Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 Arrives To Supercharge Next-Gen AI Powered Flagship Phones

snapdragon 8 gen 1 phone
Last week, Qualcomm teased a fresh new look and colors as part of a bold rebranding effort, with Snapdragon becoming a standalone consumer brand. Now a week later, at the Snapdragon Tech Summit that's currently underway, Qualcomm is ready to share more details about what lies ahead for Snapdragon.

To kick off the rebrand, Qualcomm has announced the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, a brand new flagship chipset that not only supplants the Snapdragon 888+ 5G at the top of the stack, it also leaves behind the old three-digit model number designations it had been using.

qualcomm ceo cristiano amon
Qualcomm CEO Cristiano Amon At Snapdragon Summit In Hawaii

Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 Cores, Speeds And Feeds

As with past Snapdragon chipsets, this latest one is brimming with features and capabilities to power a new generation of premium Android devices. Some of the fine grain details are still under lock and key, though Qualcomm did divulge that the octal-core Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 is built on a 4-nanometer manufacturing process with the following Kryo CPU arrangement:
  • 1x Prime Cortex-X2 at 3.0GHz
  • 3x Performance cores at 2.5GHz
  • 4x Efficiency Cores at 1.8GHz
Qualcomm says the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 delivers 20 percent more CPU performance and is 30 percent more power efficient than before.
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It also features an upgraded Adreno GPU that is purportedly 30 percent faster (or up to 60 percent faster in some Vulkan workloads) and 25 more power efficient than the previous generation. These raw performance upgrades underpin Snapdragon's designation as an "elite gaming" platform, though that's where the story begins.

Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 is "replete with innovative advances" including Qualcomm's fastest-ever artificial intelligence (AI) engine. Powered by a 7th Gen AI engine, Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 reportedly quadruples the AI performance of its predecessors. This is the result of both hardware and software upgrades, such as a 3rd Gen Sensing Hub and a Hexagon processor with a tensor accelerator that is twice as fast as before, along with double the amount of shared memory.

Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 AI Slide
AI has become an important part of the everyday consumer experience on mobile devices, even to the point where we take much of the functionality for granted. More than just parsing voice commands and looking up directions, the role of AI continues to expand.

"With natural language processing from Hugging Face, your device can now analyze and intelligently group and prioritize all your notifications. If your boss asks you to review several hundred documents, you can now instantly scan them for general tone and sentiment, allowing for greater efficiency," Qualcomm explains.

"When you’re snapping pics on your mobile device, it’s easier than ever to create professional quality images with astonishing color and depth, thanks to intelligently integrated Leica Leitz Looks filters, which recreate the legendary bokeh and color. You can also keep on top of your physical and mental health by using your mobile device to analyze vocal patterns," Qualcomm adds.

This also plays into the camera capabilities of Snapdragon 8 Gen 1.

Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 Camera And 5G Upgrades

Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 Reference Phone
Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 is infused with the first 18-bit ISP that Qualcomm has ever created for mobile devices. It can harness 4,069 times more camera data, and process all that information at up to 3.2 gigapixels per second. It's also still a triple ISP setup to allow for capturing images and videos from three separate cameras at the same time.

Adding to the list of firsts, Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 also boasts support for 8K HDR video recording. Qualcomm says it is capable of recording over a billion shades of color, which is six times more than non-HDR, to deliver "movie-theater detail."

Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 Camera Slide
"Other features include mega night mode that captures 30 images (5x more than previous gen) and merges the best parts to create one stunning image. The result is brighter photos in dark conditions and the ability to hone-in on tiny details without any blurring," Qualcomm says.

An Always-On ISP is available too, meaning a camera can stay on without compromising battery life. And with AI underneath the hood, it can detect faces and focus extremely fast, Qualcomm says, adding that it can snap 200MP photos from a single lens or up to 36MP photos from three cameras at once.

On the wireless connectivity side of the equation, Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 is equipped with what Qualcomm calls its most advanced 5G platform yet, with the first 3GPP Release 16 5G solution. Or more precisely, a Snapdragon X65 5G modem-RF system boasting both mmWave and sub-6GHz support, 5G uplink carrier aggregation, and up to 10Gbps downloads.

Outside of cellular performance, it also features the Qualcomm FastConnect 6900 Mobile Connectivity System, with support for up to 3.6Gbps speeds over Wi-Fi 6E and Wi-Fi 6.

From a high-level overview Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 looks like a worthy evolution of Snapdragon. it will be interesting to see how device makers opt to take advantage of the new chipset in next-gen hardware. To that end, Qualcomm already has a bunch of OEMs and brands lined up, and says devices outfitted with Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 should ship by the end of 2021.