Qualcomm is the largest chipset maker in the Android world, and following last year’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, the company launched the Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1. This was one of the best mobile chipsets we’ve ever tested, though it came with fierce competition from the likes of MediaTek. Now, however, the company’s Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 builds on the success of last year’s Plus model, produced according to TSMC’s manufacturing process and packing reinforced cores.
However, the CPU isn’t the only part that has been improved. Almost every part of this SoC has seen a change for the better, with the new Adreno GPU featuring Vulkan 1.3, AV1 decoding support, and 25% better performance and 25% efficiency. Hexagon Direct Link is also an interesting addition, as it serves as a direct link between all parts of the SoC and the Hexagon DSP for AI calculations, improving latency between major components that may need AI, such as graphics and the memory.
Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2: specifications
|Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 (sm8550)|
|Memory||LPDDR5X 4200MHz, 16GB|
|Reload||Qualcomm fast charge 5|
|Production process||TSMC at 4nm|
Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2: More performance cores than ever
Qualcomm has done something particularly interesting with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 that we don’t usually see, and this is a shake up of the basic layout. Instead of the typical 1+3+4 that we see in many chipsets, Qualcomm has instead opted for 1+4+3. That means one main core, four performance cores, and three efficiency cores.
What’s even weirder about this setup is that it’s not just four equal performance cores; there are two A715 cores and two A710 cores. The A710 allows for the execution of AArch32 or 32-bit code, while the A715 drops 32-bit support. Whether this will impact efficiency is unclear, as the A715 boasts a 20% efficiency improvement over the A710 and 5% better performance.
The main core is an Arm Cortex-X3 and is clocked at 3.19 GHz. At 3.3 GHz, according to Arm, the Cortex-X3 will be 25% faster in single-threaded operations than the Cortex-X2 at 2 .9 GHz. This is an architectural improvement that should still translate into higher performance even at a slightly lower clock speed than in Arm’s tests.
Finally, the company has also included three A510R1 cores as efficiency cores. These efficiency cores are otherwise known as A510 Refresh and also support AArch32.
Overall, the design of this chipset is quite strange. MediaTek has chosen to use only A510R1 cores for 32-bit execution, while the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 uses two A715 cores and two A710 cores, presumably for 32-bit execution as well. Given that 32-bit-only applications are likely to be applications designed for older Android smartphones, it doesn’t make much sense to require two dedicated performance cores that basically exist just to allow for 32-bit support, especially when they come with downgrades.
While Qualcomm advertises it as a 1+4+3 system, it looks much more like a 1+2+2+3 system. It’s worth noting that all of the efficiency and performance information that Qualcomm has shared with us is in comparison to the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 and not the Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1. The Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 has improved things a quantityand I’d be curious to see how it compares to the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1.
Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2: Minimal GPU improvements
Qualcomm hasn’t shared many GPU-related improvements, but we do know that the new Adreno has 25% better performance and 45% better power efficiency. Qualcomm is likely feeling the heat from Arm’s Mali GPUs which are finally starting to catch on, particularly when it comes to Vulkan performance. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 supports Vulkan 1.3, boasting a 30% improvement over last year’s implementation. There is support for ray tracing for more realistic reflections and shadows.
Finally, there’s also AV1 support for 8K 60 FPS. Companies like YouTube and Netflix have been pushing it as a successor to VP9 for some time now, and with more widespread adoption in the mobile ecosystem, more services are likely to use it in the future.
Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 Connectivity: Integrated Snapdragon X70 RF-Modem System and FastConnect 7800
The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 has an integrated Snapdragon X70 modem, which was announced earlier this year at Mobile World Congress. The Qualcomm Snapdragon X70 modem packs AI capabilities that it says can improve 5G speeds, coverage, latency, and power efficiency for both sub-6GHz and mmWave bandwidths.
There are four key elements to the AI suite introduced in the Snapdragon X70 modem. The first is an AI-based channel status feedback and optimization algorithm that can increase the average downlink and uplink speeds. Second is an AI-based mmWave beam management to increase coverage, then an AI-based network selection algorithm.
Additionally, the company also introduced the FastConnect 7800, which offers both low latency Wi-Fi 7 and support for dual-Bluetooth connectivity. It has a Wi-Fi uplink of up to 5.8Gbps and a Wi-Fi latency of less than 2ms.
Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 ISP: Improving Spectra ISP with Artificial Intelligence
Qualcomm’s Spectra ISP is the heart of its image processing, and it looks like we’re not getting as big an upgrade this time around as in previous years. However, the company’s AI improvements particularly lend themselves to the camera. This is thanks to Hexagon Direct Link, which allows different parts of the SoC (including the ISP Spectra) to interface directly with Hexagon DSP and its neural networks. It improves both performance and latency for calculations, which in turn should lead to better picture-taking capabilities.
As a result, Qualcomm calls it a “cognitive ISP.” The ISP can receive context through a feature the company calls real-time segmentation, which allows the camera to essentially see the world in layers. Previously, this feature would have been implemented after the photo or video has been taken and applied in processing, but now Qualcomm claims it can be done in real-time.
Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2: initial thoughts
Qualcomm says the first Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 powered devices will be here by the end of 2022. We’ll be keeping a close eye on the performance of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 compared to devices like the MediaTek Dimensity 9200.
Qualcomm has confirmed that the following companies will launch Snapdragon 8 Gen 2-based devices: Redmagic, Honor, ZTE, Xiaomi, Meizu, Vivo, Sony, Redmi, OPPO, nubia, Motorola, OnePlus, Sharp, Asus, and iQOO.