Qualcomm officially announced its Snapdragon 888 5G mobile platform yesterday, which will be featured in a wide range of flagship Android devices next year. Unfortunately, Qualcomm didn’t provide many details on its new SoC at the time, other than to say that it would include the next-generation Snapdragon X60 5G-modem-RF system.
Today, however, Qualcomm is set to unveil the underlying architecture of the Snapdragon 888 5G mobile platform and how it will advance next-gen devices. There’s a lot to unbox here, so let’s start with the Kryo 680 processor and the Adreno 660 GPU.
Boost performance with Kryo 680 and Adreno 660
At the heart of Snapdragon 880 is the Kryo 680 processor, which Qualcomm claims provides up to 25% boost over the Kryo 585 processor found in the current Snapdragon 865. Most importantly, Kryo 680 is based on Arm’s powerful Cortex-X1 architecture which is capable of reaching clock speeds of up to 2.84 GHz, which we first talked about earlier this year. Likewise, the processor can support up to 16 GB of LPDDR4x-2133 or LPDDR5-3200 memory when it becomes more prevalent.
The Adreno 660 GPU is not that genre either and promises a 35% increase in performance over the Adreno 650 GPU in the Snapdragon 865. The Snapdragon 888 is made on a more advanced and cutting edge 5nm process node. of technology (putting it on a uniform keel with Apple A14 bionic and Apple M1 SoC), and as such, Qualcomm claims that the Kryo 680 and Adreno 660 are now able to maintain higher performance levels for longer periods before throttling. The sustained performance improvement should be good news, especially for mobile gamers who want to get the best performance from their devices to maintain high frame rates and deliver a smooth, consistent experience.
In keeping with the theme of the game, the Snapdragon 888 is also fully compatible with the Snapdragon Elite Gaming platform. But the Snapdragon 888 now has new strengths in its bag with the addition of Variable Rate Shading (VRS), a first for smartphones. Its inclusion here can boost rendering performance by up to 30% with games and apps that exploit the technology.
Using a more advanced 5nm manufacturing process, in conjunction with architectural improvements, Qualcomm also claims a significant improvement in efficiency and performance per watt for the Snapdragon 888. Even with its increased performance, the duration battery life should be high on the platform.
Wireless connectivity abounds, including faster 5G and 6E Wi-Fi support
The Snapdragon 888 5G Mobile platform includes a major improvement over its predecessor when it comes to connectivity, and it concerns the 5G modem. With the Snapdragon 865, the Snapdragon X55 5G modem was a separate chip that took up additional space on smartphone motherboards while providing a small boost in energy efficiency. Following on from the single-chip 5G solutions that were released in 2020 including the Snapdragon 765 and Snapdragon 690, the Snapdragon 888 also includes a leading integrated 5G modem.
In this case, we are looking at the 3rd generation Snapdragon X60 5G Modem-RF system, which supports mmWave and sub-6GHz bands. Downlink speeds have been increased to a maximum of 7.5 GHz, while uplink speeds reach 3 Gbps. The Snapdragon X60 also supports all the latest wireless technologies, including 5G carrier aggregation, global multi-SIM, and dynamic spectrum sharing. This means that next year’s flagship smartphones – as long as they include the required mmWave antenna hardware – will be able to connect to any 5G network in the world.
There is also support for Wi-Fi 6 and the newer ones. Wi-Fi 6E, which is expected to become widespread in 2021 and beyond. Wi-Fi 6E operates on the new unlicensed 6 GHz band and offers higher throughput (top speeds are set at 3.6 Gbps). To complete it all, a built-in Bluetooth 5.2 wireless radio.
Snapdragon 888 AI and Camera Ops also get a boost
While the CPU and GPU are the flagship components of any new Snapdragon mobile platform, we can’t forget the AI and ISP (Image Signal Processor) engines. Snapdragon 888 5G mobile platform presents the new 6e Generation Hexagon 780 processor, which Qualcomm claims delivers a 3x increase in performance per watt over the AI motor found in the Snapdragon 865.
Hexagon 780 can provide compute performance of 26 TOPS and works in connection with a 2sd The Qualcomm Sensing Hub generation, which handles low power operations more efficiently than the previous generation chips (i.e. screen activation, activity detection, etc.). Qualcomm even uses Hexagon 780 to enable what it calls AI-enhanced call noise cancellation, which you can see in action in the video above.
As for the camera subsystem, the Snapdragon 888 brings with it the Spectra 580 ISP. This new ISP is capable of capturing data from up to three cameras simultaneously, at up to 2.7 gigapixels per second. Remarkably, that’s enough power to allow users to capture three simultaneous 4K HDR videos, or three 28MP images at a time. Photo capture has also been improved with 10-bit color depths with support for HEIF image formats.
As is generally the case with new flagship versions of the Snapdragon SoC, the first smartphones to use the Snapdragon 888 5G mobile platform will arrive in the first quarter of 2021. We imagine the rumor from Samsung Galaxy s21 Series and Oneplus 9 Series will be among the first to adopt this powerful new mobile computing platform and we can’t wait to see what it can do firsthand.