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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  • Nicon0s - Wednesday, December 1, 2021 - link

    I mean what exactly makes you think Apple objectively made bigger improvements in CPU arhitecture in the last few years?
    Apple's CPU approach is quite obvious: very wide CPU cores with huge amounts of cache. Realistically that can be replicated but the thing is stock ARM designs try to be efficient from a die area perspective as well.
    If Samsung's 4nm is solid and SD8G1 Android phones won't have heat problems you will hardly be able to sense a real world difference in performante vs an iphone with A15.
  • mode_13h - Wednesday, December 1, 2021 - link

    > Apple's CPU approach is quite obvious: very wide CPU cores with huge amounts of cache.

    For starters. To see what else they've done have a look at name99's 350 pages of collected research on it:

    > stock ARM designs try to be efficient from a die area perspective as well.

    True, ARM's X-series cores are still just 7-series cores on steroids. They weren't truly designed for max performance from the ground-up.

    Their server cores suffer from a similar affliction, being derived from their mobile cores.

    > you will hardly be able to sense a real world difference in performante vs an iphone with A15.

    That's a whole different discussion. As we've seen, Apple's cores were designed with more lofty goals in mind than mere phone UX.
  • michael2k - Thursday, December 2, 2021 - link

    But you’ll see a much bigger difference when you stick the part in a less thermally and battery constrained laptop.

    That’s wher Apple is using an 8 or 10 core design instead of a 6 core design.
  • Nicon0s - Friday, December 3, 2021 - link

    The SD8G1 is not a laptop SOC at all, not even a tablet SOC so I don't see how such a comparison is relevant.
    Qualcomm's current biggest disadvantage is the lowest quality manufacturing process.
  • Kangal - Sunday, December 5, 2021 - link

    With the throttling and performance we have on the QSD 888+, would you rather classify that as a "Phone SoC" or a "Tablet SoC" ...?

    I think the QSD 8-Gen1 is going to behave very similar to it, possibly with its own quirks.
  • AciMars - Wednesday, December 1, 2021 - link

    Hey Andrei, are you confirmed S8Gen 1 has 4MB System Cache? Because SD888 just use 3MB System Cache. Need Clarification on your Table Information
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Wednesday, December 1, 2021 - link

    I asked Qualcomm in our briefing and they said it was "unchanged" at 4MB. So it seems the 3MB prior reporting was wrong.
  • ZolaIII - Wednesday, December 1, 2021 - link

    Really interested in seeing A510 metrics and impact of shared L2 cache and how it compare to older ARM small core's with shared L2. Old implementation whosent very good and leed to performance degradation when both core's where active and had to wait on it, that's why they abandoned it in the first place.
  • ceisserer - Wednesday, December 1, 2021 - link

    What a boring release - especially keeping in mind the 888 wasn't that overwheling either.
    No AV1 decode in 2022 (?!?!?!) and just 20% faster cores - guess I'l keep my Snapdragon 835 powered phone for another year, or if it dies, buy a Mediatek Dimensitry 9000 based one...
  • defaultluser - Wednesday, December 1, 2021 - link

    The worst part of this : Qualcomm is still stuck on Samsung for the foreseeable future.

    The Dimensitry 9000 will be more efficient TSMC part!

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