Qualcomm is annoying the Snapdragon 888, its latest 5G-equipped flagship smartphone processor, on the first day of its Snapdragon Tech meeting. But on the second day, the company presented all the details of the new chipset, which will be the brain that powers almost every major flagship of Android from 2021.
First, the main features: the new processor will include Qualcomm’s new Kryo 680 processor, which will be one of the first devices with Arm’s latest custom Cortex-X1 core and promises up to 25 percent higher performance than last year’s chip with a maximum clock speed of 2.84GHz. And the company̵
Another key difference between the Snapdragon 888 and last year’s 865 is that Qualcomm finally integrates its 5G modem directly into the SoC. This means that manufacturers will not have to deal with finding space (and power) for a second external modem. In particular, the Snapdragon 888 will include Qualcomm’s 5-nanometer X60 modem, which the company announced back in February, and will allow better operator aggregation and download speeds of up to 7.5 Gbps on new devices. The Snapdragon 888 will also support Wi-Fi 6, as well as the new 6GHz Wi-Fi 6E standard, which should boost that proliferation by making it the default for most Android flagships.
As is the tradition of updating Snapdragon, Qualcomm also places great emphasis on camera enhancements. The new Spectra 580 ISP is the first from Qualcomm to have a triple ISP, which allows it to do things like capture three simultaneous 4K HDR video streams or three 28-megapixel photos at once at up to 2.7 gigapixels per second (35 percent faster than a year ago).
It also offers enhanced serial playback capabilities and is capable of capturing up to 120 photos per second at 10 megapixel resolution. Finally, the improved ISP adds computational HDR to 4K videos, an improved low-light capture architecture, and the option to capture 10-bit color photos in HEIF. However, phone manufacturers will have to create cameras that take advantage of the new features.
The latest major changes come in AI performance, thanks to the new Qualcomm Hexagon 780 AI processor. The Snapdragon 888 features Qualcomm’s sixth-generation AI Engine, which promises to help improve everything from computing photography to gaming to voice assistant performance. The Snapdragon 888 can perform 26 trillion operations per second (TOPS), compared to the Snapdragon 865’s 15 TOPS, while providing three times better energy efficiency. In addition, Qualcomm promises major improvements to both scalar and tensor AI tasks as part of these upgrades.
The Snapdragon 888 also features a second-generation Qualcomm Sensing Hub, a special low-power AI processor for smaller hardware tasks, such as identification when you pick up your phone to illuminate the display. The new second generation Sensing Hub has been dramatically improved, which means that the phone will be able to rely less on the main Hexagon processor for these tasks.
All this contributes to a significant boost to the capabilities of Qualcomm – and therefore almost every flagship of Android – for what our smartphones will be able to do. The first Snapdragon 888 smartphones are expected to appear in early 2021, which means that soon we will be able to test the next generation of Android flagships for ourselves.