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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  • ikjadoon - Tuesday, November 30, 2021 - link

    Source for the earnings pre-tax,
  • garblah - Tuesday, November 30, 2021 - link

    So assuming AV1 really does take off, will my S22 Ultra with QC SoC be able to play 1440p AV1 video on youtube without dropping frames? Probably so right?

    But I guess the battery drain will be considerably worse than if it had decoding via dedicated hardware? Probably bad enough that I would want to direct youtube to use the VP9 or AVC video if that's possible.

    Puts a small damper on the idea of keeping that phone for 3 or 4 years, especially if AV1 is widely used outside of youtube.
  • scarp - Wednesday, December 1, 2021 - link

    Big damper! No AV1 decoding meaning you practically can't play it. No worthiness at all with such a flagship phone because of humungous sacrifice if insisting in playing AV1. Or even if you try like the demanding AV1 videos, it wouldn't manage due to inability even if you are ok to sacrifice whatever it takes. Simply unable to accomplish is all in such scenario.
  • linuxgeex - Wednesday, December 1, 2021 - link

    It will do 10-bit 1440p no problem at all. AV1 was designed to be relatively lightweight to decode. In fact on my 2016 iPad Mini I can play 1080p 10-bit AV1 without issues, but it chokes on 10-bit 1080p HEVC. Android SOCs are about 3 years behind Apple for single thread but they're usually only about 1 year behind in multi-thread. So 1440p will be a walk in the park.
  • ksec - Wednesday, December 1, 2021 - link

    >AV1 was designed to be relatively lightweight to decode.

    That is not even remotely true.
  • heffeque - Wednesday, December 1, 2021 - link

    So true. I have an i7-8550U that can't handle 10bit 4K AV1 videos (it's dropping frames on normal scenes, and completely worthless on complex scenes).
  • BlueSwordM - Friday, December 3, 2021 - link

    Actually, it is.

    Utilizing dav1d, AV1 decode is faster than HEVC decode using the fastest currently available decoder ffhevc at the same bitrates.
  • vladx - Friday, December 3, 2021 - link

    A decoder can't be faster once it stops dropping any frames, instead it can consume less power if it's implemented in hardware instead of software.
  • mode_13h - Saturday, December 4, 2021 - link

    If it takes fewer microseconds to decode the frame and spends more time sitting idle, then it's faster.
  • realbabilu - Wednesday, December 1, 2021 - link

    While it need to be checked against av1 hardware decode capable mediatek dimensity 1200 mi11t. But it is 1080p device.

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