Qualcomm Snapdragon 8s Gen 3 Aims To Bring AI To More Affordable Premium Phones

Closeup render of a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8s Gen 3 SoC.
Qualcomm today introduced a cheaper version of its flagship mobile silicon, which it's calling the Snapdragon 8s Gen 3. The idea is to offer "the most sought-after 8 series capabilities" to a wider range of premium Android smartphones. That specifically includes on-device generative AI features with support for large language models (LLM) such as Baichuan-7B, Llama 2, Gemini Nano, and Zhipu ChatGLM.

It's an interesting addition the Snapdragon lineup and it underscores a broad industry push to put AI tools and experiences into the hands of more users. How that ultimately shakes out depends in large part how much cheaper phones sporting the Snapdragon 8s Gen 3 will cost compared to flagship models with the full Snapdragon 8 Gen 3, such as Samsung's Galaxy S24 family, along with high-end phones like the ASUS ROG Phone 8 and OnePlus 12.

The 8s variant is essentially a trimmed down version of Qualcomm's top silicon. Namely, it features a 1x4x3 configuration consisting of a single high-performance Cortex-X4 core clocked at 3GHz, four Cortex-A720 cores clocked at 2.8GHz, and three Cortex-A520 cores running at 2GHz.

These are all slower clocks than what's found on the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 with its 1x5x2 configuration consisting of a single Cortex-X4 core clocked at 3.3GHz, three Cortex-A720 cores clocked at 3.2GHz and two more that run at 3GHz, and two Cortex-A520 cores clocked at 2.3GHz.

Snapdragon 8s Gen 3 slide outlining some of the features.

We have not spent any hands on time with a device sporting the Snapdragon 8s Gen 3 (sometimes Qualcomm will provide a prototype phone for testing ahead of a retail launch), but on paper, it looks like a fast chip that trades a bit of top-end performance for a bump in efficiency. And for graphics, it's running an Adreno GPU with support for hardware-based ray tracing just like both the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 and Gen 2, though there's no mention of global illumination as found on the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3.

A lot of the features line up with Qualcomm's flagship silicon, such as a triple 18-bit Spectra ISP and support for up to a 200-megapixel sensor for camera chores, all kinds of HDR support (HDR10, HDR10+, HLG, and Dolby Vision), and a FastConnect 7800 radio for Wi-Fi 7 + Bluetooth 5.4 wireless connectivity.

Snapdragon 8s Gen 3 slide.

There are a few key differences, though. The Snapdragon 8s Gen 3 can record 4K HDR video versus 8K HDR on both the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 and Gen 2, it sports an X70 modem for 5G speeds of up to 5,000Mbps for downloads (versus 10,000Mbps) and 3,500Mbps for uploads, and supports 1080p240 SlowMo recording (versus 720p960 SlowMo).
"With capabilities including on-device generative AI and advanced photography features, Snapdragon 8s Gen 3 is designed to enhance user experiences, fostering creativity and productivity in their daily lives." said Chris Patrick, senior vice president and general manager of mobile handsets, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. "We’re elated to introduce the latest addition to our premium Snapdragon 8-series, our most premium mobile offering, bringing a host of exceptional specially selected capabilities to more consumers."

Qualcomm says the Snapdragon 8s Gen 3 will show up in devices starting this month, with companies like Honor, iQOO, realme, Redmi, and Xiaomi all confirmed to be adopting the chipset. We'll have to wait and see if companies with a presence in the US like Samsung, OnePlus, Oppo, Motorola, and others jump on board.