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Snapdragon 8 Gen 1: A new name and speed boost for Qualcomm’s flagship phone chip

Ben Johnston
30 Nov 2021
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Highlights of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 include 20% better performance, 18-bit photo capture and new new elite gaming features

After a series of leaks indicated that it was coming, Qualcomm’s latest flagship mobile platform, Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, has been officially announced at the brand’s Snapdragon Tech Summit 2021.

Like the Snapdragon 888+ before it, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 omits the Qualcomm branding from its official name, and the changes don't stop there. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 also represents the company’s move towards a single-digit naming strategy (8 Series, 7 Series, 6 Series, for example), as opposed to the triple-digit variations that came before it.

As part of the official unveiling, Qualcomm also released some key features, teasing what consumers can expect from the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 phones when they appear later this year. Here, we'll go over some of the major highlights.

Snapdragon 8 Gen 1: Performance

The first stand-out news for the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 was the confirmation that it has been developed with a 4nm manufacturing process, which should deliver improved performance and efficiency over last year's 5nm models.

As you'd expect, performance is set to increase across the board. Qualcomm says the new CPU performs up to 20% faster than the previous iteration, while the GPU is a quoted 30% faster. Alternatively, figures have also been announced for energy conservation, with the CPU and GPU offering up to 30% and 25% better power-saving levels, respectively.

Snapdragon 8 Gen 1: AI

Things have been improved on the AI front too, with the 7th Gen Qualcomm AI Engine promising to be 1.7x more power-efficient and up to four times as fast overall. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 also features a Tensor accelerator that is twice as fast as its predecessor, as well as 2x larger shared memory.

There's also a new 3rd Gen sensing hub that is always on and always secure, featuring its own dedicated ISP (image signal processor) that will allow users to unlock their phones without even touching it.

Snapdragon 8 Gen 1: ISP

Speaking of ISPs, there are also plenty of changes in the chip's main ISP module that are worth mentioning. First of all, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 includes, for the first time, 18-bit technology, which means it's capable of capturing over 4,000 times more camera data than its 14-bit predecessor.

This will mean, among other things, that smartphone cameras featuring the new chip will be able to capture up to 140 12MP photos in a single second – which should boost low light and HDR photography. The new ISP will also be able to support a range of improved camera functions, such as better AI face detection and the ability to capture 8K HDR footage and 64MP photos simultaneously.

Snapdragon 8 Gen 1: Gaming

As mobile gaming becomes ever more popular, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 also introduces three new elite gaming features that aim to produce desktop-level performance on your phone.

Volumetric rendering promises to deliver more immersive particle and smoke effects, while image-based VRS aims to deliver smoother performance and stronger detail. Finally, the Adreno Frame Motion Engine offers the choice of either increasing your frames per second or improving power-saving, giving you more control over your gameplay.

Snapdragon 8 Gen 1: Connectivity

Lastly, the new chip should bring a significant boost to connectivity, although actual speed gains will depend mostly on whether the networks in your vicinity are also up to speed. On this front, there's Qualcomm's most advanced 5G platform yet, with download speeds now reaching a maximum of 10GBits/sec, and support for all-new 5G bands and global multi-SIM. And Wi-Fi 6 and 6E speeds are also improved, with support for eye-watering speeds of up to 3.6GBits/sec.

All of this sounds very promising, but we'll have to wait until we can get our hands on a device using the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 to really put it through its paces. Be sure to check back in with Expert Reviews soon to see what our final verdict is.

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