Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 unveiled: faster, more efficient, with ray tracing and Wi-Fi 7

Today the Qualcomm team unveiled its new flagship – the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset. Performance has been improved on all fronts compared to the Gen 1 model – performance that we will soon experience as the first devices based on the Gen 2 are just around the corner.

This chip is formally known as the SM8550-AB and is fabbed on a 4nm node. Here are more details about its components.

CPU and GPU

Qualcomm has focused on improving power efficiency, but the new chip still brings appreciable speed-ups. The new Kryo CPU trio delivers up to 35% higher performance with up to 40% higher efficiency.

The clock speeds are the same as on the 8+ Gen 1, but the core composition is not. The single Kryo Prime core (based on Cortex-X3) runs at 3.2GHz (3.1872GHz to be exact) to deliver high single-threaded performance. This time around, however, it is backed by four Performance cores (instead of three) to better handle multi-threaded workloads – these cores run at 2.8GHz. Finally, there are three (not four) Efficiency cores at 2.0GHz.

The Gen 2 brings support for new, faster memory technologies. For RAM it works with LP-DDR5X at up to 4,200MHz (up from LP-DDR5 at 3,200MHz). For storage it can use the new UFS 4.0 format (up from UFS 3.1).

The latest Adreno GPU promises up to 25% higher performance with up to 45% higher power efficiency. It also brings support for hardware accelerated ray tracing to the Snapdragon platform. Now that ray tracing hardware is available from the major chipset vendors for Android, we may see mobile game developers embrace the new tech like they did on PC and console. Also, this GPU is the first to support Vulkan 1.3 (along with OpenGL ES 3.2).

Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 unveiled: faster, more efficient, has ray tracing and Wi-Fi 7

The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 can drive on-device displays with QHD+ resolution at up to 144Hz or 4K ones at up to 60Hz. It also supports external displays up to 4K at 60Hz (with 10-bit Rec. 2020 color gamut, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision to boot). Qualcomm also finally enabled AV1 video decoding – streams up to 8K at 60fps (with HDR) are supported.

Cameras

Qualcomm boasts that Sony sensors with Digital Overlap HDR (DOL-HDR) and Samsung’s 200MP HP3 have been optimized to work with the Snapdragon ISP. Like its predecessor, the Gen 2 brings a triple 18-bit ISP that can handle up to three 36MP cameras (30fps) simultaneously or go up to 200PM for a single camera. 108MP sensors are supported with zero shutter lag.

For video, the chipset can record 8K HDR footage at 30fps (and capture 64MP photos simultaneously), 4K at 120fps and do slow-motion videos too (720p at 960fps). It supports several HDR formats including HDR10+, HLG and Dolby Vision. Using DOL sensors, it can capture up to four exposures for each frame of video.

Connectivity

The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 upgrades to the new Snapdragon X70 modem. It supports both mmWave and sub-6GHz 5G, of course. Its peak downlink speeds are 10Gbps, peak uplink is 3.5Gbps (similar to its predecessor).

This modem supports Dual-SIM, Dual-Active (DSDA) operation where two 5G SIMs (or 5G+4G) are active at the same time.

Local connectivity brings features the upcoming Wi-Fi 7 standard (802.11be), thanks to the new FastConnect 78000 system. It tops out at 5.8Gbps (up from 3.6Gbps on the previous chip). Besides speed, the new standard also lowers latency (Qualcomm calls it “wire-like”).


Snapdragon 8 Gen 2's FastConnect 7800 system brings Wi-Fi 7 and low-latency Bluetooth

Snapdragon 8 Gen 2’s FastConnect 7800 system brings Wi-Fi 7 and low-latency Bluetooth

As before, the FastConnect system has Bluetooth 5.3 connectivity. With the latest Snapdragon Sound system it can deliver 48kHz lossless music streaming as well as the lowest-ever 48ms latency for gaming.

There isn’t much to report on for wired connectivity – the chip does USB 3.1 with Quick Charge 5 (which is just a wrapper around the USB Power Delivery standard).

AI

The new Hexagon processor introduces support for a new INT4 format for the first time on a mobile Qualcomm chip. It promises 60% better performance per Watt than previous techniques.

The Hexagon is faster in general too – Qualcomm claims that AI performance has been increased 4.35x. That power can be roped into helping the camera by recognizing which parts of the image are a face, hair, clothes, background and so on and applying processing differently to them.

Coming soon

The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 will be adopted by major Android makers, Qualcomm lists the following in its press release: Asus ROG, Honor, iQOO, Motorola, nubia, OnePlus, Oppo, Red Magic, Sharp, Sony, vivo, Xiaomi, Meizu and ZTE.

Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 unveiled: faster, more efficient, has ray tracing and Wi-Fi 7

It goes on to say that the first phones based on the Gen 2 will be available before the end of this year, but doesn’t say which makers will be first. There is no mention of Samsung and the upcoming S23 series.

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