Qualcomm has unveiled its next-generation chipset for flagship Android devices. Built on the new ARMv9 instruction set, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 is Qualcomm’s first 4nm chipset. The camera hardware inside the chip also received extensive upgrades, so that Qualcomm established its own brand for it – Snapdragon Sight. The new image processor (ISP) brings a variety of professional features, including the processing of 18-bit RAW image files.
First Qualcomm Cortex-X2 chipset
The CPU retains the three-cluster design, but the cores of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 are based on the ARMv9 design. The Cortex-X2 Prime core runs at 3.0 GHz. Behind it are three Cortex-A710 cores with 2.5 GHz. Four efficient A510 cores with 1.8 GHz take over the auxiliary tasks. Overall, Qualcomm promises 20% more CPU performance than the Snapdragon 888 while consuming 30% less power.
New Adreno GPU
The leap is even bigger with the new Adreno GPU. Qualcomm promises a performance increase of 30% in combination with energy savings of up to 25%. The Adreno Frame Motion Engine manages to render games with twice the frame rate with the same power consumption. Alternatively, you can reduce the power consumption by half with the same FPS. Another new feature is volumetric rendering for dramatic lighting effects. Also new is Variable Rate Shading Pro, an image-based VRS designed to simplify integration into new games.
Snapdragon Sight image processor
The new ISP called Snapdragon Sight can handle 3.2 gigapixels per second. That means it can capture 240 12-megapixel photos per second, double the Snapdragon 888 ISP. If you combine the chip with a 108 megapixel sensor, the ISP can record 30 frames per second in full resolution. If you use all three cameras at the same time, three times 36 megapixel images at 30 images per second are possible. That obviously benefits burst mode, but it’s also a boon for frame stacking.
Qualcomm also upgraded the Snapdragon Sight to 18 bits per channel instead of the previous 14 bits. The result is a larger dynamic range of four f-steps and better HDR handling. The chipset can export uncompressed 18-bit RAW photos, allowing professional photographers to take advantage of every pixel captured by the ISP.
The video hardware has also been revised. The maximum resolution remains at 8K 30fps, but now supports both HDR10 and HDR10+ including electronic image stabilization. You can also take 64 megapixel photos while recording an 8K 30fps video. Qualcomm has also added a new hardware engine to render bokeh effects in videos up to 4K.
The Mega Multi-Frame Engine is said to improve night modes. It can stitch up to 30 frames into a single image – previously a maximum of 6 frames was possible. Video Super Resolution improves the quality of the digital zoom thanks to special hardware. Qualcomm has also partnered with Leica to develop software that simulates the behavior of classic Leica lenses. In addition to correction functions against distortion, there is also a new filter for removing chromatic aberration for the ultra-wide-angle range.
The AI functions were previously used for automatic exposure and autofocus. In the new ISP, there is also an AI face recognition with higher speed and accuracy. She can track 300 facial features, twice as many as before.
In fact, there is a fourth ISP in the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1. It is part of the third generation Sensor Hub and enables always-on camera functions. This will enable new face unlock modes, but also some privacy features. This ISP can, for example, recognize whether you have shared your display with someone else. The chip can then mute notifications. He can also tell when someone is looking over your shoulder.
Of course, there are privacy concerns with an always-on camera. However, according to Qualcomm, no data from this ISP leaves the device and it is protected by the new security features of the Snapdragon chip. It is also up to the manufacturers to activate or deactivate this function and to provide the user with suitable settings.
Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth LE and mmWave
The Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 also features an integrated X65 5G modem that supports both sub-6GHz networks and mmWave and is capable of delivering theoretical top speeds of 10Gbps. For the first time it also supports carrier aggregation for the uplink.
The new chipset connects locally via Wi-Fi 6 and 6E or Bluetooth LE. The new chip can stream CD Lossless Audio via Bluetooth LE and supports Bluetooth LE Audio, which is a major advance over existing technology. The Broadcast Audio feature allows a source to broadcast one or more audio streams to an unlimited number of recipients. Stereo recording with voice back channels is also supported.
Qualcomm also worked to improve the security of the chip by introducing the new trust management engine implemented underneath the hypervisor. The TME thus remains secure even if the overlying security zones have been compromised. The first flagships with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 will be launched before the end of the year. Samsung as well as ZTE and Realme are already testing devices.