Smartphones based on Qualcomm’s upcoming Snapdragon 888 processor will be able to take advantage of simultaneous recording and HDR using three different cameras, a creative feature that gives consumers and content creators additional options to capture the perfect photo and video. It is one of the many new features in the new Snapdragon 888 mobile chip, which includes 5G onboard.
The Snapdragon series represents the greatest opposition to Apple’s iPhone and its A-series processors, powering rivals such as the Samsung Galaxy S20 and OnePlus 8. The new Snapdragon 888 will ship with flagship smartphones starting in Q1 of 2021.
Qualcomm unveiled the Snapdragon 888 and its core capabilities in the Snapdragon Technology Summit virtual keynote. The company spent Wednesday studying the capabilities of the chip.
The Snapdragon 888 will continue to expand on its different axes: compute performance, graphics performance, AI, and more. Qualcomm says the chip will be manufactured in a new 5nm process, giving the new Kryo 680 CPU core 25 percent faster performance than its predecessor, and the new Adreno 660 core 35 percent faster. A hundred faster than before. The 888 also includes the Hexagon 780, the new Spectra 580 ISP, and the integrated X60 5G modem, the first time a Snapdragon 8 series has an integrated 5G modem.
What’s In The Snapdragon 888?
Below is a high-level overview of the Snapdragon 888. Feel free to use our table of contents to get ahead of what all this means in terms of real-world features, or check out our coverage of the previous Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 for more detailed information.
- Kryo 680 CPU: Octo-core architecture; 1 ARM Cortex-X1 (2.84 GHz, main) + 3 ARM Cortex A-78 (2.4 GHz, performance) + 4 ARM Cortex-A55 (1.8 GHz, efficiency)
- Memory support: integrated LPDDR5 (3200 MHz), LPDDR4x (2133 MHz); up to 16GB
- Adreno 660 GPU: internal / external displays up to 4K / 60Hz or 3200×1800 / 144Hz; HDR10 + support; 10-bit HDR gaming, H.265 / VP9 hardware decoder
- Spectra 580 ISP: 200 MP photos (84 MP / 30 fps, single camera; 64 MP + 25 MP / 30 fps, dual camera; 28 MP / 30 fps, triple camera); 8K video recording at 30 fps; 4K video recording + 64MP photo; 720p slow motion at 960 fps
- Hexagon 780: total harmonic distortion + noise (THD + N) reproduction: -108dB
- Connectivity (5G): built-in X60 5G modem (7.5 Gbps down, 3 Gbps up, more than 5 G); mmWave (800 MHz bandwidth, 2×2 MIMO), Sub-6 GHz (200 MHz bandwidth, 4×4 MIMO); LTE support (CBRS, WCDMA, HSPA, TD-SCDMA, CDMA 1x, EV-DO, GSM / EDGE)
- Connectivity (Wi-Fi): FastConnect 6900 (Wi-Fi 6th / 802.11ax, 802.11ac), maximum speeds of 3.6 Gbps, 4K QAM, OFDMA; MU-MIMO (up to 8×8 MU-MIMO)
- Connectivity (Bluetooth): Bluetooth 5.2, with support for Qualcomm aptX voice specifications
- Qualcomm Sensing Hub (2nd generation): Always-on echo cancellation and far-field detection; support for multiple voice assistants
- Power: fast charging 5; Supports 100W chargers, can be charged up to 50% in 5 minutes
Unlike Snapdragon computer chips for Windows on Arm, the Kryo 680 CPU at the heart of the Snapdragon series has never been a priority for smartphone buyers, other than mobile gamers. However, with the Snapdragon 888, there are two main features: a new capability for sandbox applications within virtualization and a camera with CAI classification.
The Snapdragon 888 can use virtualization to isolate a potentially malicious application … or a wall of your work documents from your personal photos.
Virtualization allows your smartphone to function as both a working device and a personal device, with specific versions of the Android operating system for both. (Samsung’s Knox already has such a thing.) It also enables micro-OS for specific applications such as wireless payments, explains Ziad Asghar, vice president of product management at Qualcomm.
The Snapdragon 888 smartphones have also been rated as the first CAI compliant smartphone camera. The Content Authenticity Initiative and TruePic, as well as Adobe, Twitter, and the New York Times, we’re concerned that the photos would be stolen and altered without the photographer’s permission or knowledge. CAI will allow CAI-rated cameras to create a cryptographic “seal” around an image, Asghar said, preserving the date, time location, pixel count, and depth map.
The Kryo 680 is 25 percent faster than the Kryo core in the Snapdragon 865 and 25 percent more energy efficient.
Connectivity – 5G
From a connectivity point of view, the Snapdragon 888 is distinguished by three main functions: integrated 5G, carrier aggregation, and Wi-Fi 6E. To date, every 5G modem that Qualcomm has shipped along with Snapdragon has been a standalone device like last year’s X55 modem. The new third-generation X60 modem is integrated with the Snapdragon 888 and the Qualcomm FastConnect 6900 engine, which controls the Wi-Fi capabilities.
Qualcomm has not yet disclosed the total power consumption of its Snapdragon 888, but the new 5nm process, plus modem integration, generally means lower power consumption and longer battery life. However, the available performance remains the same as that of the X55: a theoretical maximum bandwidth of 7.5 Gbps downstream and 3 Gbps upstream.
Most importantly, Qualcomm’s third-generation X60 modem offers something of an olive branch between 5G mmWave and sub-6GHz technologies. In essence, mmWave offers lightning-fast performance but clusters around “hot spots” with a range limited to yards rather than miles. (Qualcomm and Ericsson have shown 5G mmWave-NR technology with more than 100 Mbits at 5 km, although it has not been commercially implemented.) Operators like T-Mobile have implemented the so-called “sub-6” 5G; it provides coverage somewhat similar to 4G LTE, but with higher bandwidth.
However, as TECHnysis analyst Bob O’Donnell points out, T-Mobile’s “5G” speeds are powered by a technology called 5G NR Dual Connectivity, which links existing 4G wireless channels to 5G, enabling rapid growth. And dirt on the bandwidth that’s about 20 percent faster. The 4G “anchor band” will eventually disappear, leaving 5G operators operating in so-called “standalone mode.”
The X60 enables what is known as sub-6 carrier aggregation, combining multiple sub-6GHz channels, increasing availability at all times without the need for mmWave coverage. According to Qualcomm, operators in the United States are currently adding that capacity. The X60 also supports mmWave-sub6 aggregation for even more bandwidth, but US carriers will be rolling it out in late 2021.
On Tuesday, Qualcomm demonstrated the power of the Snapdragon 888 and its 5G radios by racing RC cars from a mile away.
Don’t forget Wi-Fi 6E. The FastConnect 6900 now supports the 6 GHz channel that Wi-Fi 6E has added. Mesh routers have used Wi-Fi 6E’s 6 GHz channel as a dedicated return channel to the home gateway, uninterrupted by the mishmash of 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz communication Wi-Fi 6 routers. Smartphones using the Snapdragon 888 can also access it.
Other notable features are Bluetooth 5.2 with not one but two antennas. Released last January, Bluetooth 5.2 lowers power consumption, improves audio quality, and most importantly, adds multi-stream audio, which allows you to stream music to a public speaker while still receiving a private call on your Bluetooth headphones.
For many, the smartphone camera remains one of the most important criteria when buying a smartphone. With the Snapdragon 888, you’ll see an update in how the smartphone camera captures images and videos: faster and smarter focus, better low-light capabilities, and computational HDR for 4K video. Everything is made possible by the new Spectra 580 image processor in the Snapdragon 888.
The company says an image signal processor with three motors makes the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888’s camera work.
The Spectra 580 will capture three 28MP photos simultaneously from three smartphone cameras. 4K / 120 fps (at 12 MP at 20 fps) video recording and playback are supported, or a user can shoot 120 still images in one second. In total, Qualcomm claims that the Spectra 580 is 35 percent faster than its predecessor and can process 2.7 gigapixels per second.
However, it’s the triple engine that really makes the difference, according to Qualcomm. Previous Spectra ISPs allowed one phone to simultaneously capture images and videos from two or three cameras, even with three lenses to choose from wide-angle, ultra-wide-angle, and telephoto. With the Spectra 580, all three cameras can record simultaneously, meaning you can switch between the cameras while playing. Video using a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 powered phone will also be able to be captured and played back at 120 fps, a capability that the previous Snapdragon 865 lacked.
By recording three different images at once, the smartphone camera can also compare those three different images based on HDR. So-called tiered HDR sensors have been used in other cameras but are making their way to mobile devices. When they do, smartphones with the Snapdragon 888 will record video using the three different cameras, capturing the details of the light and dark image and combining them quickly enough to enable 4K video with computational HDR applied to every frame, instead of just a still image.
Last year, Qualcomm began to signal that it would align its AI expertise with its camera capabilities, and we see more evidence for that. This is the first time that AI activates its so-called 3A functions (autofocus, automatic exposure, and automatic white balance). Qualcomm said it had trained its autofocus capabilities using neural networks and virtual reality. That part of an image that a human is naturally focused on will be used as the model for your smartphone camera’s focus.
Qualcomm also said it had partnered with Arcsoft, a developer of embedded firmware and imaging applications, to automatically zoom and reduce it to the most important element in the photo, according to the camera. Imagine a camera following a bride as she walks down the aisle, with the smartphone using all three cameras to automatically keep the bride’s face in the same proportions as she approaches.
An overview of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 Camera Features.
You’ll also see improved still images with the Spectra 580 – richer 10-bit photo capture is now available in the HEIF file format (with 1 billion hues), compared to just 8-bit tonemap JPEG. Finally, Qualcomm has also promised that it will adapt its artificial intelligence and image processing capabilities to capture images with as little as 0.1 lux, resulting in better “night vision” and similar features on phones with Snapdragon technology.
Qualcomm said it had partnered with Morpho to develop another unique feature: apply AI to multiple elements of a scene. Have you used phones that apply “beauty mode” to a horizontal or vertical screen? The 888 can apply multiple modes to a single scene, so a photo of a child running in a field enhances the person, grass, and sky in a single scene.
The Snapdragon 888 uses the Adreno 660 GPU, a chip Qualcomm describes as 35 percent faster in terms of display and 20 percent more energy-efficient than its predecessor, within the Snapdragon 865.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 is the first Snapdragon processor to implement variable-rate shading (VRS), a technique that Nvidia helped introduce with its RTX 2xxx (Turing) GPUs. VRS works in the same way as foveated rendering in VR; in any case, the processing power is concentrated in an area where the game knows your eye is looking and uses much less rendering where your eye isn’t looking. (This 3DMark video explains VRS technology in more detail.) Qualcomm says it can reduce the number of pixels to hatch by about 30 percent, allowing the 888 to render a scene faster than usual, resulting in faster frame rates. (Within 865, Qualcomm claimed it could reach up to 144fps.)
That’s not the only feature Qualcomm has borrowed from its desktop GPU cousins. Just as Brad Chacos tested the latency of a (non-touch) screen introduced in games, Qualcomm has been working to minimize the latency that a touchscreen can introduce.
Qualcomm Quick Touch is designed to minimize touch latency in mobile games.
Qualcomm Game Quick Touch is a new feature that significantly reduces touch latency by synchronizing the game’s refresh rate with touch input to prevent “delay frames” from slowing down the corresponding touch input. Touch latency can be reduced by up to 20 percent in games at 60 fps, explains Dave Durnil, Qualcomm’s Senior Director of Engineering and Head of Games. It’s all aimed at the mobile esports community and the 2.6 billion mobile gamers around the world.
AI remains one of the most abstract functions within a desktop computer and mobile processor. The sixth-generation AI engine improvements in the Snapdragon 888’s Hexagon 780 processor also seem abstract. Qualcomm claims the motor now delivers up to 26 trillion operations per second (TOPS). “That’s more than any other product on the market, and it’s in fact the biggest leap for Snapdragon from year to year from an artificial intelligence perspective,” said Asghar.
Placing scalar, tensor, and vector accelerators side by side allows workloads to be shared between them. This helps improve the 888’s scalar performance by 50 percent, Asghar said. AI-powered features, such as those processed by the Adreno 660 GPU, are accelerated by 43 percent. The Hexagon DSP also works with the so-called second-generation Qualcomm Sensing Hub, which integrates a special low-power artificial intelligence processor to enable use cases such as screen activation and detect whether your fingers are actually communicating with the phone. Smartphone and your screen or simply brushing away. In other words; The phone can also detect if you are in a quiet room or a busy airport and adjust the ring volume together.
Qualcomm also showed a demo from Trinamic, a division of BASF, that it could even use your phone’s sensors to examine and analyze your skin and detect which skin product to use that day.
Last year, Qualcomm also announced the 765G and 765, which offer a smaller subset of features at a lower price. Qualcomm has not announced these less powerful processors for cheaper smartphones. We hope to see you soon.
So which phone device is likely to use this Qualcomm Snapdragon 888?
Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 Phones: Predictions
According to TechRadar, below are some flagship devices that are expected to be compatible with this high-end chipset.
Asus Zenfone 8
Looking at Asus’ 2020 phones, this Zenfone 7 was the main phone with the 865 chip, making sense for the Zenfone 8 (when it launches); it will ship with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888. It’s worth noting that Asus also has its ROG focus lineup in the games. But previous generations have used an updated ‘plus’ variant of Qualcomm’s high-end chip, so keep an eye out for the 888+ in 2021.
Black Shark 4, Black Shark 4 Pro
Xiaomi owned Black Shark will be particularly interested in the new Snapdragon Elite Gaming features in the Snapdragon 888 when building gaming-centric smartphones. We wouldn’t be surprised if the Black Shark 4 comes out with a 144Hz display for an ultra-smooth refresh rate.
LG V70 ThinQ 5G
LG no longer has its G-series flagship phones, but the V-series high-end phones are still solid, and the next to hit the market is the LG V70 ThinQ. It will be interesting to see what LG can do with the Snapdragon 888 as the South Korean company tends to think outside the box for some truly unique offerings.
Motorola Edge + 2
Motorola’s most exciting phone of 2020 was the Razr 5G foldable. Still, it features a Snapdragon 7 series chip, making only the Edge + the only recent Moto phone with Qualcomm’s best chip inside. With that in mind, we expect the successor to this device to ship with the Snapdragon 888. The company has said that a Moto G model will have an 800 series chipset, but we can imagine it will be an older version.
OnePlus 9, OnePlus 9 Pro
The OnePlus launch schedule has become predictable over the years. We fully expect the Chinese manufacturer to succeed in the 2020s 8 and 8 Pro with the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro in 2021 with the Snapdragon 888.
Oppo Find X3, Oppo Find X3 Pro
Oppo has confirmed that its next Find X flagship will use the Snapdragon 888. It didn’t reveal the phone’s full name, but it almost certainly means the Oppo Find X3 and probably the Oppo Find X3 Pro as well. This Find X flagship is expected to land in the first quarter of 2021.
Realme has confirmed that a handset code-named ‘Race’ will be one of the first to use the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 so it will likely launch soon – while this is a codename, it may not be called the Realme Race if it does. is. Nothing else is known about the phone for sure, but leaks suggest it has 12 GB of RAM and a four-lens camera.
Sony Xperia 1 III
Questionable names aside, Sony’s flagship smartphones tend to have great camera focus, so we expect it to take advantage of the new ISP features on the Snapdragon 888 for its next handset – which is likely the Sony Xperia. 1 III will be.
Xiaomi Mi 11
Xiaomi has confirmed that the Xiaomi Mi 11 will be one of the first handsets to be launched with Snapdragon 888.
We expect manufacturers to be confirmed in the coming months as well.
One of the big names missing from the first list is Samsung, and it’s worth noting that the Galaxy Z Fold 2 and Galaxy Z Flip both use Qualcomm’s best Snapdragon chips around the world.
Even if the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy Note 21 are equipped with Samsung’s own Exynos processors, we could very well see the next generation of foldable phones include the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888.