The new Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 was officially announced yesterday, but the company waited a full 24 hours before revealing most of the details that make it the most sought-faster chipset for flagship smartphones in 2020. As usual, Qualcomm has packed in significant performance improvements for the CPU and GPU, but the Snapdragon 888 also comes with noteworthy upgrades in AI processing ISP performance that will allow manufacturers to dramatically improve the imaging capabilities of their smartphones.
CPU & GPU improvements
For most, the main highlight will be the CPU and GPU upgrades. Qualcomm’s new Kryo 680 CPU that’s used in the Snapdragon 888 is based on Arm’s brand new Cortex-X1 core which features a clock speed of 2.84GHz and a 25 percent improvement over the current Snapdragon 865 chipset. The Snapdragon 888 also sports the new Adreno 660 GPU which has been beefed up to deliver a 35 percent improvement in graphic rendering.
While adding more power and performance is important, Qualcomm has also managed to improve the chipset’s power-efficiency. When compared to its previous flagship chipset, the CPU and GPU in the Snapdragon 888 will consume 25 percent less power under the same workload.
As mentioned yesterday in the first Snadrong 888 announcement, the chipset now integrates the 5nm X60 5G modem which also supports the new 6GHz Wi-Fi 6E standard. On the 5G front, the X60 is capable of managing carrier aggregation that can deliver download speeds up to 7.5 Gbps, far exceeding the speeds offered by the competition.
Since the X60 5G modem has been integrated on the chipset, it will save space on the inside of the smartphone, while also reducing engineering and manufacturing costs. Another upside is an improvement in power efficiency, allowing for faster connection speeds over 5G with lower power consumption.
Some of the biggest improvements with the new chipset are related to photo and video capture. The new Spectra 580 ISP on the chipset has the ability to capture and process three simultaneous 4K HDR video streams from the different imaging sensors on a phone or tablet or three 28-megapixel photos at the same time. These results are 35 percent faster than last year’s Snapdragon 865 could deliver. On top of that, it also allows for photos to be captured in 10-bit color in HEIF.
The Spectra 580 ISP also enables a new computational HDR for 4K videos and improved processing architecture for low-light video capture architecture.
Qualcomm is also packing in significant improvements in AI processing with the built-in Hexagon 780. The new AI engine can process 26 trillion operations per second, up from 15 trillion last year with a 3x improvement in power efficiency. The improvement in AI processing will allow for real-time object tracking, removal and replacement in 4k videos at up to 30 frames per second.
Along with that, the chipset also has Qualcomm’s second-generation Sensing Hub to control a phone’s various sensors to detect light, audio and motion changes to create contextually aware use cases.
Upcoming Snapdragon 888 smartphones
While it’s safe to say that the Snapdragon will be just as popular in 2021 as the 865 was this year, manufacturers have already announced that they will be among the first to feature the new chipset inside their upcoming flagship smartphones.
Two named devices that will use the Snapdragon 888 are the Opo Find X3 and the Xiaomi Mi 11. Realme has also announced its intentions to use the new chipset but has yet to reveal what phone it will be used in. While Samsung hasn’t yet revealed any official details on its 2021 flagship smartphone, the company’s expected early launch of its Galaxy S series is expected to make its debut in early 2021 and should be one of the first devices out of the gate sporting Qualcomm’s latest chip.