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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  • Silver5urfer - Tuesday, November 30, 2021 - link

    It all depends on how it will perform in a phone chassis. SD888 was overheating mess. I hope this addresses it. Also "Desktop Capabilities" that gave a big laugh. The interesting thing is Adreno Control Panel.

    Still the games are going to be Android only which are mostly MTX garbage. I miss the era of nice Indie platformers, puzzles and innovate games like Edge Ex, Alto, Skyforce Reloaded. Who wants that COD junk in mobile again.

    A15 performance or not the real world is what I'm at. Gotta see how it's more efficient, the bragging performance metrics are useless when the phone barely gets the SOT improved. Qcomm is a much better choice than MediaTek solely because of CAF and OEM support for Kernel SRC and others. Sadly Samsung phones in US won't have any BL Unlock due to American Carrier Mafia.
  • TriniX10257 - Tuesday, November 30, 2021 - link

    Is it confirmed that there's no hardware AV1 decode support?
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Tuesday, November 30, 2021 - link

    It doesn't have it.
  • Frenetic Pony - Tuesday, November 30, 2021 - link

    Oh yay, your $1k+ flagship phone won't have a key update relevant to a major use case.
  • Silver5urfer - Wednesday, December 1, 2021 - link

    Not even A15 has it, So there's no need for Qcomm to put more money into it. As simple as that. AV1 this that I see this everywhere as the coming of next revolution. Upon checking it's not even that great on the old hardware to decode so no wonder not all Netflix, Amazon, Disney Plus, Apple nobody is strictly using that. They use VP9. As for game streaming, not even Ampere has the encoder.

    I doubt AV1 will be widespread before 2025. HEVC is used in BluRay 4K Discs. Nobody uses this new standard and it took a long time to transition from old codecs. So many BD rips do not use H.265 either, still the world is on H.264 or similar ones.
  • vladx - Wednesday, December 1, 2021 - link

    And Apple is actually part of AOM which defined AV1 and the successor AV2, which is even more laughable. Let's face it, HEVC&VVC have already won over AV1&AV2.
  • brucethemoose - Wednesday, December 1, 2021 - link

    I'm not sure what you're on about, as VVC usage is pretty much nonexistent. Big streamers don't want to touch it with a 10 foot pole, and the more "friendly" EVC seems kinda meh.

    If any codec "won," its h.264.
  • vladx - Thursday, December 2, 2021 - link

    VVC's competitor is the upcoming AV2 codec, not AV1. And while AV2 is still in the drafting stage, hardware supporting VVC decode has already been released.
  • syxbit - Thursday, December 2, 2021 - link

    I'm not sure why you're complaining and criticizing AV1 so much.
    AOM (who define AV1 etc..) has the backing of Amazon, Apple, AMD, ARM, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Intel, Nvidia, Samsung, Mozilla, Netflix, Youtube etc...

    It's no longer a battle. AOM have won. Netflix, Prime Video, Youtube etc.. will be using AV1. So either support it, or expect lower resolution or software decoded video that chews through your battery.
  • vladx - Thursday, December 2, 2021 - link

    Yeah they all support AOM with words but not all follow through, just look at Apple. HEVC is the winner in terms of adoption as hardware support beats claims made companies.

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