Conclusion & First Impressions

The Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 is an interesting part, as it represents a fresh start for the series both in a marketing sense, and in a lesser technical sense as well. As a successor to the Snapdragon 888, the new chip  completely revamps the CPU setup to new Armv9 architectures while also bringing a very large GPU improvement, massive new camera features, and a host of other new features.

Qualcomm’s decision to streamline the naming is in my opinion not that necessary. But after the transition from the Snapdragon 865 to the 888, things had arguably already kind of jumped the shark last year, so it’s not completely unexpected. What I really don't like is Qualcomm taking a note out of Apple’s PR strategies and really diminishing the amount of technical detail disclosed, dropping even things such as the IP block generational numbering on the part of the GPU, NPU/DSP or ISP. This kind of opaqueness works for a lifestyle product company, but isn’t a great marketing strategy or look for a technology company that is supposed to pride itself on the tech it develops. Whatever the marketing aspect and shift from Qualcomm, what does matter for most of our readers is the technical side of things.

Technically, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 is a larger upgrade in a lot of aspects. While Qualcomm isn’t quite as aggressive as what we saw from recent competitor announcements, the chip boasts a very strong showing on the part of the CPU configuration, featuring a new Cortex-X2 core at up to 3GHz, new Cortex-A710’s middle cores at 2.5GHz, and as well as the new A510 little cores. The performance metrics, at least on the part of the X2, look to be extremely solid, and while power efficiency is still something we’ll have to investigate in more detail in the next few weeks, is also seemingly in line, or better, than the expectations.

The new Adreno GPU really didn’t get the attention it deserved, in my opinion, as things are quite more complex than just what the presentations showcased. While we still don’t expect Qualcomm to be able to catch up with Apple or be as efficient as the upcoming MediaTek part due to lingering concerns on whether the Samsung 4nm process node is able to close the gap with the TSMC competition, the new architecture changes are significant, and we should see major improvements in performance and efficiency compared to the Snapdragon 888.

Finally, the biggest changes this generation were presented on the part of the camera and ISP system. Smartphone cameras over the last few years have seen tremendous progress in terms of capability and image quality, and rather than slowing down (in contrast to other aspects of a SoC), here it seems technology progress is still full steam ahead or even accelerating. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 ISP now features fixed function blocks for a lot of the typical “computational photography” techniques we’ve seen pioneered from the last few years, and I think this will enable for far greater camera implementations for many more vendors in 2022 flagship devices. So, while the rest of the SoC can be seen as a % gain in performance or efficiency, the new camera features are expected to really bring new innovation and experiences.

Overall, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 looks to be a very solid successor to the Snapdragon 888. And that’s what’s most important for Qualcomm: executing on developing and delivering a chip that the vast majority of vendors can rely on to implement into their devices. While the competition is diversifying and stepping up their game, it’s also going to be extremely hard to match or even surpass Qualcomm’s execution the market, and the 8 Gen 1 is unlikely to disappoint.

Massive ISP Upgrades, AI Uplifts
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  • vladx - Friday, December 3, 2021 - link

    Where can I buy said "Nvidia Orin SOC" right now?
  • mode_13h - Saturday, December 4, 2021 - link

    > Where can I buy said "Nvidia Orin SOC" right now?

    Developer kit coming in Q1 2022:
  • vladx - Saturday, December 4, 2021 - link

    Thanks for proving my point, it's a developer kit targeted at developers and prosumers so not "consumer level hardware" as previously mentioned.
  • mode_13h - Sunday, December 5, 2021 - link

    > Thanks for proving my point

    I'm not taking sides. I'm just trying to provide relevant information, where I can.

    I was intrigued to hear that Orin has AV1-encoding (something I haven't verified), given that it's aimed at self-driving cars. Considering how many cameras self-driving cars tend to incorporate, they could quickly rise to the top of the list of compressed video sources, in terms of aggregate GB/day. The number of cameras they each have could mean that auto-manufacturers are that much more susceptible to licensing fees, thereby pushing them more aggressively towards royalty-free solutions.
  • vladx - Sunday, December 5, 2021 - link

    That's why I thanked you, @BlueSwordM is the one who claimed it's "a consumer level HW encoder".
  • LordConrad - Tuesday, November 30, 2021 - link

    One major thing where I disagree with most ARM chip makers: No high-power core should have less than 1MB L2 cache and no low-power core should have less than 512KB L2 cache.
  • mode_13h - Wednesday, December 1, 2021 - link

    The low-power cores don't need so much L2, because they have L3 to fall back on.
  • LordConrad - Sunday, December 5, 2021 - link

    Although I much prefer 512k, I would accept 256k L2 cache for low-power cores. I think the 128k used by most chipmakers today is unacceptable.
  • caribbeanblue - Tuesday, November 30, 2021 - link

    Wonder what the smartphone camera field will look like overall at the end of 2022. The iPhone 14 Pro is rumored to have three 48MP cameras. Seems like we'll have some exciting camera improvements in 2022
  • Alistair - Tuesday, November 30, 2021 - link

    Nothing I've seen suggests any change or improvement in the market. No DIY market for Windows plus Qualcomm. 2 years behind Apple in CPU performance. GPU is fine, but no 2x or 4x options like with Apple's tablet and M1 options. Was hoping for an announcement there for Qualcomm laptops.

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