HAWAII, USA (Pocket-lint) - It's all change for Qualcomm's flagship Snapdragon mobile platform: 2022 sees the end of the company's incremental numbering system, ditching the would-be Snapdragon 898 top-ender for what's instead called Snapdragon 8 Gen 1.
As you can see from the all-new name, the incremental nature will instead focus on generations year on year, with Gen 1 running from 2022 and, presumably, Gen 2 incoming for 2023, so on and so forth. It streamlines the naming system, while maintaining that "8" represents Qualcomm's top-tier power for mobile.
But beyond just the name, what does Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 have to offer flagship handsets of the immediate future? Here's our breakdown about its specification, how that will relate to specific features, and why that's all something to be excited about.
How powerful is Snapdragon 8 Gen 1?
- 4nm system-on-chip (SoC)
- Qualcomm Hexagon Processor with Fused AI Accelerator
- Kyro CPU: Arm Cortex-X2 to 3.0GHz
- LPDDR5X memory support, to 16GB
- Qualcomm Adreno GPU
Following on from the Snapdragon 888, which is based on a 5nm process, Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 debuts Qualcomm's 4nm entry. Ultimately that smaller figure means a shorter travel for current within the CPU and therefore greater efficiency and power saving potential.
That also goes hand-in-hand with support for LPDDR5X RAM, which is approaching 25 per cent faster than the previous generation, and is particularly useful for rapid processing of computational tasks - the kind of back-and-forth that happens with artificial intelligence (AI) processing and the like.
In terms of raw power, the Qualcomm Hexagon processor embodies an Arm Cortex-X2 (to 3.0GHz) at its most powerful, which is the same "ultra core" that MediaTek utilises in its Dimensity 9000 flagship. Qualcomm says its Hexagon processor has twice the shared memory of its 888 predecessor, again to benefit the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Engine - now in its seventh generation format.
What features does Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 support?
AI is indeed a big part of Qualcomm's sell in Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, but what other core features can you expect from flagship handsets that will utilise this new platform? Here's a breakdown of the key areas.
- 200-megapixel camera resolution support
- Triple 18-bit image signal processors (ISP)
- H.265 & VP9 decoder
- 8K HDR video
With the introduction of Snapdragon Sight Technology - Qualcomm's first 18-bit image signal processor - the 8 Gen 1 will be able to support a whole host of imaging potential on flagship handsets.
There's support for 200-megapixel resolution, which isn't actually an increase generation on generation, and isn't as high-res capable as MediaTek's Dimensity 9000 either (the latter with 320MP support).
That said, Snapdragon 8 Gen 1's trio of 18-bit ISPs mean the platform can capture an alleged 4096 times more camera data than earlier 14-bit processors of previous platforms. So while there's no more resolution - which you don't really need - there's a lot more information within images, which translates to greater high dynamic range (HDR) and colour potential.
There's also a new Leica Leitz Look mode, used for recreating the classic bokeh (background blur) effect, a collaboration that should make for interesting results.
A 3.2Gigabit pipeline means lots of data processing: for burst shooting there's support for 30 frames per second capture at a massive 108-megapixel output; for video you can shoot 8K HDR - a world first for mobile - while having enough capacity remaining to take 64-megapixel stills simultaneously.
Speaking of video, codec support for H.265 and VP9 means the latest (and increasingly smaller) package data can be decoded for top-notch streaming possibilities.
- 144Hz display refresh rate support at QHD+ resolution
- 60Hz refresh at 4K resolution (incl. external display)
- HDR10 & HDR10+
Many manufacturers have backed away from pursuing Ultra HD (4K) screen resolutions in flagship devices, given how draining they can be on battery life. That doesn't stop Qualcomm supporting 4K displays with Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, though, including for external displays.
It's in the step-down resolution where most will deploy this platform's strengths though: with support for QHD+ resolution to run at up to 144Hz refresh rate maximum. That'll mean super-smooth visuals at a significant resolution. It's not got 180Hz at FHD+ capabilities, as per MediaTek's Dimensity 9000, but we doubt many will even notice that subtle difference.
High dynamic range (HDR) leaves almost no stone unturned, too, with support for HLG, HDR10, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision formats. If a display has a high degree of brightness then visuals will no doubt pop.
- Adreno GPU, 30% faster than predecessor
- Vulkan 1.1 API support
Gaming is an increasingly big business on mobile - and Qualcomm clearly knows it. While Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 has plenty of potential here - as you can see from the fast refresh rate handling, LPDDR5X RAM support and CPU power - the company also has a separate platform, called Snapdragon G3x Gen 1, which the company has showcased in a 'Nintendo Switch Pro' rivalling handheld Android device.
But back to Snapdragon 8 Gen 1. The latest Adreno GPU is said to bring with it a 30 per cent speed increase over its outgoing predecessor, coupled with 25 per cent lower power consumption. Which ought to equate to better gaming experiences with less intensity on the battery, so you can game for longer.
- Snapdragon X65 5G Modem-RF System
- 5G mmWave and Sub 6GHz support
- Wi-Fi 6E/ax up to 3.6 Gbps
- aptX Adaptive & Lossless
- Bluetooth 5.2
Of all the areas where Qualcomm really leads the pack, however, it's with its 5G connectivity. Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 utilises the X65 modem, which is the first 10-Gigabit Modem-RF solution.
While MediaTek also revealed a 'Release 16' modem in Dimensity 9000, it's less capable overall - offering up to 7Gbps compared to Qualcomm's 10Gbps - which means Qualcomm has the theoretical upper hand when it comes to the fastest speeds and lowest latency.
Qualcomm also supports both mmWave and Sub-6GHz 5G technologies on the one platform, whereas MediaTek doesn't support the former in any regard. That's likely to be more important for customers in the USA, where mmWave adoption is suspected to increase. But Qualcomm's intelligent way of aggregating the two formats in one is certainly a step ahead.
In short: Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 is all about super-fast speeds while on the go, with an unparalleled 5G offering.
Much of the time, of course, you'll likely be using Wi-Fi when indoors. Here the platform supports Wi-Fi 6E, just like the 888 platform did previously, for speedy connectivity - if, that is, the connected router can support it.
Bluetooth 5.2 handles wireless connectivity, while Snapdragon Sound Technology supports the company's aptX Voice, aptX Adaptive, aptX Lossless, and LE audio protocols. That means with the correct high-quality source and a capable enough headset, you'll be able to achieve Hi-Res Audio playback - and the adaptive nature of the tech means you'll always be getting the best on offer depending on what you're using.
When will Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 devices launch?
So which handsets will feature Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 platform? Given its high-end nature, it'll no doubt be the reserve for premium flagships in 2022.
Pocket-lint is at the Snapdragon Tech Summit where Xiaomi led the charge, confirming the Xiaomi 12 will be the world's first to feature the platform. There have also been announcements from Oppo, Realme, and Motorola. So certainly no shortage of choices.