Anilud ResiddyDecember 7, 2020 13:54:23 PM
Qualcomm’s annual Snapdragon Summit provided details on the flagship SoC that powers 2021’s most powerful Android smartphones.
The flagship SoC in question, called the Snapdragon 888, promises to significantly improve performance over previous Snapdragon 865 chips that have previously powered phones.
Notable are the new and improved camera system (3x Spectra 580 ISP) and the significantly upgraded AI chip (Hexagon 780). The 888 also takes advantage of more powerful CPU cores, supports faster RAM, and finally features an integrated 5G modem. It also shrinks to 5 nm in the manufacturing process.
In terms of features, Qualcomm has a GPU 35% faster than before, AI chip latency is 1/1000, performance has improved from 15 TOPS to 26, and the new triple ISP system supports larger images and 4K HDR. It states that it is doing. Three cameras at the same time.
A brand new X60 modem has been integrated — it was a discrete unit of 865 — this should bring some improvements in efficiency and power consumption.
In short, this is Qualcomm’s largest year-over-year performance bump ever.
The outline of the chip is as follows.
|model||Snapdragon 865||Snapdragon 888|
|Prime core||1x Cortex A77 @ 2.84 GHz||1x Cortex X1 @ 2.84 GHz|
|Big core||3x Cortex A77 @ 2.42 GHz||3x Cortex A78 @ 2.42 GHz|
|Little core||4x Cortex A55 @ 1.8 GHz||4x Cortex A55 @ 1.8 GHz|
|GPU||Adreno 650||Adreno 660|
|DSP||Hexagon 698||Hexagon 780|
|Memory||Up to 2750MHz LPDDR5||3200 MHz LPDDR5|
|ISP||2×14 bit Spectra480||3×14 bit spectrum 580|
|Single image capture||1x 200 MP / 64 MP ZSL *||1x 200 MP / 84 MP ZSL|
|Multi-image capture||2x 25 MP ZSL||64 MP + 25 MP ZSL / 3x 28 MP ZSL|
|video||8K 30 / 4K 120 10-bit H.265||8K 30 / 4K 120 10-bit H.265|
|Manufacturing process||7 nm||5 nm|
CPU: Designed with a focus on new cores and sustainable performance
The SD888 sticks to a triple cluster configuration with one high performance core, three performance cores, and four efficiency cores. This time, the high-performance “prime” core is the latest Cortex X1 clocked at 2.84GHz. The core can clock up to just over 3GHz, but Qualcomm states that it stuck to 2.84GHz to provide better and lasting performance under heavy workloads.
The performance core has also confirmed an upgrade to the new Cortex A78 core (from last year’s A77), but for the reasons mentioned above, it is clocked at 2.42GHz.
Note that the 865+ had a Prime core clocked at 3.09 GHz, whereas the regular 865 has 2.84 GHz. So it’s safe to assume that the overclocked 888+ variant will arrive later next year.
The third cluster of 4x Cortex A55 cores seems to have been taken over since last year.
According to Qualcomm, overall CPU performance has improved by about 25%, with a focus on sustained performance improvements rather than peak performance.
GPU: 35% faster VRS support
Qualcomm’s secrets have always been GPUs and DSPs (more on this later). While Samsung and Huawei have preferred off-the-shelf ARM designs in the past, Qualcomm has been designing its own GPU and DSP chips for some time.
I’m not sure about the internal behavior of the new Adreno 660 GPU, but Qualcomm says it’s about 35% faster and 20% more efficient than last year’s Adreno 650, and the GPU now supports VRS or variable rates. .. shading.
VRS is a feature that has recently appeared on PC graphics cards and game consoles. VRS allows you to render in-game scenes faster, basically by reducing the time and effort spent rendering parts of the scene that aren’t important to the player. For example, areas under deep shadows or far away do not need to be rendered with texture detail or color accuracy as close to the player.
Given that the SD865 already supports 120fps and 144fps games, this graphics performance improvement can be used to significantly improve the quality of in-game graphics.
Other features like QuickTouch can help improve touch response and further enhance the gaming experience.
Hexagon DSP: Significantly improved AI performance
Well, this is very exciting for Qualcomm to speak. The Snapdragon 888 is equipped with a “fusion AI accelerator”.
Basically, early versions of Hexagon DSPs (digital signal processors) had separate scalars, vectors, and tensor accelerators that were the core to perform the specific mathematical operations required for AI calculations. Each accelerator had its own pool of memory and shared memory, the system worked very well, and Qualcomm gained a big lead in AI performance compared to its rivals.
This year, Qualcomm has completely redesigned its DSP to “merge” the functionality of the three accelerators. As a result, according to Qualcomm, AI performance has improved significantly. This improved AI engine communicates 1000x (yes, 1000x) faster than before, but consumes less power and nearly doubles performance for certain AI workloads.
Other updates such as a wider memory bus and memory pool also helped.
Overall, performance was up 73% compared to last year’s 865.
Unfortunately, AI performance updates are a bit confusing in the real world. For example, what is a tensor operation? And how important are they?
Improved AI performance means that Android can provide intelligent computing features such as intelligent noise suppression (audio and video), real-time object replacement in video, AI-based autofocus, and high-speed image processing.
Camera upgrade: Simultaneous recording with staggered HDR
The most interesting news to date from the event was the mention of staggered HDR support for still images and video.
Before that, let’s first look at hardware upgrades. Primarily, SD888 increases the total number of ISPs to three. An ISP or image signal processor is the chip responsible for processing image data from a telephone camera. Phones with Snapdragon 888 with three independent ISPs (up from two in 865) can finally capture images and video from three cameras at the same time. Apple introduced this feature on the iPhone 11 Pro line last year.
ISPs can now perform 28 MP ZSL captures simultaneously (zero shutter lag). Single camera ZSL capture has been increased up to 84 MP (from 64 MP) and 200 MP single image capture without ZSL is supported.
ZSL is Qualcomm’s term for an image capture mechanism that actively records data before the sensor presses the shutter, allowing image data to be recorded the moment the shutter is pressed rather than afterwards.
Triple camera ZSL capture means, for example, that you can stitch images together and zoom seamlessly between ultra-wide-angle, wide-angle, and telephoto lenses (as Apple has done since 2019).
The camera system can capture 120 12 MP images per second and autofocus in dark places (up to 0.1 lux).
The video recording feature hasn’t changed much, at 8K 30 fps and 4K 120 fps, the highest resolution HDR supported.
The new AI-based autofocus system claims to improve AF performance by intelligently identifying subjects in the scene and tracking focus properly.
However, the most interesting upgrade is support for staggered HDR.
HDR image / video capture occurs when multiple different exposures are captured and stitched together, resulting in an image with a wider dynamic range (more detailed in bright and dark areas) than a single image.
In normal HDR, the camera shutter captures at least three different frames. One is an underexposed frame, one is an overexposed frame, and the other is a properly exposed frame. The new phone captures more frames, but the important thing is that each frame as a whole is captured in one complete frame at a time. Recording of the next frame will not start until the previous frame has been recorded and processed.
This works great for static objects, but if your scene contains moving objects (dogs, cars, windy weather), it will take longer to capture individual frames, causing ghosting and blurring. There is a possibility.
Staggered HDR reduces this lag by not waiting for individual frames to be captured. When each line of the sensor is read in one frame, the capture of the next frame begins on that line. HDR data is recorded continuously, significantly reducing lag between frames and reducing motion blur and ghosting.
X60 Modem: Integrated, faster and more efficient
Last year’s SD865 did not include an internal modem. Qualcomm had its own reasons, and the modem was developed independently and was ready before 865, allowing manufacturers to work on 5G implementations. Anyway, with the x60 integrated into the 888, this should lower the price and improve performance and power efficiency. However, we still don’t know how much this will bring.
The x60 is also claimed to be faster and more efficient than the x50, consuming much less power in the edge case, providing better carrier aggregation support, and significantly improving signal quality and bandwidth.
In addition, the platform supports WiFi 6, WiFi 6E, and dual radio Bluetooth 5.2 and AptX adaptive wireless audio.
Other features: hypervisor, CAI
An important feature of the Snapdragon 888 is hypervisor support. A hypervisor is a system that separates one user space from another and creates multiple secure virtual machines.
In plain English, the hypervisor allows, for example, a secure work profile on the phone that can function independently of the personal profile. Data from the two profiles are processed independently and securely. You can also use the hypervisor to completely isolate sensitive apps from the rest of your system.
SD 888 also now supports the CAI or Content Authenticity Initiative standard. Images captured through this system include metadata reliability (location, capture time, etc.) and an encryption key to ensure that the image has not been manipulated. When you make changes, the keys change and the image is flagged as manipulated.
In this world of deepfake and manipulated images, images with CAI stamps are more likely to be trusted.
Call all developers!
Qualcomm seems to have outperformed itself this time, as actual testing and benchmarking are pending. The SD 888 platform has been significantly upgraded from last year’s 865 and introduces many exciting new features to launch.
This is a really impressive upgrade and we are very much looking forward to seeing what the 2021 Android flagship is prepared for us. We hope that developers will take full advantage of the features provided by the new platform.