Will Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 democratize 8K Smartphones?
Qualcomm just announced its latest high-end mobile chipset during its annual event in Hawaii. The new flagship is called the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, which is, in fact, the ninth major version. It is the first silicon to use a 4nm production process allowing for improvements in performance and power. Previous versions and Apple’s latest silicon are on a 5nm process. This piece explores the Snapdragon 8 Gen1’s relevance to Qualcomm 8K smartphones. Will the Snapdragon 8 Gen1 enable 8K for all?
Qualcomm promises that moving from its previous flagship, the Snapdragon 888, to their new one will bring a 20% performance hike with 30% power saving. The new chipset also improves on Qualcomm’s AI-enhancing features.
Among other dazzling features, the Gen 1 promises download speeds of up to 10 Gbps. But even most importantly for us at the 8K Association, the Gen 1 includes an improved 18-bit image signal processor delivering 4k times more data processing than with the previous 14-bit ISP of the Snapdragon 888 and supporting 18-bit RAW image output. 18 is also the number of stops of dynamic range, and Qualcomm says that phones using this chipset will be able to record over a billion shades of color.
Qualcomm confirmed the new chipset would enable the recording of 8K at 30 FPS which was already the case in the last two versions. Note that the current top-of-range phones capture at 24 FPS, so hopefully, we’ll see a 20% improvement soon, although this will still fall short of the 60 FPS many experts say is the entry point for a premium 8K experience, at least for action content. The addition of HDR10+, though, should mean that rushes from phones can be used in some premium content, even if small smartphone sensor sizes limit use to ideal lighting situations.
Although the new chipset from Qualcomm offers significant upgrades and will lead the pack for 5G connectivity with the new X65 modem, Android Authority doesn’t see it as a complete game-changer. They go as far as to predict that iPhone’s Apple A15 Bionic will still be ahead in many benchmarks.
Smartphones built around the Gen 1 will gain the ability to shoot photos in lower light with hardware support for taking the best of a batch of 30 images. This excellent photo feature is unlikely to affect Qualcomm 8K smartphone video shooting as pixel binning will likely be used, reducing the image’s resolution.
The new AI capabilities will enable bokeh portrait effects in videos up to 4K resolution, which is a promising sign for a future release that might offer 8K support for such features.
According to Live Mint, “Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 will be adopted by global OEMs and brands including Black Shark, Honor, iQOO, Motorola, Nubia, OnePlus, OPPO, Realme, Redmi, SHARP, Sony Corporation, Vivo, Xiaomi, and ZTE, with commercial devices expected by the end of 2021.” Phone Arena added Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy S22 series phones to that list.
So to answer our question in the title, no, this new chipset isn’t going to democratize the access to 8K video, but the Snapdragon 8 Gen1’s relevance to 8K is still there, and it’s a good step in the right direction.