Thursday, September 28, 2023

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 leans towards AI

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Qualcomm has announced all the details of its next flagship chipset, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, with a focus on better and more efficient performance for AI related tasks. That extends from the updated AI-centric Hexagon processor to smarter image processing and a new modem designed to squeeze the best performance out of 5G networks. It also supports Wi-Fi 7 as the numbers just keep climbing.

Compared to the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, the Gen 2’s Kryo CPU contains one prime core based on Arm Cortex-X3 at 3.2 GHz. There are also four performance cores (one more than last year) at 2.8 GHz and three efficiency cores at 2.0 GHz – all between 200 and 300 MHz faster than last year’s hardware. Qualcomm says the CPU is 35 percent faster than the previous generation, with 40 percent power savings. Likewise, the Adreno GPU is up to 25 percent faster with 45 percent better power efficiency. The whole chip is built on a 4nm process, like the Gen 1.

Qualcomm says it has made improvements throughout the Hexagon processor for up to 4.35x faster AI performance. Qualcomm also claims it can handle more complex tasks, such as translating a language into multiple languages ​​in real time.

The “always-on” camera feature has been renamed to a less creepy “always-sensing”

Just as we started getting on board with Wi-Fi 6, Qualcomm jumped ahead and added Wi-Fi 7 – the 8 Gen 2 is the first system on a chip to support it. The Snapdragon X70 modem announced at Mobile World Congress earlier this year is also on board, with its own AI processor to boost 5G coverage and speed. The X70 also allows dual active 5G SIM cards, meaning you can use two different 5G networks at the same time. More bars in more places indeed.

On the audio side, there’s now support for dynamic spatial audio, so the sound moves with you as you move your head with compatible earbuds. It’s a new addition to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Sound platform, but something already offered by the likes of LG, Samsung and Apple. You’ll probably need compatible headphones to do the head-tracking part. For gaming, the chipset now supports hardware-based real-time ray tracing for more realistic lighting and reflections; companies including Oppo and Asus will support it in upcoming devices.

The company’s Spectra Image Signal Processor is now labeled “Cognitive ISP,” with the ability to use real-time semantic segmentation for photos and videos. This helps the imaging system identify different types of subjects in an image and apply the correct image tuning. In theory, it helps the camera distinguish between things like faces, hair, and skies, and make color adjustments to each individually as the image is captured. This could make it easier to predict what a final photo will look like in the viewfinder as you shoot it – before software image processing does its job. Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 is also tuned to support new image sensors from Sony and Samsung, the two companies that make basically every smartphone camera sensor.

Oddly enough, the 8th Gen 2 supports 8K video capture and playback, but support on the device and on the external display reaches 4K, so… good luck watching your 8K footage.

The “always-on” camera feature introduced with the Gen 1 has been renamed to a less creepy “always-sensing”, and it supports things like automatically hiding notifications when it detects someone else looking at your phone screen.

There’s now support for dynamic spatial audio, so the sound moves with you as you move your head

Qualcomm’s list of partners for the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 includes the usual suspects like Motorola, Oppo and Asus’ Republic of Gamers brand, though Samsung is conspicuously missing from the list. It’s not clear if upcoming S23 flagships will feature the 8 Gen 2 globally early rumors indicate or whether Samsung will continue to use its own Exynos chipset in models sold outside the US. At least we won’t have to wait for the S23 to arrive to see the latest from Qualcomm – the company says the new chipset will arrive on devices before the end of 2022.

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