Today Qualcomm announced the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 SoC, the company’s flagship chip coming to many Android phones in the coming months. In addition to the usual newer, better, and hopefully faster cores, big news is the addition of Wi-Fi 7 support so you can get better wireless at home, as long as you invest in a new router.
Qualcomm has some claims for this new chip. The company says the CPU “improves performance by up to 35 percent” and is “up to 40 percent more power efficient.” The GPU reportedly “delivers up to 25 percent faster performance, with up to 45 percent better power efficiency.” Take these claims with a grain of salt, as Qualcomm last year promised a 20 percent CPU improvement that never manifested in shipping products. Even if Qualcomm delivers on these performance promises, it would still be a year behind the iPhone. The company is trying to do something about its uncompetitive performance with (now legally taxed) Nuvia acquisitionbut those chips are not ready yet.
Let’s start with the basics. This is an unusually designed 4nm chip that contains four different CPU cores, all designed by Arm. The main core is a 3.2 GHz Arm Cortex X3; That’s all good and expected, and from here Arm’s recommended design is three Cortex A710 CPUs for “medium” work and four A510 CPUs for low-power background processing. However, Qualcomm doesn’t follow the recommended design and, after the Cortex X3, has two different cores that do a “medium” job: a pair of Cortex-A715 CPUs and a pair of last generation Cortex-A710 CPUs. After that, there are only three, not the expected four, Cortex A510 CPUs in the background.
The reason Qualcomm threw a couple of A710s into the mix is probably because of 32-bit support. Arm’s recommended core design for this new generation is a bunch of 64-bit-only chips, and that means 32-bit applications won’t be able to run. This isn’t a problem for most of the world: the Pixel 7 already shipped as the world’s first Android phone to I can’t run 32 bit applications (full OS is not 64-bit only yet). The Google Play Store has required 64-bit binaries since 2019, and today you’ll never notice the lack of 32-bit support. For China, however, there’s no Google Play Store, and the free service means 32-bit support hasn’t been abandoned all that quickly. It’s also unclear if Google is ready for full 64-bit support, with the Pixel 7 reportedly. I still ship with some 32-bit libraries. Mixing and matching with older kernels allows Qualcomm to maintain 32-bit support for another year.
Qualcomm promises a maximum Wi-Fi speed of 5.8 Gbps with new Wi-Fi 7 support, but the big benefit is even more spectrum to share with your neighbors. If you’re in a crowded apartment building with lots of access points, it’s easy to overload 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, which will help in crowded spaces. The catch is, you’ll need a Wi-Fi 7 hotspot to see these benefits, and there aren’t many options right now. TP link recently engaged devices in the first quarter of 2023.
Qualcomm was already beaten with hardware ray tracing support by Samsung (with the help of AMD) and arm Immortal GPU, but now the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 can also create sophisticated lighting effects. I don’t think there is any serious use of mobile software for ray tracing yet.
This is the first Snapdragon chip to include support for AV1, a royalty-free video codec backed by a huge list of heavy hitters including Amazon, Apple, Arm, Facebook, Google, Intel, Microsoft, Mozilla, Netflix, Nvidia, and Samsung. . Netflix and YouTube have gone all-in on AV1 by offering codec support required for hardware manufacturers looking to license these services.
We’ll think of this as the SoC for most 2023 flagship smartphones, but Qualcomm says some partners will have devices before the end of the year.