Today, Qualcomm announced the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 SoC, the company’s flagship chip coming to many Android phones over the next few months. Besides the usual newer, better and hopefully faster cores, a big news is the addition of support for Wi-Fi 7 so you can get better wireless connection at home, provided to invest in a new router.
Qualcomm has claims for this new chip. The company claims the processor “improves performance by up to 35%” and has “up to 40% more power efficiency.” The GPU is said to “deliver up to 25% faster performance, with up to 45% better power efficiency”. Take both of these claims with a grain of salt, since Qualcomm last year promised a 20% CPU improvement this never manifested in shipping the products. Even if Qualcomm lives up to those performance promises, it would still be about a year behind the iPhone. The company is trying to do something about its uncompetitive performance with the (now legally encumbered) Acquisition of Nuviabut these chips are not ready yet.
Let’s start with the basics. It’s a 4nm chip with an unusual layout containing four different CPU cores, all designed by Arm. The main core is a 3.2GHz Arm Cortex X3 – all good and expected, and from there Arm’s recommended layout is three Cortex A710 CPUs for “medium” usage and four A510 CPUs for one low power background processing. Qualcomm doesn’t follow the recommended layout, however, and after the Cortex X3 it has two different cores doing “medium” duty: a pair of Cortex-A715 processors and a pair of last-gen Cortex-A710 processors. After that, there are only three Cortex A510 processors, not the expected four, performing a background task.
The reason Qualcomm threw a pair of A710s into the mix is probably 32-bit support. Arm’s recommended base layout for this new generation is a 64-bit chipset only, which means 32-bit applications won’t be able to run. That’s not a problem for most countries around the world: the Pixel 7 is already the world’s first Android phone that cannot run 32-bit applications (the whole operating system is not quite 64-bit yet). The Google Play Store has required 64-bit binaries since 2019, and today you will never notice this lack of 32-bit support. For China, however, there’s no Google Play Store, and free-for-all there means 32-bit support hasn’t been dropped as quickly. It’s also unclear if Google is ready for full 64-bit support, with the Pixel 7 apparently still being shipped with some 32-bit libraries. Mixing and matching with older cores allows Qualcomm to continue supporting 32-bit for another year.
Qualcomm promises a maximum Wi-Fi speed of 5.8 Gbps with new Wi-Fi 7 support, but the big advantage is even more spectrum to share with your neighbors. If you’re in a crowded building with many hotspots, it’s easy to overwhelm your airways and cause everyone’s Wi-Fi to malfunction. Like Wi-Fi 6e, Wi-Fi 7 adds an extra block of spectrum for your devices to choose from, helping you in congested spaces. The problem is, you’ll need a Wi-Fi 7 hotspot to see these benefits, and there aren’t many options right now. TP link recently promised devices in the first quarter of 2023.
Qualcomm has already been beaten to the punch with hardware support for ray tracing by Samsung (with help from AMD) and arms GPU Immortalis, but now the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 can also create fancy lighting effects. I don’t think there are any serious uses for mobile software for ray tracing yet.
It is the first Snapdragon chip to include support for AV1, a royalty-free video codec backed by a huge list of heavyweights like Amazon, Apple, Arm, Facebook, Google, Intel, Microsoft, Mozilla, Netflix, Nvidia and Samsung. . Netflix and YouTube have opted for AV1 by supporting the codec obligatory for hardware manufacturers wishing to license these services.
We’ll consider this the SoC for most 2023 flagship smartphones, but Qualcomm says some partners will actually have devices before the end of the year.