The next powerful phones with Qualcomm chips will be equipped with the Snapdragon 888. The new processor was revealed in detail on Wednesday (2) with a Snapdragon X60 5G modem for downloads up to 7.5 Gb / s, Adreno 660 graphics chip which promises 35% more performance compared to the previous generation and more CPU speed, now manufactured in a 5 nanometer process.
Snapdragon 888 promises 5G up to 7.5 Gb / s
The Snapdragon 888 has an integrated 5G modem, unlike the Snapdragon 865, which was also sold to cellphone manufacturers in a 4G version. The Snapdragon X60 5G, first unveiled in February, supports frequencies in millimeter waves (mmWave) and below 6 GHz (sub-6) adopted by operators around the world. It will also be possible to connect to 5G with dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS), which is already in operation at Claro, Vivo and TIM.
With frequency aggregation, using mmWave and sub-6, it will be possible to reach theoretical speeds of 7.5 Gb / s download and 3 Gb / s upload, according to Qualcomm. The company demonstrated the Snapdragon 888 peaking at 1.31 Gb / s with a 120 MHz band (20 + 100) and 2.57 Gb / s with 200 MHz (100 + 100). In Brazil, operators are expected to have access to a new 80 or 100 MHz block in Anatel’s frequency auction, scheduled for the second half of 2021.
Phones with Snapdragon 888 will be able to connect to 5G on two chips, which “allows international roaming, manages personal and corporate lines on the same cell phone or optimizes monthly costs with plans,” says Qualcomm. In addition, the chip maintains Wi-Fi 6E compatibility of up to 3.6 Gb / s and Bluetooth 5.2, with dual antenna and aptX codec support to reduce latency in headphones, especially in games.
Dolby Vision 4K footage cameras
The Snapdragon 888’s image signal processor (ISP) is triple, which increased camera performance by 35%. The main advantage of the Spectra 580 is to capture images from three sensors at the same time: you can use this to simultaneously shoot three videos in 4K HDR or to switch between three cameras during recording, zooming more smoothly.
Video capture can be done with 10-bit color depth and HDR10 + codecs or even Dolby Vision, as in iPhones 12. The problem is that it depends on the smartphone manufacturer’s implementation: the Snapdragon 865 already supported Dolby’s technology for expand the dynamic range in videos, but we didn’t get to see this feature on Android phones. The Galaxy S20, even in the version with Snapdragon, only supported HDR10 + (and in a precarious way, as we mentioned in Tecnocast 165).
The ISP’s performance is measured by the number of pixels it can process over a period of time: on the Spectra 580, it’s 2.7 gigapixels per second, equivalent to 120 12-megapixel photos. If the cell phone’s cameras support it, all this power will allow you to capture three 28-megapixel photos at the same time or shoot 4K scenes at 120 frames per second.
In addition to the computational HDR for videos, the photos can be saved in HEIF format with 10 bits of color for the first time with a Snapdragon. Qualcomm also promises “brilliant photos even in near-total darkness” and improvements in camera focus, exposure and white balance, with the help of neural networks.
25% faster processor and games at 144 Hz
The Snapdragon 888’s CPU reaches frequencies up to 2.84 GHz and is made up of Kryo 680 cores, the first ones based on the ARM Cortex-X1 architecture, a kind of Cortex-A78 variant for manufacturers looking to develop more personalized chips. In numbers, Qualcomm’s promise is 25% higher gross performance and 25% higher energy efficiency, which should not be enough to threaten Apple.
The new Adreno 660 GPU offers up to 35% faster graphics rendering. The advance was greater in this generation to account for the gamers cell phones, which are coming with HDR screens of up to 144 Hz. Touch responses were up to 20% faster, with gain of milliseconds even in games that already ran at 120 fps, from according to Qualcomm.
The high refresh rates on cell phone screens have made Qualcomm bring to smartphones a technology known as Variable Rate Shading (VRS), which was present only in video cards for PCs and in the new generation of consoles. Basically, VRS allows the GPU to render the shadows of a scene in groups of pixels instead of pixel by pixel; this alone is enough to increase efficiency by up to 40%.
Without revealing numbers, Qualcomm says that both the Kryo 680 and Adreno 660 “are capable of sustaining their performance for long periods of time”. In addition, as the Snapdragon 888 is part of the Snapdragon Elite Gaming program, the chip may receive driver updates for future performance optimizations.
Advances in artificial intelligence in the Snapdragon 888
The most complex part of the Snapdragon 888, which represents perhaps the biggest advance of the new generation, is the Hexagon 780 chip, focused on artificial intelligence tasks. Performance nearly doubled: it was 15 trillion operations per second (TOPS) on the Snapdragon 865 and moved to 26 TOPS, mainly because Qualcomm redesigned the architecture and increased the shared memory by 16 times to improve the performance of the accelerators.
The most obvious tasks for a DSP like the Hexagon 780 are things like speech recognition for virtual assistants or real-time translation between languages on the device itself. If you are one of the few people who still use your cell phone to call, the artificial intelligence chip can reduce the echo and noise around you during a call, to focus on your voice. And I would love to see this video upscaling technology that looks like witchcraft working in practice:
The interesting thing is that the Hexagon 780 may not even be able to perform many of the tasks it could, because Qualcomm has made the Sensing Hub more powerful, an auxiliary processor with very low power consumption that is always active. Simple tasks, such as audio keyword detection or screen activation, can be performed without going through the DSP, saving battery power. The small chip is also capable of helping to detect earthquakes.
When (and where) does the Snapdragon 888 arrive?
The first Snapdragon 888 phones are expected to launch in the first quarter of 2021. Qualcomm specifically cites 14 brands that worked on the processor development: Asus, Black Shark, Lenovo, LG, Meizu, Motorola, Nubia, Realme, OnePlus, Oppo , Sharp, Vivo, Xiaomi and ZTE. A notable absence is Samsung, which has prioritized its Exynos chips over premium smartphones.
Xiaomi has confirmed that the Mi 11 will be one of the first phones with Snapdragon 888, but there are still no details of the device. Motorola confirms that “it will bring this mobile platform to its flagship devices in 2021” and that, next year, a Snapdragon 800 series chip will be present for the first time in a Moto G.