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Snapdragon 888: super core, best modem and gaming chips

02 December 2020, Wednesday By Priyanka Boruah

During the second day of the annual Tech Summit Digital conference, Qualcomm revealed detailed technical specifications of the Snapdragon 888 mobile platform. Key innovations affected almost all elements of the proprietary chip: in addition to increased processor performance and graphics accelerator, the new product "improved" the camera capabilities of flagship smartphones and got an AI computing module with record performance.

Snapdragon 888 mobile platform

The updated architecture of the 5-nm processor is represented by eight cores, divided into three clusters: the ARM Cortex-X1 clocked at 2.84 GHz, three high-performance Cortex-A78 cores and four energy-efficient Cortex-A55 cores. The Snapdragon 888 connectivity features an integrated Snapdragon X60 5G modem supporting mmWave and sub-6 bands and a peak connection speed of up to 7.5 Gbps for reception and up to 3 Gbps for transmission.

The upgrade also affected such chip operation scenarios as games and multimedia content processing. The new Adreno 660 graphics accelerator is 35% more powerful than its predecessor, while its energy efficiency is 20% higher than that of the previous generation GPU. The company also provided figures that are more visual for mobile gamers. So, in Call of Duty Mobile and Fortnite, the new Snapdragon is able to provide a frame rate of 90 fps, in racing QQ Speed - 120 fps, and in arcade Air Derby - up to the maximum possible 144 fps.

"Qualcomm's revolutionary technological inventions have laid the foundation for a strong leadership in the premium mobile segment. The new flagship Snapdragon 888 mobile platform will enable OEMs to further differentiate their devices and enable users to experience the full benefits of cutting-edge mobile technology," said Alex Katouzian, Senior Vice President, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and general manager of mobile communications, computing and infrastructure.

The mobile platform has received support for the proprietary Quick Touch technology, which reduces the input delay when interacting with the touch screen. With frame rates of 60, 90, and 120 fps, the click response rate increased by 20, 15, and 10 percent, respectively, compared to running a game on a smartphone with the company's previous flagship processor. You don't have to activate this useful feature separately: it will be enabled by default in games.

Snapdragon 888

In addition, the Snapdragon 888 is the first chip from the manufacturer to support the Variable Rate Shading feature familiar to desktop graphics card owners. It allows you to significantly (up to 40%) reduce the load on the GPU, reducing the intensity of filling textures that are out of sight or on the periphery of the player's view. Thus, the focus remains on the picture with high detail, and the GPU does not spend resources on high-precision rendering of "unnecessary" parts of the image, assigning the same color to neighboring pixels.

Other useful features of the mobile platform include True 10-bit HDR support, the ability to update graphics drivers separately from the operating system, and compatibility with Qualcomm AptX, Qualcomm Aqstic and Dolby Atmos technologies.

The developers paid special attention to the AI component of the new product. The built-in processor for neural network computing Hexagon 780 is capable of processing up to 26 trillion operations per second: 43% more than its predecessor Snapdragon 865. In previous generations of AI chips, scalar, vector and tensor accelerators were used as separate elements - now the company has combined them into one cluster with dedicated shared memory, due to which the switching time between accelerators in some use cases has decreased by 1000 times.

The hardware itself has also been updated: the performance of the scalar accelerator has increased by 50 percent, and the tensor accelerator is twice as fast as in last year's flagship chip. In addition, a second-generation Qualcomm Sensing Hub with an always-on AI processor has appeared as part of the mobile platform, which has reduced the power consumption of the Hexagon chip by 80%.

Snapdragon 888

As an example of "everyday" use of AI, the chipmaker cited the possibility of recognizing the acoustic environment by a smartphone to automatically adjust the speaker volume, as well as analyzing the condition of the skin using the gadget's camera, followed by recommendations on the selection of cosmetics. And thanks to the new Qualcomm AI Engine Direct, backward compatible with the company's previous generation of chips, developers will be able to adapt their applications to various smartphone models.

A dedicated Spectra 580 image processor unit with a bandwidth of 2.7 gigapixels per second, which includes three chips at once, is responsible for the interaction of the mobile platform with the smartphone camera module. Thanks to this architecture, new flagship smartphones will be able to simultaneously record 4K video or shoot 28-megapixel photos with three cameras at once. In addition, in just a second, a smartphone based on the new flagship chip will be able to shoot 120 frames in 12 megapixel resolution.

Snapdragon 888

The Qualcomm Spectra 580 architecture was designed for HDR-capable image sensors with offset (separate long, medium and short exposures). This technology allows you to capture three images and combine them into one, significantly expanding its dynamic range. 4K video recording at 120 fps is also supported for smooth display on high refresh rate displays. Another feature of the Snapdragon 888 is the use of an AI algorithm to automatically adjust focus, exposure, white balance, and even zoom ratio when using a zoom lens.

The release of smartphones based on the flagship Snapdragon 888 processor has already been confirmed by many major electronics manufacturers, including ASUS, OnePlus, Xiaomi, OPPO, Black Shark, Vivo and ZTE. Snapdragon 888-powered commercial devices are expected to ship in the first quarter of 2021.

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