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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  • mode_13h - Friday, December 3, 2021 - link

    They should get him to recruit his replacement, before letting him go!

    BTW, his twitter profile says he's in Luxembourg? I always sorta wondered. Wow.
  • GeoffreyA - Saturday, December 4, 2021 - link

    That's a good idea.
  • mode_13h - Sunday, December 5, 2021 - link

    At the very least, I hope he trains any future reviewer in his test tools & methodologies.
  • GeoffreyA - Monday, December 6, 2021 - link

    I wonder if Anandtech has found anybody as yet. This will be a blow to the site's mobile coverage.
  • mode_13h - Tuesday, December 7, 2021 - link

    Yeah, I noticed the same thing.
  • Arbie - Thursday, December 2, 2021 - link

    Charlie at SemiAccurate has a very different view on this; worth a read and not paywalled.
  • Kangal - Thursday, December 2, 2021 - link

    That was a fun read. I forgot that site existed.
    Even Google Search buries them.
  • mode_13h - Friday, December 3, 2021 - link

    IMO, it's their own fault. I hate the way they tease on the public side of the paywall, especially when the subscriptions are so expensive that only a few investors and industry insiders would bother to pay it.

    The other thing they should do is make the older articles free. Especially when Charlie references them in his gloats about being right, which were pretty much the only free articles they had at the last time I stopped checking. It hurts his own case, if you cannot go back and actually read the article to see what he had said.

    The thing that bugs me most about Charlie is that he's not good at keeping a level of detachment. He lets his opinions color his reporting, too much. I don't mind the he has opinions and that he's vocal about them, but he does his readers a disservice when he's not clear about the facts he's gathered vs. his interpretation and projections. And I don't trust him to report facts that run counter to his opinions. It just reads almost like a semiconductor industry tabloid, rather than a credible resource.

    Yet, in spite of all that, I'd still probably kick him $10/year to read the stuff. Maybe that's what he needs: a tiered subscription, where the top tier gets articles as they're published, the next tier gets them after 30 days, the bottom tier gets them after 90 days, and they're free after 180 days or a year.
  • yankeeDDL - Saturday, December 4, 2021 - link

    I completely agree on the peak-performance/consumption remarks.
    I think that with Snapdragons being so far behind the Bionic (I'd say easily 1-2 generations in terms of performance) it is no wonder that vendors look to ... cheat the benchmarks. Already today it is a sore sight looking at the 888 vs the A15 and A14, and that is with the 888 in "furnace" mode.

    I don't understand how we can be at a point where a market leader like Qualcomm is simply unable to come anywhere in the neighborhood of what a single team at Apple can do. It's quite amazing actually. So until they get their acts together and create some architecture that can at least compete side-bi-side, without going nuclear, with Apple, this issue won't go away.
  • yeeeeman - Sunday, December 5, 2021 - link

    When do we get a performance preview?

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