Qualcomm is finally done with the confusing names for its Snapdragon chips that power new Android phones.
The chipmaker’s next flagship mobile chip — long rumored to be called the Snapdragon 895 or 898 — will simply be called the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1. At the company’s annual Snapdragon Tech Summit, Qualcomm detailed the new chip’s performance, AI, camera, and gaming upgrades — features that will almost surely make their way into upcoming phones like Samsung’s Galaxy S22 and the OnePlus 10.
Smarter than ever — With a 4nm architecture and a new Kryo CPU that’s 20 percent faster than the current Snapdragon 888 chip, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 is Qualcomm’s fastest mobile chip to date. But raw CPU power is no longer the only spec that matters — AI processing is increasingly just as important. Take for example the Google Pixel 6’s Magic Eraser mode, which makes it possible to remove people or objects from an image. That’s just a taste of what a powerful AI engine can do on a phone, and Qualcomm is outfitting its latest chip with its 7th Gen Qualcomm AI Engine. The company claims it's four times faster than the previous AI engine.
Paired with the new AI engine is Qualcomm’s third-gen Sensing Hub, which is always on. While that may be hit or miss for you, depending on how much you value your privacy, the always-on feature is designed to streamline processes such as prioritizing notifications based on the context. For example, it can detect whether you’re depressed by listening to your voice, or analyze your breathing patterns to alert you if you have asthma or COVID. The stealth fitness and health tracking software is developed by Sonde Health.
8K 30 fps in HDR — Qualcomm has also bundled its camera features into a new sub-brand called Snapdragon Sight, which takes advantage of the AI engine to add Leica Leitz filters and bokeh to images. But the new 18-bit image signal processor (ISP) — the first of its kind on mobile — is the nucleus of Snapdragon Sight. This ISP is the first mobile chip capable of shooting in 8K at 30 fps in either HDR10+ or Dolby Vision, according to Qualcomm. Many current Android phones like the Galaxy S21 Ultra only shoot 8K at 24 fps; the OnePlus 9 Pro records 8K at 30 fps, but not in HDR.
While the ISP is usually credited for controlling image and video processing, the new ISP in the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 has a new trick: quick face unlock. You’ll no longer need to wake up your phone to unlock it. Though not a groundbreaking feature, it’s a nice quality-of-life upgrade.
Mobile gaming beast — If you’re still wearing your tin-foil hat, I’m sorry to break it to you: 5G is here to stay. On that note, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 is equipped with Qualcomm’s fourth-gen Snapdragon X65 5G Modem-RF system. According to Qualcomm, the 5G modem “offers unparalleled speeds and supports more networks, frequencies, and bandwidths globally — plus support for all-day battery life.” The new modem supports up to 10Gbps peak download speeds on mmWave and sub-6 connections. On the Wi-Fi front, download speeds aren’t as high, but the chip does support Wi-Fi 6 and 6E, with max 3.6Gbps peak download speeds.
So how does that translate to this chip being a gaming beast? With a faster connection at home or on the move, you’ll have a more stable experience and less lag when playing mobile games or accessing cloud gaming services such as Google Stadia, Project xCloud, or Amazon Luna. Besides a faster connection, the chip is designed with gaming in mind, packing a new Qualcomm Adreno GPU that’s 30 percent faster at rendering graphics.
The chip also adds a ton of features from the Snapdragon Elite Gaming platform, such as the fps-boosting Adreno Frame Motion Engine and 10-bit HDR game rendering. And with support for games made in Unreal Engine 5, as well as the addition of volumetric rendering for creating more life-like smoke, fog, water, and glass, the chip is clearly suitable for more graphically-demanding gameplay experiences. Not to mention, a phone with the 8 Gen 1 would likely be capable of emulating platforms such as the GameCube and PlayStation 2, especially with that new PS2 emulator making the rounds.
A new gen — Never has the chip inside of our phones been more important. With the Exynos 2200, Google Tensor, and the MediaTek Dimensity 9000 nipping at the biggest Android chip provider, Qualcomm needed to go big, and it looks like it did. No specific phones with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 have been announced yet, but they’re coming. According to Qualcomm, “Black Shark, Honor, iQOO, Motorola, Nubia, OnePlus, OPPO, Realme, Redmi, Sharp, Sony Corporation, Vivo, Xiaomi, and ZTE” will have devices powered by the new chip by the end of this year.