The chip that will power most high-end 5G phones next year is here: the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888. And for the first time in its ultra high-end lineup. Qualcomm has integrated its 5G modem on the same chip as the brains. AI and other processor features, likely giving 5G phones a boost in battery life.
Smartphones need a lot of components to operate, but two key parts that make a phone a phone are the application processor that acts as the brains of a device and a modem that connects it to a mobile network. The first 5G devices needed standalone modems that worked alongside the main computing processor. That was because 5G technology was so new, it was too difficult to combine it with the brains.
Cortex X1 architecture for the first time
The new processor will feature Qualcomm’s new Kryo 680 CPU, which will be one of the first devices to feature Arm’s latest customized Cortex-X1 core and promises up to 25 percent higher performance than last year’s chip with a maximum clock speed of 2.84GHz. And the company’s new Adreno 660 GPU promises a 35 percent jump on graphics rendering, in what it says is the biggest performance leap for its GPUs yet.
Different between previous version
Another key difference between the Snapdragon 888 and last year’s 865 is that Qualcomm has finally integrated its 5G modem directly into the SoC. That means manufacturers won’t have to deal with finding the space (and power) for a second external modem. Specifically, the Snapdragon 888 will feature Qualcomm’s 5nm X60 modem, which the company announced back in February, and it will enable better carrier aggregation and download speeds up to 7.5 Gbps on new devices. The Snapdragon 888 will also support Wi-Fi 6 as well as the new 6GHz Wi-Fi 6E standard, which should boost that rollout by making it the default on most Android flagships.
The difference from the upgrade
As is tradition for a Snapdragon update, Qualcomm is also putting a big emphasis on its camera improvements. The new Spectra 580 ISP is the first from Qualcomm to feature a triple ISP. allowing it to do things like capture three simultaneous 4K HDR video streams or three 28-megapixel photos at once at up to 2.7 gigapixels per second (35 percent faster than last year).
It improved burst capabilities and is capable of capturing 120 photos in a single second at a 10-megapixel resolution. Lastly, the upgraded ISP adds computational HDR to 4K videos, an improved low-light capture architecture, and the option to shoot photos in 10-bit color in HEIF. That said, it’ll be up to phone manufacturers to build cameras that can take advantage of the new features.
The final major changes come in AI performance, thanks to Qualcomm’s new Hexagon 780 AI processor. The Snapdragon 888 features Qualcomm’s 6th generation AI Engine. which it promises will help improve everything from computational photography to gaming to voice assistant performance. The Snapdragon 888 can perform 26 trillion operations per second, compared to 15 TOPS on the Snapdragon 865, while delivering 3x better power efficiency. Additionally. Qualcomm is promising big improvements in both scalar and tensor AI tasks as part of those upgrades.
The Snapdragon 888 also features the second-generation Qualcomm Sensing Hub. A dedicated low-power AI processor for smaller hardware-based tasks. Like identifying when you raise your phone to light up the display. The new second-gen Sensing Hub is dramatically improved, which means the phone will be able to rely less on the main Hexagon processor for those tasks.
Development in next year
All of this adds up to a substantial boost in Qualcomm’s. Therefore, nearly every Android flagship’s — capabilities for what our smartphones will be able to do. The first Snapdragon 888 smartphones are expected to show up in early 2021. Means it won’t be long before we’ll be able to try out the next generation of Android flagships for ourselves.
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