Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 is officially announced

Qualcomm has just announced its new high-end SoC for 2021. It is not called Snapdragon 875 as rumors asserted, but Snapdragon 888. A more symbolic choice than technical, since the new component takes the fundamentals of Snapdragon 865.

Oppo, OnePlus, Vivo, Xiaomi, Sharp, Motorola, Meizu, Black Shark, Nubia, Realme, LG, Asus and ZTE were announced as their manufacturer partners. Among the models that should benefit from it include the OnePlus 9 and the Mi 11. In this long list, Samsung is not present.

SNAPDRAGON 888 WITH 5NM ENGRAVING

With the release of the SD 888, Qualcomm hopes to allow manufacturers to stand out and make a real leap forward by focusing on 5 specific areas: connectivity, artificial intelligence, photography, gaming and of course pure performance.

For this, the architecture of the chip remains broadly the same, but each component is improved. In terms of the CPU, for example (Kryo 680), we go to an engraving fineness of 5 nm, thus equaling the Kirin 9000 from Huawei and the A14 from Apple. There are 8 cores on board: 1 Cortex-X1 core clocked at 2.84 GHz with 1 MB of dedicated L2 cache in order to deploy strong power peaks, 3 Cortex-A78 cores (with 512 KB of L2 cache) clocked at 2.4 GHz for power-hungry calculations and 4 Cortex-A55 cores clocked at 1.8 GHz (128 KB L2 cache) for low-consumption tasks, but necessary for everyday life. It is thus announced as 25% more efficient than the Snapdragon 865.

Beside it, we also find an Adreno 660 GPU allowing 35% faster image rendering, a triple ISP Spectra 580 capable of handling up to 2.7 Gigapixels per second, a merged Hexagon 780 DSP allowing accelerators to share 16 times larger common memory, but also a section dedicated to sensors, connectivity, security and a Snapdragon X60 modem.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE AT THE HEART OF THE SOC

Nowadays, artificial intelligence is used in many elements of our smartphones, both for photos and for many everyday effects, such as the application of a simple filter on Snapchat, the detection of audio events ( an “OK Google” for example) or activity recognition from sensors such as the accelerometer to determine the position and inclination of the phone. The Snapdragon 888 merges for the first time the Scalar, Tensor and Vector accelerators, the latter sharing 16 times more dedicated memory allowing much faster exchanges between these three units and reduced latency times.

More concretely, this promises performance three times higher per watt. Qualcomm promises up to 26 trillion operations per second, compared to just 15 trillion on the Snapdragon 865. The possibilities are almost doubled.

For developers, this power is made accessible directly by Qualcomm’s Neural Processing SDK, but also by broader tools like TensorFlow Lite and the Android Neural Networks API.

A TRIPLE ISP TO MANAGE 3 SENSORS AT THE SAME TIME

Going from a double to a triple ISP for the first time, the Snapdragon 888 can handle three streams simultaneously to handle photo and video from three different sensors.

Concretely, whether in photo or video, the Snapdragon 888 can process in parallel the information coming from a wide-angle, a telephoto and an ultra-wide-angle, with a definition of 28 Mpx for the photos and up to 4K HDR for video. One of the main advantages of this is that it allows smoother zooms by switching between sensors in an invisible way to the user.

Besides that, this triple ISP processes images 35% faster, offering a burst mode that can go up to 120 images of 12 megapixels per second. Enough to manage exposure, autofocus and white balance better than ever, promise better rendering in low light, but also provide computational HDR live on 4K videos.

The Snapdragon 888’s Spectra 580 also supports HEIF for 10-bit photos, ensuring a greater variety of colors.

A GAMING CONSOLE EXPERIENCE

The power deployed jointly by the Snapdragon 888’s CPU and GPU ensures a better gaming experience. The Adreno 660 thus supports games up to 144 FPS with a 30% improvement in performance compared to the previous generation.

This is made possible, among other things, by the integration of Variable Rate Shading (VRS), a first for smartphones. This is a technology that allows information displayed on the screen to be treated differently depending on its position. The most common example is in the racing game: you don’t care as much about setting the roadside scenery as you do about your car or the road in front of you. There is therefore no need to use computing power to detail each blade of grass. Thanks to this, developers will be able to optimize their games and thus greatly improve performance.

Besides image quality, Qualcomm also wants to improve the experience with Game Quick Touch. This new feature reduces the response time when playing the game. This gain can range from 10% for a 120 FPS game to 20% for a 60 FPS game.

A UNIT DEDICATED TO SAFETY

Part of the Snapdragon 888 is also dedicated to the security of user data. This new architecture allows the creation of sandboxes ensuring the partitioning of data.

This can be particularly useful for isolating different operating systems on the same device, creating a secure enclave for each application. This quick switch also allows you to create different profiles, opening OS and session depending on the person recognized by a biometric sensor (fingerprint or facial recognition) at the time of unlocking.

5G AND WI-FI 6E ON THE PROGRAM

For those who do not want to be limited to the power of their smartphone and turn to solutions in the cloud (Xbox, Stadia, Luna …), the Snapdragon X60 modem of the Snapdragon 888 is obviously compatible with the latest connectivity standards and this time is integrated into the SoC itself, which was not the case on the Snapdragon 865.

This modem coupled to the FastConnect 6900 system and therefore makes it possible to connect to a Wi-Fi 5, Wi-Fi 6 or even Wi-Fi 6E network with a theoretical maximum speed of 3.6 Gbps in 8 × 8 MU-MIMO stream. 5G is also present on the non-standalone and standalone bands, in sub-6 GHz and in millimeter (mmWave). All this makes it enough to achieve download speeds of up to 7.5 Gbps for download and 3 Gbps for upload.

Finally, the audio part is also evolving with Bluetooth 5.2 compatibility (against 5.1 on the Snapdragon 865) and the usual aptX codecs.