During the Snapdragon Summit 2018 introduction of Snapdragon 855, the term Snapdragon Elite Gaming has appeared for the first time. Let’s go over what it means as this terminology will probably be used often going forward.
Snapdragon Elite Gaming is not one feature, but rather a term used to describe a certain level of user experience when gaming on mobile with the Snapdragon platform
Snapdragon 855 is the first hardware to qualify as being Snapdragon Elite capable so that we can use this level of performance and experience as a general proxy going forward.
Broadly speaking, Snapdragon Elite is defined by the combination of Graphics Performance, Graphics Quality, Audio Quality, and Online Gaming Experience.
Graphics Performance and Quality
Perhaps not directly related to graphics, Qualcomm says that it makes games load faster. Snapdragon 855 loads apps faster in general, so this is where that Elite Gaming feature comes from.
In Gaming, graphics and immersion are a huge factor in the overall experience, and that’s the case here. Snapdragon 855’s GPU is 20% faster than Snapdragon 845’s. It’s so fast in fact that Qualcomm is promoting Physically Based Rendering (PBR), a more complex surface shading technique already used in PC games.
We haven’t seen any PBR-enabled games on mobile, but since PBR has been used on PC and consoles for years, it’s mostly a matter of porting it and being able to run it fast enough at this point.
If a game is programmed using the Vulkan 1.1 API, the driver overhead is reduced (vs. OpenGL ES), and more performance is squeezed out of the hardware.
As graphics get faster, it’s possible to tackle “Game Jank,” aka stuttering in PC parlance. This happens when the game speed and synchronization get out of sync with the display’s frequency (v-sync). The symptoms is a jumpy FPS, which leads to a bad experience.
The extra computing horsepower also allows games to run in HDR from end to end, and perform post-processing in layers, like it is done during the final editing of movies. It’s possible to add a final layer of effects to add details or change the mood of the scene.
The overall computing profile of Snapdragon 855 enables XR games (VR or AR) to function at their full potential, including 6DoF (6 degrees of freedom) for a complete experience.
Qualcomm says that it has specific XR optimizations, but it has mostly to do with being able to graphics on the GPU+CPU while offloading the 6DoF to other units (DSP, ISP) to spread the computational workload.
A 4K video output to a television is the final graphics element that defines a Snapdragon Elite Gaming experience.
The audio quality is also paramount in games, especially immersive ones. To address that, the latest version of Qualcomm’s AptX makes sure that you get HD audio even over Bluetooth, with minimum latency.
Qualcomm Aqstic takes care of the digital to analog conversion (via a DAC), noise-cancellation and surround sound. From our experience with it on existing handsets, the quality is like Hi-Res audio.
Online Gaming Experience
Mobile Gaming is often online gaming as well because of the native connectivity. However, gaming has a set of particular needs, that Qualcomm wanted to cover.
Low-latency is one of them, and Elite Gaming means that there’s a built-in QoS (quality of service) system that prioritizes game packets for a smooth and low-lag experience.
With 5G, the goal is to have 60 FPS gaming which is not hindered by any networking issues. This assumes that your coverage is good enough.
There is no doubt that Snapdragon Elite Gaming is a simpler term that can be used to promote all the above features, so we want to have a place to define it.
With Gaming on the rise (mobile gaming is now larger than PC+console gaming in money terms), Qualcomm will promote this heavily, especially when it can reach lower-priced handsets.