Qualcomm's new Snapdragon chip brings PC-level graphics to smartphone games
The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 supports Wi-Fi 7, has improved AI performance, and has dedicated AI camera processors for improved smartphone photography.
Qualcomm announced the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 on Tuesday, the next version of its flagship mobile chipset, and a preview of what Android smartphones could be capable of in 2023.
On the whole, Qualcomm is building on trends that have been a big part of the last few years of smartphones. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 offers improvements to AI performance, image processing for better camera shots, and connectivity (including a whole new Wi-Fi standard)
Here’s how those new features could shape 2023’s flagship smartphones and which devices the new Snapdragon chip will show up in first.
Like every year, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 comes with performance improvements that should help future-proof your device for the next few years of feature updates. The Kryo CPU in the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 has 35 percent faster performance, according to Qualcomm, and 40 percent better power efficiency, with up to 3.2GHz of multithread processing power.
The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2’s Adreno GPU brings similar improvements with 25 percent faster graphical processing and 45 percent better power efficiency. Both CPU and GPU improvements might not be immediately noticeable, but they should help support Qualcomm’s other improvements.
As part of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2’s “AI Engine,” Qualcomm is promising that the chip will have 4.35x better AI performance and be capable of multi-language translation and transcription (a big focus of Google’s Tensor chips). Chips will also have “direct-to-app” voice assistance for controlling apps, which sounds a bit like pre-existing voice control features Samsung and Google have built into Bixby and Google Assistant.
The new Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 ships with a dedicated “AI-powered” camera processor, the Qualcomm Spectra 18-bit triple Cognitive ISP (image signal processor). In theory, this means the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 is capable of semantic segmentation, allowing it to identify individual components of an image (hair, the sky, faces, etc.) to apply specific adjustments as you take a photo.
Alongside the Spectra, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 also supports 200MP still capture and 8K HDR video capture and playback (though where you’ll actually be able to play that footage is... unclear). All of this suggests Qualcomm’s new chip is ready for whatever ridiculous camera Samsung packs into the Galaxy S23 Ultra.
The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2’s only has one major gaming-focused improvement in my book, but it’s a big one: real-time hardware-accelerated ray tracing. Do I need realistic light, reflections, and illumination in a mobile game? Probably not, but it’s really cool we’re at the point where it’s possible on phones.
The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 is the first smartphone chip to support Wi-Fi 7, and will likely be most people’s first exposure to the faster Wi-Fi technology since Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E devices are still rolling out to most product categories. Qualcomm claims the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 should have Wi-Fi speeds up to 5.8 Gbps. The chip also has a dedicated 5G AI processor for boosting 5G coverage and speed when you’re not connected to Wi-Fi.
Which phones will use the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2?
Hardware manufacturers will add their own customizations in software and hardware (many already offer several of the features Qualcomm is adding) but the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 sets a new baseline for everyone to build on.
The first phones to ship with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 will come from Asus ROG, Oppo, OnePlus, Motorola, Honor, Xiaomi, Sony, ZTE, and Vivo. Notably missing from that list is the largest Android smartphone manufacturer of them all, Samsung. The company typically uses Qualcomm’s chips in the US and its own Exynos processors in Asia, but recent rumors have pointed to Samsung going all in on Snapdragon for the S23 line and future premium smartphones.
We’ll likely have to wait for Samsung’s next Galaxy event for confirmation, but it’s safe to say that the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 will be everywhere very soon.