With AI capabilities — not just computing power — becoming key features of smartphones and even PCs, Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 smartphone chip builds heavily on how AI can improve photos and other mobile experiences, executives said. . Key additions include real-time hardware ray tracing, the ability to sense and enhance the different “layers” in your images, and massive connection upgrades whose throughput will likely outpace your home Internet connection.
Specifically, AI will be used to power a number of new experiences in Snapdragon-powered phones, which will debut this fall. Smarter cameras, executives said, will try to interpret and improve what you’re shooting before you take the picture, not afterward. What Qualcomm now calls an “always-on sensor” camera will also stay in low-power mode, scanning the world around it; They said you will be able to hold the phone to scan the QR code even if the phone is on standby. The phone will also use its AI capabilities to improve cellular communications, as previous phones have done.
So far, Qualcomm hasn’t said much about the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 Arm chip, though the company promised to add more details during the Snapdragon Technology Summit, which is now taking place in Maui, Hawaii. Qualcomm launched the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 last year, and the chip’s capabilities, as well as its name, mean an upgrade rather than a generational update.
From an overall performance perspective, Qualcomm claims that the Hexagon DSP, which supports “Snapdragon Smart” features, will be 4.35 times faster than the Gen 1 chip. Its built-in Kryo CPU cores will be 35 percent faster (and provide 40 percent more power efficiency) while Adreno GPU will provide up to 25 percent faster performance.
But it’s fair to say that the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 is likely to power your next Android smartphone. Qualcomm has relationships with most smartphone suppliers, including Samsung, although the latter was not on the list of names of companies expected to use the new platform. The company said Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 partners are Asus Republic of Gamers (ROG), Honor, iQoo, Motorola, Nubia, OnePlus, Oppo, Redmagic, Redmi, SHARP, Sony, vivo, Xiaomi, Xingji/Meizu, and ZTE.
Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 from Qualcomm: What’s inside?
The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2’s design is slightly different from Gen 1’s. Qualcomm didn’t detail the individual cores, but executives told reporters there will be one main core clocked at 3.19GHz, the Arm Cortex-X3, and four performance cores running at 2.8GHz. Cisco Cheng, Qualcomm’s senior director of product marketing, said the four performance cores — rumored to be Cortex-A715 — consist of “two distinct architectures” that can support both 32-bit and 64-bit applications. The other major difference is that there are only three “efficiency” cores, instead of four, which are designed for low-power background tasks.
Rival MediaTek, which is vying for Qualcomm’s take on premium smartphones, unveiled its Dimensity 9200 chip earlier this month. It’s also Arm-based, and its performance core runs a bit slower at 3.05GHz.
AI supports photos and more
Most smartphone chips share some commonalities with computer processors, such as including a CPU or compute core, graphics, and wireless I/O. To underscore the point that AI is the main driver of the chip, Qualcomm revealed that it has included what it calls a “six direct link,” which can essentially use the hexagonal core to inject AI into the chip’s other capabilities.
Snapdragon chips already include the Sensing Hub, which controls everything from sensors that detect your presence, gaze, gestures, ultrasound, and more. The Sensing Hub’s AI capabilities have doubled again, Cheng said, with a second AI core, also providing 50 percent more memory to process more information.
It’s the camera, though, where AI is usually applied, and you’ll notice the most benefit from AI. With Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, the camera’s “perceptual” image signal processor (or ISP) will run what Qualcomm calls a “real-time segmentation filter,” as it will attempt to interpret different “segments” of what the camera sees. What this means, officials said, is that the camera will try to put together a picture of a natural scene in its best light while it’s being previewed with the camera, and understand which part of the image is “the sky,” which part might be “grass” or “a face,” and so on.
“It’s been trained to understand facial features like face, eyes, and glasses,” Cheng said. “It can understand the background and then take those layers and adjust them in real time so you get these eye-catching images. This is basically subtle Photoshop adjustments, in real time.”
On the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, the company referred to the camera connection as an “always-on” connection, which had scary connotations. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2’s camera doesn’t seem to have changed much – just terminology. However, the ability to scan a barcode without logging into the camera, load the camera app, and then scan the code is a plus.
Otherwise, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2-powered smartphone cameras will be able to capture up to 108MP from a single camera at 30fps, or up to 36MP from all three cameras. Video capture capabilities will include 8K HDR at 30fps, and 720p slow-motion video capture at 120fps.
Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 also applies AI to wireless connectivity, including to extend wireless range and signal strength. Inside the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 will be the new X70 5G modem. This is the first Snapdragon phone platform that can support 4X carrier aggregation or even use a pair of 5G SIM cards simultaneously — useful if you’re traveling in Taiwan with a dual-SIM phone. In this case, you will be able to receive a 5G call from a relative while using a second local SIM card to surf the web with this data plan.
Qualcomm’s FastConnect Wi-Fi cluster will support Wi-Fi 7, including what it calls “high-bandwidth simultaneous multilink” — a smart connectivity solution where your phone will link multiple high-bandwidth channels together, providing up to 5.8Gb at a time. The second (if a nearby Wi-Fi router supports it, of course). Cheng said that the use of multi-lane will also reduce latency to less than 2ms, which is ideal for cloud games.
Just like a PC? Snapdragon ray tracing
While the number of people playing games on mobile phones runs into the billions, the number of users playing 3D games for mobile, or first-person shooter games, is somewhat smaller but still large: the mobile version of Player Unknown: Battlegrounds ( PUBG) Over a billion downloads. (Analyst firm Newzoo says mobile game revenue will drop 6 percent this year, though.) And that’s enough to justify the latest addition to Snapdragon’s arsenal: real-time hardware ray tracing. Qualcomm will announce support from several game publishers to build support for its features, which will include ambient occlusion, reflections, and soft shadows.
Cheng said the integrated Adreno GPU boasts increased performance and 25 percent power savings. He said that games that use the Vulcan API (specifically version 1.3), should see a 30 percent performance increase. The graphics upgrades will be paired with dynamic spatial audio, which is also a first for the Snapdragon platform, Cheng said.
The Adreno chip will also add support for HDR Vivid, a Chinese HDR standard, as well as a technology called OLED aging compensation to prevent burn-in. The company said that Snapdragon phones using the new chip will be able to display 4K at 60Hz, or 1440p at 144Hz.
Qualcomm is not expected to announce the Snapdragon 7 chip for cheaper smartphones at its technology apex. Qualcomm usually releases the “Plus” variant of its gaming phones in a few months.