Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Tech Summit 2020 has kicked off this morning, and the company’s 2021 flagship platform, Snapdragon 888, officially exists. It is the chip that will power most high-end Android phones next year, and its architecture will indeed echo in the PC industry as well.
There are improvements across the board when you compare Snapdragon 888 with Snapdragon 865 which was announced at this time last year. As usual, performance is “the” essential feature everybody expects, along with a better 5G support, including a fully integrated modem: the recently announced Qualcomm X60 5G modem.
Digging down a bit more, Qualcomm’s key points for this flagship platform are AI + GPU performance and photography-oriented features.
The Snapdragon 888 5nm (nanometer) semiconductor manufacturing process can pack more transistors than ever, which means: more computing units and ultrafast internal memory.
The detailed performance will be revealed later, but significant changes in the semiconductor process usually come with large performance increases. Qualcomm says Snapdragon 888 can reach 26 TOPS (Tera, or Trillion of Operations Per Second), which is nearly twice more than Snapdragon 865 (15 TOPS). We will have to see how each performance metric (AI, CPU/RAM, Graphics, Camera) has evolved.
When it comes to computational photography, Snapdragon 888’s ISP (Image Signal Processor) can capture 2.7 Gigapixel per second, or about 120 twelve-megapixel photos every second. Such speed could lead to amazing slow-motion in high-resolution, better HDR photography/video, or capturing video with three cameras at the same time. The possibilities are endless.
At Ubergizmo, we’ve always believed that better camera hardware should lead to better image capture. We have a unique camera hardware benchmark called Uber HW Camera in addition to our image-based camera benchmark, Uber IQ Camera.
Given how much mobile photography relies on AI (artificial intelligence), you can be sure that the 6th-generation Qualcomm AI engine’s performance seems to be much higher. That engine runs across multiple hardware units, but the Hexagon DSP (digital signal processor) is typically one of the core blocks to watch for.
Let us round up with 5G. Snapdragon 888 is associated with Qualcomm’s unique radio-frequency front-end, making it the best global 5G platform we have seen to date. The “front-end” refers to all the antennas, electronics, and computing that turn radio-waves into a digital data stream.
The Qualcomm front-end is theoretically capable of handling any 5G radio combinations that wireless carriers worldwide may be rolling out (given enough space to accommodate components). It means that whatever your carrier’s 5G deployment type, Snapdragon 888 handsets would be configured by OEMs to connect optimally.
The caveat is that it is up to the smartphone manufacturer to decide how many antennas and bands are supported, so smartphones can (and will) be different on a regional basis. However, it is possible to see “Global” version of Snapdragon 888 phones with much better 5G compatibility than others. Last but not least, the integrated 5G modem is more power-efficient.