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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  • name99 - Thursday, December 2, 2021 - link

    AVC is not competing with 265! Get that through your head.
    The competitors are VVC (if you pay a royalty) or EVC (if you want royalty-free).
    You won't impress anyone by attacking a strawman.
  • GeoffreyA - Friday, December 3, 2021 - link

    I know that VVC is the competitor, but was stunned by the claim that H.265 does better than AV1 in 4K, so had to test that.
  • GeoffreyA - Friday, December 3, 2021 - link

    Also noted various times that VVC was the top codec.
  • mode_13h - Friday, December 3, 2021 - link

    > AVC is not competing with 265!

    I guess you mean "AV1 is not competing...". AVC is actually h.264.
  • BlueSwordM - Friday, December 3, 2021 - link

    Nah, vladx is just wrong in this regard.
  • RSAUser - Sunday, December 5, 2021 - link

    @vladx, wrong, AV1 gives a better image at lower bandwidth for all resolutions than HEVC, issue was encode/decode overhead, and with SV1 it seems AV1 has "beaten" HEVC even there.
  • Kamen Rider Blade - Wednesday, December 1, 2021 - link

    EVC > AV1.

    H.266 VVC if you want the best.

    EVC if you want 2nd best that is also free and better than AV1.
  • brucethemoose - Wednesday, December 1, 2021 - link

    I was not impressed with the EVC benchmarks I saw, though it also seems a bit undercooked.
  • Kamen Rider Blade - Wednesday, December 1, 2021 - link

    H.266 VVC is going to take over for the commercial side.

    MPEG 5's EVC is "Royalty Free" w/ a Enhance EVC that has paid for features that you can go A-la Carte on.

    EVC is going to probably dominate those who want a "Royalty Free" CODEC that has better compression ratio than H.265, while maintaing comparable or better image quality.
  • vlad42 - Wednesday, December 1, 2021 - link

    After h.265, I'll believe it when I see it. Everyone seems to have already announced support for AV1 (youtube, twitch, netflix, amaxon prime, etc). Given there has been no hype/media coverage of h.266 (i didn't even know it was a thing as there has been no anandtech coverage), it seems like the commercial side has already decided on AV1 as the next gen codec.

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