Qualcomm unveiled Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 at the annual Snapdragon Tech Summit on Wednesday — as its new 5G mobile platform for next-generation flagship Android phones. The chip is the first to come with the new Snapdragon branding that is the result after the San Diego-based company brought its 17 Snapdragon 800-series system-on-chip (SoC) models. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 is claimed to be up to four times faster artificial intelligence (AI) performance than the Snapdragon 888 SoC introduced last year. It is also touted to deliver 30 percent faster graphics rendering along with 25 percent more power efficiency over the predecessor. Additionally, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 is claimed to be the world’s first 5G modem-RF solution to reach 10 Gigabit download speeds on a compatible network.
Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 availability timeline
Just like the past few years, Qualcomm said that the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 will be used by global smartphone vendors including Black Shark, Honor, iQoo, Motorola, Nubia, OnePlus, Oppo, Realme, Redmi, Sharp, Sony, Vivo, Xiaomi, and ZTE. Phones based on the new chip are expected by the end of 2021, the company noted.
Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 specifications
The Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 will be equipped with the 7th Gen Qualcomm AI Engine that is rated to have two times larger shared memory along with a two times faster tensor accelerator to deliver a better per-watt performance over the 6th Gen Qualcomm AI Engine available on the Snapdragon 888. The new chip will also be based on a 4nm process technology. This is an upgrade over the 5nm process technology that was used by Snapdragon 888 last year.
Qualcomm has not yet revealed the exact names of the Kryo CPU and Adreno GPU available on its new chip. However, the Kryo CPU particularly has Arm Cortex-X2 cores that can be clocked up to 3GHz. The CPU is claimed 20 faster performance and 30 percent power efficiency over its counterpart available on the Snapdragon 888. The new Adreno GPU is also rated to deliver a 30 percent boost in graphics rendering and 25 percent improvement in power saving in comparison with its predecessor.
For an enhanced artificial intelligence (AI) experience, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 has a Qualcomm Hexagon processor that is available as a part of the AI Engine. The chip also has integrated Leica Leitz Look filters for an enhanced bokeh effect. Further, there is an AI-based natural language processing from machine learning community Hugging Face. It is claimed to help enable a distinct personal assistance experience by analysing and prioritising your notifications.
Qualcomm said that it also worked with Boston, Massachusetts-based health tech company Sonde Health that will allow the system to analyse a user’s vocal patterns to determine if a user is at risk for health conditions such as asthma, depression, and even COVID-19. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 is also paired with a 3rd Gen Qualcomm Snapdragon Hub that is claimed to process the data streams using low-power AI.
In terms of gaming, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 has over 50 Snapdragon Elite Gaming features to help provide a smooth and responsive experience along with colour-rich HDR scenes. The company claims that it has integrated a Variable Rate Shading Pro feature to provide a desktop-level volumetric rendering to deliver realistic fog, smoke, and particle effects.
The Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 also includes an enhanced security using a dedicated Trust Management Engine. This is also claimed to provide root of trust for apps and services installed on the system. Additionally, the new Snapdragon chip has Android Ready SE standard for digital car keys and drivers’ licences.
To help people connect with cellular networks without a SIM card, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 has the Qualcomm Secure Processing Unit with support for integrated SIM (iSIM).
The new Snapdragon mobile platform also has Snapdragon Sound Technology along with Qualcomm aptX Lossless Technology for an enhanced audio experience. There are also new low-energy (LE) features such as broadcast audio, stereo recording, and voice back-channel for gaming.
Qualcomm has integrated its Snapdragon X65 5G Modem-RF System within the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 that is designed to reach 10 Gigabit download speeds. The new chip has also retained the Qualcomm FastConnect 6900 Mobile Connectivity System that brings wireless connectivity with up to 3.6Gbps speeds over Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E standards. There is also Bluetooth v5.2 support.
The other notable addition to the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 is Snapdragon Sight Technology that brings the first 18-bit image signal processor (ISP). This is claimed to capture over 4,000 times more camera data than its predecessor for high dynamic range, colour, and sharpness at speeds of up to 3.2 gigapixels per second. The new ISP also supports 8K HDR video recording in the premium HDR10+ format. Further, there is a dedicated Bokeh Engine for adding soft backgrounds to videos. There is also an Always-on ISP that enables always-on face unlocking, without consuming a large amount of battery.
Other specifications and features of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 are mostly in line with its predecessor. These include support for up to 4K and QHD+ displays with up to 144Hz refresh rate, LPDDR5 RAM with a frequency of up to 3200MHz and density of up to 16GB, and Quick Charge 5 fast charging.
Alongside the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 SoC, Qualcomm at the Snapdragon Tech Summit 2021 announced its partnership with Google Cloud to boost its neural network development and build as well as optimise AI models. The collaboration will enable Qualcomm Neural Processing SDK to have the Google Cloud Vertex AI NAS integration.
The new experience will be first available on the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, though it will later be expanded across Qualcomm’s portfolio. The chipmaker said that its Snapdragon mobile, ACPC and XR, Snapdragon Ride Platform, and IoT platforms will be able to utilise Google Cloud Vertex AI Neural Architecture Search with the Qualcomm AI Engine as a result of its partnership with Google.