On the occasion of the traditional Snapdragon Tech Summit, Qualcomm presented its new high-end SoC. It is not called Snapdragon 875 as the rumors affirmed, but Snapdragon 888. A more symbolic choice than technical, since the new component takes again the fundamentals of Snapdragon 865. Explanations.
On December 1 and 2, Qualcomm organized the Snapdragon Tech Summit 2020. This big annual conference of the Californian founder is each year the opportunity to discover the component that will animate high-end smartphones (and some tablets) the following year. This year, sanitary circumstances prevent Qualcomm from holding its conference in Hawaii. The 2020 edition is therefore virtual, with conferences broadcast on the Qualcomm website, on Twitter and on YouTube.
Read also – iPhone, Android: TSMC and Samsung are already working on more autonomous and powerful 2nm chips
We therefore followed the opening keynote of the Snapdragon Tech Summit 2020 on Tuesday 01 December in order to find out the successor to the Snapdragon 865. Our expectations were, in part, fulfilled since the founder presented his high-end SoC. However, Qualcomm has not detailed all of the technical information about its new SoC. We had to wait for the second keynote to finally know everything about this new component.
Snapdragon 888: a symbolic name that marks the break
On the first day, Qualcomm formalized the name of the SoC. It’s called Snapdragon 888. Contrary to rumors, it will therefore not name Snapdragon 875. Qualcomm explains that the change in nomenclature is above all symbolic: the number 8 is important for IT specialists (it is the number of bits in a byte). However, this has no technical significance, unlike the switch between the Snapdragon 820 and the Snapdragon 835 (when the 800 range went from 4 to 8 cores).
As expected, the Snapdragon 888 is engraved in 5 nm to gain speed and gain energy. The founder is now Samsung, but Qualcomm does not rule out the hypothesis of working with TSMC to produce the component. By engraving its SoC in 5 nm, Qualcomm joined Apple with the A14 Bionic, Samsung with the Exynos 1080 and Huawei with the Kirin 9000. We had no doubt that the SoC would be engraved in 5nm. This is just confirmation.
Eight Kryo 680 cores and an Adreno 660 GPU
Now let’s move on to the pure technical sheet. And let’s start with the processors. The Snapdragon 888 takes over the configuration of the Snapdragon 865 with a very powerful core, three other powerful cores (but less) and four low-power cores for daily tasks. They are all called Kryo 680 (but with Prime, Gold, and Silver suffixes, as always). The first is ARM Cortex X1-based core. It is clocked at 2.84 GHz. The three intermediate cores are based on ARM Coertex-A78s. They are clocked at 2.4 GHz. The last four are based on ARM Cortex-A55s. They operate at 1.8 GHz.
Let’s move on to the GPU. The new graphics processor of the Snapdragon 888 is called Adreno 660. It is, according to Qualcomm, 35% more powerful and 20% less energy intensive. It is natively compatible with OpenGL, OpenCL and Vulkan, no surprise. It also supports HDR10, HDR10 + and Dolby Vision for videos and HDR for video games.
On the screen side, it is able to display 60 frames per second on a 4K screen and 144 frames per second on a Quad HD + screen. It is able to manage external screens whose definition cannot exceed 4K. The refresh rate is then 60 images per second. This screen can also be HDR10 or HDR10 +.
The founder confirms that it is Snapdragon Elite Gaming compatible. This means that the drivers for the integrated graphics card can be updated. The chipset supports the technology RSV (Variable Rate Shading) for better shadow management. And, always for gamers, Qualcomm announces the technology Game Quick Touch which reduces screen response time by 20%.
Spectra 580 Triple Image Coprocessor
Now let’s move on to the photo, one of Qualcomm’s big projects. The Snapdragon 865 is equipped with two image processors which operate simultaneously. This year, with the Spectra 580, the Snapdragon 888 goes further by adding a third coprocessor. This means that the SoC is able to support three photo or video streams simultaneously and can handle more pixels.
Photo sensors can offer a definition of up to 200 megapixels. Spectra 580 can record three videos at the same time with definition up to 28 megapixels at 30 frames per second, or two streams of 65 and 25 megapixels at 30 frames per second, or a single stream up to 84 megapixels at 30 images per second (i.e. in 8K). Slow-motion mode now rises to 960 frames per second in 720p and 120 frames per second in 4K. The burst mode goes up to 120 photos per second in 12 megapixels. The Video portrait mode is 4K HDR compatible.
The Snapdragon 888 integrates the Snapdragon X60 modem
Information unveiled on the first day, the Snapdragon 888 benefits from the latest 5G modem, the Snapdragon X60, replacing the Snapdragon X55. It is a modem compatible with the vast majority of frequency bands used for 5G, whether they are millimeter or less than 6 GHz, whether they are SA or NSA. The Snapdragon X60 can integrate multiple 5G SIM cards in a multi-SIM configuration (and no longer a single 5G card and one or two 4G cards). Theoretical flow rates are 7.5 Gbps download and 3 Gbps upload.
To continue on the connectivity, the Snapdragon 888 takes advantage of new versions of network connections. It thus supports the WiFI 6E (Mu-MIMO with an eight simultaneous connections), last iteration of the WIFi, and the Bluetooth 5.2. On the Bluetooth side, the Snapdragon 888 integrates the latest audio codecs including TrueWireless Mirroring for wireless headphones. Finally, the Snapdragon 888 is compatible with the vast majority of GPS systems: Galileo, Beidou, QZSS, Glonass, SBAS, etc. The energy consumption of the GPS has also been reduced. It is always that!
Hexagon 780: “merged” artificial intelligence
Besides the photo, one of Qualcomm’s big projects with the Snapdragon 888 is artificial intelligence and contextual interactions. In the first area, Qualcomm presented Hexagon 780, a new dedicated processor. The big difference between Hexagon 780 and Hexagon 698 (Snapdragon 865) is the architecture: previously, artificial intelligence applications were supported by three coprocessors dedicated to a different task. This time, the three coprocessors are merged so that each task takes advantage of the full computing capacity of the chipset. Result: the artificial intelligence unit can manage 26 trillion calculations per second (against 15,000 billion previously).
Alongside Hexagon 780, you will find ” Sensor Hub », The very low consumption coprocessor which constantly monitors the environment: screen activity, movement, sound, etc. Sensor Hub, here in its second version, records the information to transmit it to Hexagon which will deduce from the interactions. All more quickly, more effectively, more efficiently.
To end on this presentation of the Snapdragon 888, note that the SoC is the first to support Quick Charge 5.0 which promises a fast charge close to those of the cadets of the exercise (Oppo, OnePlus, Xiaomi). New layers of security have been incorporated, including the ability to split Android sessions (and no longer simply application sessions). Qualcomm calls this technology Hypervisor. The SoC also supports up to 16 GB of RAM (LP-DDR5 format) and supports USB 3.1 standard.
Smartphone brands in a supporting position
During the two keynotes, several manufacturers participated in the presentation in order to offer their support to the new high-end chipset and especially to its creator. The bosses of Sony Mobile and Xiaomi have both discussed the performance of their smartphones with the current Snapdragon 865. And they will certainly use the Snapdragon 888 to bring their next models to life. OnePlus, meanwhile, has already confirmed that its next “flagship killer” will run on Snapdragon 888. An open secret since the OnePlus 9 pro has been noticed on Geekbench with the component …
Here is the full list of manufacturers mentioned by Qualcomm during the Snapdragon Tech Summit: Oppo, OnePlus, Vivo, Xiaomi, Sharp, Sony, Motorola, Meizu, Black Shark, Nubia, Realme, LG, Asus and ZTE. In short, beautiful people. Among the models that should benefit from it include the OnePlus 9 and the Mi 11. In this long list, Samsung is not present, while the US version of the Galaxy S21 should benefit (in Europe we will certainly have an Exynos ).