 1 chip. Its integrated Kryo processor cores will be 35% faster ( and will offer 40% more energy efficiency) while its Adreno GPU will deliver up to 25% faster performance.
But it’s fair to say that the Snapdragon 8 Gen2 will likely power your next Android smartphone. Qualcomm has relationships with most smartphone vendors, including Samsung, although the latter is not listed in a list of names of companies supposedly using this platform. Qualcomm’s partners for the Snapdragon 8 Gen2 include Asus Republic of Gamers (ROG), Honor, iQoo, Motorola, Nubia, OnePlus, Oppo, Redmagic, Redmi, SHARP, Sony, vivo, Xiaomi, Xingji/Meizu and ZTE, said the society.
What’s in the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2?
The design of this chip differs slightly from Gen1. Qualcomm didn’t give details on the different cores, but executives told reporters there will be a single 3.19GHz primary core, Arm’s Cortex-X3, and four performance cores, running at 2.8GHz. Cisco Cheng, senior director of product marketing at Qualcomm, said the four performance cores – rumored to be Cortex-A715s – are made up of two separate architectures capable of supporting 32-bit and 64-bit applications. . Another important difference is that there are only three “efficiency” cores, instead of four, which are designed for low-power background tasks.
A look at the Qualcomm Snapdragon Gen2 chip. (Credit: Qualcomm)
Rival MediaTek, which seeks to compete with Qualcomm on high-end smartphones, unveiled its own Dimensity 9200 chip earlier this month. It, too, is ARM-based, and its performance core runs slightly slower at 3.05 GHz.
AI at the service of photos
Most smartphone chips have commonalities with PC processors, namely the inclusion of a processor or core for computing, graphics, and wireless I/O. However, to emphasize that artificial intelligence is a key part of the chip, Qualcomm revealed that it had included what it calls a “Hexagon Direct Link”, which allows the Hexagon core to be used to inject artificial intelligence in the chip’s other capabilities. The Snapdragons already include a Sensing Hub, which controls everything from sensors that detect your presence and your gaze to gestures, ultrasound, and more. Cheng said the Sensing Hub’s AI capabilities have been doubled again, with a second AI core, also providing 50% more memory to process more information.
It’s at the camera level, however, where AI is usually applied and where you’ll get the most benefit from it. With the Snapdragon 8 Gen2, the camera’s “cognitive” image signal processor (or ISP) will run what Qualcomm calls a “real-time segmentation filter,” in which it tries to interpret the different ” segments” of what the device sees. According to executives, this means the camera will try to enhance a photo of a natural scene when you view it with the camera, understanding the part of the photo that is the “sky”, the part that could be “the sky”. ‘grass’ or a ‘face’, and so on. “He’s trained to understand facial landmarks, like the face, the eyes, and the glasses,” Cisco Cheng said. “He can understand the background and then take those layers and adjust them in real time to get those compelling images. It’s basically precise, real-time Photoshop editing.”
The wireless connection also boosted
In the Snapdragon 8 Gen1, the company referred to the camera connection as an always-on connection, which can have creepy connotations. It doesn’t look like the Snapdragon 8 Gen2’s camera has changed much – just the terminology. Still, the ability to scan a barcode without having to log into the device, load the camera app, and then scan the code is a plus. Alternatively, Snapdragon 8 Gen2-powered smartphone cameras will be able to capture up to 108 megapixels from a single camera at 30fps, or up to 36Mpixels from all three cameras. Video capture capabilities will include 8K HDR at 30 fps, and 720p slow-motion video capture at 120 fps.
Qualcomm worked with ArcSoft, as with previous chips, to “segment” the image into different components, which it then recognizes and optimizes. (Credit: Qualcomm)
The Snapdragon 8 Gen2 also applies AI to wireless connection, especially to extend range and signal strength. The processor will be equipped with the latest X70 5G modem. It’s the first Snapdragon phone platform capable of supporting 4X carrier aggregation or even using a pair of 5G SIM cards simultaneously – useful if you’re traveling to Taiwan with a dual-SIM phone. In this case, you might receive a 5G call from a loved one while using a second local SIM card to surf the web using that data plan.
Qualcomm’s FastConnect WiFi Block will support the WiFi 7 standard, including what it calls “simultaneous high band multi-link,” a smart connectivity solution where your phone will link multiple high-bandwidth channels, delivering up to at 5.8 Gpbs (if a nearby WiFi router supports it, of course). Cisco Cheng said using multiple lanes will also reduce latency to just 2ms, which is ideal for cloud gaming.
Like on a PC? Snapdragon ray tracing
While the number of people playing games on mobile phones is in the billions, the number of users playing 3D mobile games, or first-person shooters, is a bit lower, but still considerable: the mobile version of Player Unknown: Battlegrounds (PUBG) surpasses one billion downloads. (Analyst firm Newzoo, however, indicates that mobile gaming revenue will fall by 6% this year). That’s enough to justify the latest addition to the Snapdragon arsenal: real-time hardware ray tracing. Qualcomm will announce support from multiple game publishers to support its features, which will include ambient occlusion, reflections, and soft shadows.
The integrated Adreno GPU offers both increased performance and 25% power savings, Cheng said. Games that use the Vulcan API (specifically version 1.3) should see a 30% performance boost, he added. The official said that the graphical improvements will be combined with dynamic spatial audio, also a first for the Snapdragon platform. The Adreno chip will also support HDR Vivid, a Chinese HDR standard, as well as a technique called OLED aging compensation to prevent burn-in. Snapdragon-equipped phones using the new chip will be able to display 4K at 60Hz, or 1440p at 144Hz, the company said. However, Qualcomm is not expected to announce a Snapdragon 7 chip for cheaper smartphones during its tech summit. The firm usually releases a Plus variant for gaming phones within a few months.