Qualcomm unveiled the new mobile platform for high-end smartphones on November 15 at its annual Snapdragon conference in Hawaii. Called Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, it follows the vintage Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 was revealed last year.
This system-on-a-chip (SoC) brings together all the common components and functions that today make smartphones small mobile computers. Made by TSMC in the 4nm etch format, the SD8 Gen 2 will ship to the first devices next month and has already received orders fromAsusopposite, Xiaomihonor, sony AND Motorola.
A chip turned towards AI…
The entire platform is designed to be filled with artificial intelligence. This is today the key to finding differentiating features in a smartphone market”standard-bearer“which recently lacks the “wow effect”. And this is one of the two main words of the head of Qualcomm Cristiano Amon about the new generations of chips: “the ability to add AI to everything we do”. The other is to systematically work on battery consumption, for all the functions offered.
“Snapdragon’s mission is to deliver connected processors for the intelligent edge, summarizes Cristiano Amon, and to bring this experience wherever there is mobile computing: smartphones, Windows PCs running Snapdragon, gaming consoles, automobiles, connected objects, virtual and augmented reality devices.”
The AI engine, which is based in particular on the Hexagon DSP (sub-component dedicated to signal processing), benefits from a new accelerator and tensors that multiply its computational performance by four, an inference system called “microplate” that makes it possible to run more neural networks, for example, to be able to translate a text in several languages at the same time, and a dedicated power supply circuit. SD8 Gen 2 is also the first mobile platform to manage data with INT4 precision, which allows it to get 60% higher power performance.
…Which paves the way for new functionalities
As for what Qualcomm calls the Sensing Hub, a dedicated AI processor for certain use cases that runs in the background, this fourth generation goes further by making it possible to retrieve more data from sensors, even when the device is on standby.
Smartphones equipped with Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, for example, will be able to read QR codes without having to open an app, or even display a notification on the home screen if the face looking at it at the time is not of its owner. . This can be very practical especially with children!
AI will also have more of an impact on the device’s imaging performance than ever before. Indeed, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 is based on an image processor (ISP), Spectra, called “cognitive”, that is, it is able to “semantically” segment photos into several layers. and captured videos and know for example that in such a photo there is a cat, hair, sky or food.
The objective is to apply specific image processing to each layer and each object in order to increase the quality of photos and videos. And to implement it in real time, instead of doing it a posteriori. “Neural networks bring significant improvements. The sensor is literally aware of what it seesexplains Qualcomm. It knows how to detect glasses and removes the reflection in the glasses for example. The skin tone will be more even, the sky bluer, the grass greener.”
Make a difference in video games
Another area where Qualcomm hopes to make a big difference is video games. This is a segment closely followed by the designer for several years. Today, we find everything in mobile gaming, from small hyper casual games to blockbuster titles, which require the approximation of smartphone performance. With the SD8 Gen 2, Qualcomm brings ray tracing to mobile for the first time, accelerated directly to the device. This technique makes it possible to obtain very realistic games of shadows, lights and reflections.
For gaming, Qualcomm is also relying on the new spatial sound capabilities of its platform, which allows for example the dynamic tracking of the position of the head relative to the smartphone, to transmit sound in the most immersive way possible. The game will also benefit from WiFi 7 standard support from the FastConnect 7800 connectivity platform, which will facilitate the adoption of mobile cloud gaming. This new standard – which has not yet been stabilized – promises a latency level of less than 2 milliseconds and a throughput of 5.8 Gb/s.
Finally, the annual improvements made to the Adreno GPU increase, according to Qualcomm, its performance by 25% and reduce power consumption by 45%. The new GPU is now compatible with Unreal Engine 5, and also supports a new Chinese HDR format.
An AI processor dedicated to the modem
Of course, the CPU (Kryo) also knows its yearly upgrade. With its main core clocked at 3.2 GHz, the Kryo gains 35% in performance and 40% in energy efficiency according to specifications provided by Qualcomm.
Last but not least, Qualcomm detailed the connectivity components of its new flagship. Its Snapdragon X70 5G RF modem integrates a dedicated AI processor for the first time, aimed at improving coverage and speed, and supports 5G dual sim.
It should be noted that Qualcomm is not the only chip designer that has launched a product that is compatible with Wi-Fi 7 and supports raytracing. Taiwanese Mediatek, the world’s fourth largest fabless semiconductor company (without fabs), introduced a week ago its new Dimensity 9200 SoC, which is intended as an alternative to the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2.
Qualcomm’s real difference is in its efforts to establish Snapdragon as a premium mobile brand. In the idea that consumers will no longer simply buy a smartphone from a manufacturer like Samsung or Oppo, but a smartphone equipped with a Snapdragon SoC.
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