Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 official: Wi-Fi 7, picture perfect and translate four languages ​​simultaneously

There are few sure facts in a world as vibrant as the smartphone world. One such feature, however, is that year after year, the best Android phones will have the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8-series processor on board. The development of 2023, with the first models arriving later this year, is called the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, the SoC that It brings together the legacy of the Snapdragon 8 which was a change of course and naming last year.

After some initial missteps, mainly due to a flawless foundry selection on the 4nm (Samsung) node, Qualcomm has rectified the situation with the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1, this time by the hands of TSMC’s experts at Qualcomm always at 4nm.

The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 reboot is here: TSMC produces using node N4which is always an improved 5nm variant, and is according to Qualcomm the most complex processor ever produced.

In fact, we are facing a processor that has emerged in a period of great changes for major technologies in the world of smartphones: it has hardware ray tracing, one of the first to integrate it, it has a machine learning engine that also runs INT4, it integrates with the Wi-Fi 7 wireless module and is compatible With Bluetooth with Audio LE and Auracast.

Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 steps on completely new, still unexplored ground. The same rule always applies when it comes to SoCs: Qualcomm’s job is to design a processor and offer a series of features that partners must integrate. Some benefits come directly, such as power and energy efficiency, and others require extra work that not everyone wants to do, as we’ve seen in recent years.

Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 is built around 6 pillars: AI, Voice, Security, Cameras, Gaming, and Connectivity. No power, the CPU now takes a back seat.

There are still 8 cores, but up to 40% more efficient

Qualcomm has not focused too much on the processor, for a simple reason: by analyzing typical smartphone usage scenarios in recent years, it has realized that The CPU is being used less and less And part of the work that used to be done by the actual processor is now being processed by the various modules that are accelerated by machine learning. Precisely for this reason, it has revised the Kryo CPU configuration, changing the configuration compared to last year to try to get more inspiration in those scenarios, such as a game, where the processor is still in use.

Instead of having one primary core, three high-performance cores, and 4 high-efficiency cores, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 CPU has one primary core, four high-performance cores, and three high-efficiency cores.

The need to have four high-performance cores is associated with the fact that this, in turn, is a double set of different cores, there are 2 of them ARM Cortex A710 core and ARM Cortex A715 cores. A curious choice, because the Cortex A715 is actually an evolution of the Cortex A710 and is 20% more efficient and 5% faster, but like the Cortex X3 It lacks the old 32-bit instructions.

ARM is starting to clean up, and by 2022 it is bringing CPU designs to market with only 64-bit instructions. Qualcomm, which also has many customers in the Chinese market where many Android operating systems still need 32-bit So he decided to leave the Cortex A710 for backwards compatibility. An option that looks compatible with all markets, but penalizes performance a bit.

A curiosity: We also saw something similar last year with the four high-efficiency cores grouped in pairs, where each pair shares cache and can be thought of as a single instance.

A510s are still used as high-efficiency cores, slightly modified in 2022 by ARM to consume slightly less. The clock frequency of all the cores increases: for the primary core, it goes from 3GHz to 3.2GHz, the high-performance cores go from 2.5GHz to 2.8GHz while the three high-efficiency cores are bumped up from 1.8GHz to 2GHz. And Qualcomm reassured us, without increasing the temperature of the processor and without affecting consumption.

Snapdragon Smart, because AI matters most

Google paved the way with its Tensor processors: Most of the innovative features found in today’s phones that users appreciate are thanks to machine learning. Automatic text recognition, interpretation of videos and conversations, and computational imaging would not exist today without AI accelerators that have replaced the CPU and GPU in importance.

It’s precisely on AI that Qualcomm has pushed the most: the Hexagon DSP in Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 has been improved by introducing INT4 support for the first time and improving the watt-performance ratio by 60%, thanks to the More Lean mode. .

It’s always difficult to talk about machine learning without giving concrete examples, but Qualcomm demonstrated simultaneous translation and four languages ​​for a conference conducted in Chinese, and natural language processing has been pushed to the limit.

The first cognitive processor for cameras

Can smartphone cameras be improved? Qualcomm is convinced of this. Compared to last year, the ISP bandwidth has not been increased, the number of billion pixels it can process is almost the same as the 18-bit ternary module, and this new year’s major is direct communication between Spectra (image signal processor) and hexadecimal, Or an artificial intelligence accelerator.

This allows semantic segmentation of images and videos in real time: while framing a scene, the processor is able to recognize all elements of the scene, and thus apply corrections in real time. Until today, this work was done after the shot, by various systems relying on artificial intelligence to correct the images after the shot.

Interestingly, Qualcomm has partnered with two major sensor manufacturers for smartphones, Sony and Samsung. For example, Sony created the first HDR digital four-band interferometric sensors, sensors designed in a certain way to make it easier to shoot HDR video in all conditions: They exploit pixel binning for video, and instead of creating a properly exposed frame, they record four frames at the same time. It is then tapped by Snapdragon for high dynamic video clips. They are the IMX 800, 1/1.5″ and the massive IMX 989, 1″ diagonal.

The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 is also optimized to work better with Samsung’s Isocell HP3, a 200MP sensor.

Still in the field of video, it is interesting to note that this is the first Snapdragon processor to include an AV1 decoder inside that allows you to play 8K video at 60fps. Obviously, this cannot be exploited with the phone screen but only and exclusively by connecting to an external screen.

Ray tracing comes to smartphones

Imagination has already announced it, OPPO has already been working on it for a few years, and now Qualcomm is also bringing ray tracing to phones. The new Adreno GPU integrates hardware ray tracing acceleration modules that will be exploited starting in 2023, when Qualcomm updates its SDK for games on Android.

It will be interesting to see if developers take advantage of this possibility: it is true that ray tracing radically changes the way a game appears to our eyes, but it is also true that this feature will only be exploited by a very small percentage of smartphones on the market and usually They are developed to fit the mobile look of the masses.

The Adreno GPU now supports Vulkan 1.3 api, and has been optimized to work better with Unreal Engine 5’s Metahumans framework, the framework that allows you to reconstruct realistic human models in the game and on top of all that it is 40% more efficient.

OPPO will be one of the first partners to focus heavily on this aspect

Better reception and lower consumption in 5G

Inside the new Snapdragon, the modem also changes: instead of the X65 we switch to the X70. Novelty is the integration within the modem itself of a small neuroprocessor trying to understand, if the phone is in motion, how the reception will differ based on the data previously obtained in the same area. According to Qualcomm this way it improves upload, download and reception speeds BUT Especially consumption.

The X70 modem, with 10Gbps downlink and 3.5Gbps uplink, is the first Snapdragon modem to support full-duplex 5G, so two physical or virtual SIM cards are fully functional at the same time.

However, the most interesting part is about Wifi: the Qualcomm FastConnect 780 module brings the new Wi-fi 7 (802.11be) to the consumer device. Thanks to High Band Simultaneous Multi-Link technology It can reach up to 5.8Gbps with a compatible access pointtwice the Wi-Fi 6.

Spatial audio, head tracking, and music are worthless

2023 will be the year of Audio LE, the Bluetooth-based solution that allows lossless audio transmission at 48 kHz. Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 fully supports Audio LE, and also integrates a dual Bluetooth module to increase signal range by 100% while reducing consumption when access to a remote device is not necessary.

In addition to Audio LE, there’s also support for Auracast, which is the standard the Bluetooth Alliance created for Bluetooth Make broadcasts from one to multiple compatible devices. This means that a smartphone can stream music to all devices in a room without performing any particular configuration and without restrictions on the number of connected devices.

Audio LE also improves signal latency and, importantly, also has a better quality audio return channel than the classic telephone channel used by traditional earphones. To get all of this, you obviously need compatible earphones or headphones, and there are still no models on the market that support all of these features.

Qualcomm also adds Spatial Audio management with head tracking to the audio sector, which Apple has already done on AirPods Pro. With earphones with gyroscopes inside, it will be possible to automatically manage the direction of the frontal sound, locking it in the same position even if the head rotates in space.

The first smartphones with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor are expected to debut later this year.

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