Inside the Snapdragon 888: The features you’ll find in 2021’s premium phones


Smartphones built upon Qualcomm’s upcoming Snapdragon 888 processor will be able to take advantage of concurrent recording and HDR using three different cameras, a creative feature that will allow consumers and content creators additional options for crafting the perfect photo and video. It’s one of many new features inside the new mobile chip, including integrated 5G. 

The Snapdragon series represents the chief opposition to the Apple iPhone and its A-series processors, powering rivals like the Samsung Galaxy S20 and the OnePlus 8 series. The new Snapdragon 888 will ship inside flagship smartphones beginning in the first quarter of 2021.  

Qualcomm introduced the Snapdragon 888 and its basic capabilities at its virtual Snapdragon Technology Summit opening keynote on Tuesday. The company spent Wednesday diving deeper into the chip’s capabilities. 

The Snapdragon 888 will continue expanding on its various axes: computational performance, graphics performance, AI, and more. Qualcomm says the chip will be manufactured on a new 5nm process, helping its new Kryo 680 CPU core achieve 25 percent faster performance than its predecessor, and the new Adreno 660 core perform 35 percent faster than before. The 888 also includes the Hexagon 780, the new Spectra 580 ISP, and the integrated X60 5G modem—the first time an 8-series Snapdragon has had an integrated 5G modem.

Qualcomm

A summary of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G platform.

What’s inside the Snapdragon 888

Below is a high-level overview of the Snapdragon 888. Feel free to use our table of contents to jump ahead about what this all means in terms of real-world features, or refer back to our coverage of the prior Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 for more granular comparisons.

  • Kryo 680 CPU: Octo-core architecture; 1 ARM Cortex-X1 (2.84GHz, prime) + 3 ARM Cortex A-78 (2.4GHz, performance) + 4 ARM Cortex-A55 (1.8GHz, efficiency)
  • Memory support: embedded LPDDR5 (3200MHz), LPDDR4x (2133MHz); up to 16GB
  • Adreno 660 GPU: internal/external displays up to 4K/60Hz, or 3200×1800/144Hz; HDR10+ support; HDR gaming @10-bit, H.265/VP9 hardware decoder
  • Spectra 580 ISP: 200MP still images (84MP/30 fps, single camera; 64MP + 25MP/30fps, dual-camera; 28MP/30 fps, triple camera); 8K video capture@30 fps; 4K video capture + 64MP photo; slow-mo 720p @ 960fps
  • Hexagon 780: Total Harmonic Distortion + Noise (THD+N) Playback: -108dB
  • Connectivity (5G): integrated X60 5G modem (7.5Gbps down, 3Gbps up, via 5G); mmWave (800MHz bandwidth, 2×2 MIMO), Sub-6GHz (200MHz bandwidth, 4×4 MIMO); LTE support (CBRS, WCDMA, HSPA, TD-SCDMA, CDMA 1x, EV-DO, GSM/EDGE)
  • Connectivity (Wi-Fi): FastConnect 6900 (Wi-Fi 6e/802.11ax, 802.11ac), 3.6 Gbps peak speeds, 4K QAM, OFDMA; MU-MIMO (up to 8×8 MU-MIMO)
  • Connectivity (Bluetooth): Bluetooth 5.2, with support for Qualcomm aptX voice specifications
  • Qualcomm Sensing Hub (2nd gen): Always-on far-field detection and echo cancellation; support for multiple voice assistants
  • Power: Quick Charge 5; supports 100W chargers, can charge to 50% in 5 minutes

Security

Unlike with the Snapdragon Compute chips for Windows on Arm, the Kryo 680 CPU at the heart of the Snapdragon series has never been top-of-mind for smartphone buyers, mobile gamers excluded. With the Snapdragon 888, however, there are two key features: a new ability to sandbox apps within virtualization, and a CAI-qualified camera. 

qualcomm snapdragon 888 hypervisor Qualcomm

The Snapdragon 888 can use virtualization to sandbox an potentially malicious app…or just wall off your work documents from your personal photos.

Virtualization allows your smartphone to function as both a work device and as a personal device, with specific versions of the Android OS for both. (Samsung’s Knox has something like this already.) It also allows micro-OSes for specific apps like wireless payments, explained Ziad Asghar, vice president of product management for Qualcomm.

Snapdragon 888 smartphones have also been qualified as the first CAI-compliant smartphone camera. The Content Authenticity Initiative and TruePic, plus Adobe, Twitter and the New York Times, worry that photos are being stolen and altered without the photographer’s consent or knowledge. CAI will allow CAI-qualified cameras to create a cryptographic “seal” around an image, Asghar said.



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