Qualcomm yesterday officially announced its Snapdragon 888 5G mobile platform, which will be unveiled in a wide range of leading Android devices next year. Unfortunately, Qualcomm at the time did not provide much detail about its new SoC, other than saying it would have the next generation Snapdragon X60 5G modem-RF system.
Today, however, Qualcomm is poised to shed the core architecture of the Snapdragon 888 5G mobile platform and how it will enhance next-generation devices. There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s get started with the Kryo 680 CPU and Adreno 660 GPU.
Improved performance with the Kryo 680 and Adreno 660
At the heart of the Snapdragon 880 is the Kryo 680 CPU, which Qualcomm claims provides up to 25 percent better than the Kryo 585 CPU found in the current Snapdragon 865. More importantly, the Kryo 680 is based on Arm’s powerful Cortex-X1 architecture. could reach clocks up to 2.84 GHz, which we first talked about earlier this year. Similarly, a CPU can support up to 16 GB of LPDDR4x-2133 memory or LPDDR5-3200 memory as it becomes increasingly present.
The Adreno 660 GPU isn’t like that either, and promises a 35 percent performance boost over the Adreno 650 GPU in the Snapdragon 865. The Snapdragon 888 is built on an advanced, more advanced 5nm process node (putting it on a flat keel) with Apple’s A14 Bionic and Apple M1 SoCs), and as such, Qualcomm says the Kryo 680 and Adreno 660 are now able to maintain higher levels of performance for longer before it dims. Improved ongoing performance should be good news, especially for mobile gamers who want the best performance from their devices to maintain high frame rates and offer a smooth, consistent experience.
In keeping with the theme of the games, the Snapdragon 888 is also fully aligned with the Snapdragon Elite Gaming platform. But the Snapdragon 888 now has some new tricks up its sleeve with the addition of Variable Rate Shading (VRS), which is the first for smartphones. Its inclusion here can provide up to a 30 percent improvement in rendering performance with games and applications that use that technology.
Using a more advanced 5nm manufacturing process, along with architectural enhancements, Qualcomm also claims to significantly improve efficiency and wattage performance for the Snapdragon 888. Even with increased performance, battery life should be strong on the platform.
Wireless connectivity is enabled, including faster support for 5G and Wi-Fi 6E
The Snapdragon 888 5G mobile platform includes one major improvement over its predecessor in terms of connectivity, and it relates to the 5G modem. With the Snapdragon 865, the Snapdragon X55 5G modem was a separate chip that took up extra space on smartphone motherboards while achieving little success in energy efficiency. Following the single-chip 5G solutions released during 2020, including the Snapdragon 765 and Snapdragon 690, the Snapdragon 888 includes an integrated, class-leading 5G modem.
In this case we look at 3rd generation Snapdragon X60 5G modem-RF system, which supports mmWave and bands below 6GHz. Downlink speeds have been increased to a maximum of 7.5 GHz, while uplink speeds have been increased to 3Gbps. The Snapdragon X60 also supports all the latest wireless technologies, including 5G operator aggregation, a global multi-SIM card, and dynamic spectrum sharing. This means that next year’s leading smartphones — as long as they include the necessary hardware for the mmWave antenna — will be able to connect to any 5G network around the world.
There’s also support for Wi-Fi 6 and the new Wi-Fi 6E, which should become more common in 2021 and later. The Wi-Fi 6E runs on the new unlicensed 6 GHz band and provides higher bandwidth (maximum speeds are tied to 3.6 Gbps). It also rounds out the integrated Bluetooth 5.2 wireless radio.
The Snapdragon 888 AI and camera operations will also get boost
Although the CPU and GPU are the main components of every new Snapdragon mobile platform, we can’t forget the AI and ISP (Image Signal Processor) engines. The Snapdragon 888 5G mobile platform introduces the new 6th generation of Hexagon 780 processors, which Qualcomm claims offers a 3x increase in performance per watt compared to the AI engine found in the Snapdragon 865.
The Hexagon 780 can deliver 26 TOPS computing performance and works in conjunction with 2nd generation Qualcomm Sensing Hub, which manages low-power operations in a more efficient way than previous-generation chips (i.e., screen activation, activity detection, etc.). Qualcomm even uses the Hexagon 780 to enable what it calls AI Enhanced Call Noise Suppression, which you can see in action in the video above.
As for the camera subsystem, the Snapdragon 888 carries the Spectra 580 ISP with it. This new ISP can record data from up to three cameras simultaneously, up to 2.7 gigapixels per second. Remarkably, this is enough horsepower to allow users to record three simultaneous 4K HDR videos or three 28 MP images at once. Photo capture has also been enhanced with 10-bit color depths with support for HEIF image formats.
As is typical with the new flagship Snapdragon SoC releases, the first smartphones to use the Snapdragon 888 5G mobile platform will arrive in the first quarter of 2021. We would imagine that Samsung’s Galaxy S21 series and OnePlus 9 series will be among the first to adopt this powerful new mobile computer platform and we look forward to what we will do first hand.
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