Qualcomm launched the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 mobile processor for smartphones at the Qualcomm Tech Summit in Hawaii late on Tuesday, adding substantially more performance and AI-powered features to 2022 smartphones. However, one of those may be controversial. While you may be used to your phone always listening for commands, are you ready for its camera to be always on, too?
In an interesting twist, Snapdragon 8 phones will even be able to mint NFTs.
Qualcomm already powers a substantial chunk of the world’s smartphones, from the Asus ROG Phone 5s to the Google Pixel 4a and 5, the OnePlus 9, and the American version of the Samsung Galaxy S21+. Now the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 is poised to help launch even more, beginning in the fourth quarter of this year.
With the launch, Qualcomm also rolled out a new branding structure. Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 represents a simplification of the company’s branding, versus the triple-digit Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G brand used last year. The executives said that consumers preferred the simplified, single-numeral nomenclature, which also now assumes “5G” without explicitly stating it. In an interesting twist, they’ve even dropped the company name from the Snapdragon logos, as they believe that “Snapdragon” is now a standalone consumer brand.
Like most mobile SOCs, the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 represents a fusion of several different logic blocks, each with their own specific functions: the Kryo CPU, the Adreno GPU, the Spectra Image Signal Processor (ISP) for camera imaging, a Sensing Hub, and the integrated modem. In the latter case, the processor has moved wholesale to 5G, with support for 5G multi-SIM and both 5G mmWave and sub-6 GHz frequencies.
What’s inside the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1
Interestingly, Qualcomm’s playing the details of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 a little close to the vest, compared to what accompanied the rollout of last year’s Snapdragon 888. In fact, the company has officially stopped providing specific model numbers for the new cores — so last year’s Kryo 680 CPU is now just the Kryo (Snapdragon 8). “When we moved to our new visual identity, the Snapdragon 8, part of the goal is to simplify our branding across the board, including the 3-digit number schemes across our IP cores,” a representative said in an email. “We wanted to have the premium-ness of the 8 carry our technology cores (Kryo, Adreno, and Hexagon).”
The Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 is noteworthy for its use of the Cortex-X2, the next-gen “prime core” technology Arm revealed in May alongside the A710 performance core and the A510 efficiency core, which also appear in this Snapdragon chip. All three are members of the Arm v9 family, the next-gen architecture that Arm launched in March, promising a 30 percent performance improvement. Qualcomm itself is promising a 20 percent performance improvement over the 888 with a 30 percent power savings.
Memory support: Up to 16GB of LP-DDR5 memory, with speeds up to 3200 MHz
Adreno (Snapdragon 8) GPU: On-device display support up to [email protected] or QHD+(2,880×1,440) @144Hz; external displays up to [email protected]; HDR10, HDR10+ support with Rec.2020 color gamut; Vulkan 1.1 support with HDR gaming; HDR10+, HLG and Dolby Vision support for HDR playback
Spectra (Snapdragon 8) ISP: 200Mpixel photo capture (200MP still images (108MP/30 fps, single camera; 64MP + 36MP/30fps, dual-camera; 36MP/30 fps, triple camera, all with zero shutter lag); 8K HDR video [email protected] fps+64Mpixel photo capture; 4K video capture @ 120 fps; slow-mo 720p @ 960fps; bokeh engine for video capture, 10-bit HEIF photo capture
Connectivity (Bluetooth): Bluetooth 5.2, with support for Qualcomm aptX Voice/Lossless/Adaptive specifications
Qualcomm Sensing Hub
Power: Quick Charge 5
Artificial intelligence is sometimes difficult to define on the PC, but on the smartphone it’s quickly become synonymous with two things, computational photography and how your phone processes voice commands. With the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, Qualcomm has improved across both vectors, according to Ziad Asghar, Qualcomm’s vice president of product management of its Snapdragon technology roadmap. The Hexagon’s performance has roughly doubled, Asghar said, and the available memory to the Hexagon has doubled too.
From a performance perspective, Qualcomm’s numbers have improved quadruple the AI performance, with twice the tensor accelerator performance and 1.7X more power efficiency, Asghar said. There will be 8-bit plus 16-bit mixed integer support. What will be more interesting is what the AI engine can do such as video bokeh effects from ArcSoft, improved natural language processing, and a new “Leitz Looks” filter from Ernst Leitz Labs that you’ll be able to apply to photos to give them the look of Leica cameras.
The Snapdragon 8’s Hexagon AI engine can also interact with the integrated 3rd-gen sensing hub, with a couple improvements that could seem cool or otherwise very creepy. Asghar said that Qualcomm is working with Sonde to develop technologies to listen to your voice as you speak to determine if you’re suffering from a health issue such as asthma or the coronavirus. Hugging Face natural language processing will scan your voicemail messages and apply sentiment analysis. Is it really important that your brother speak with you?
AI is also being used with antenna tuning, helping to re-route the antenna signal path depending on how the phone detects you’re holding the phone. (This certainly sounds like a possible solution to the iPhone “antennagate” scandal, and Steve Jobs’ famous response: “You’re holding it wrong.”)
Finally, Asghar said, Qualcomm is adding a “completely new experience,” the always-on camera system which represents a fourth ISP. What that allows you to do is bring in completely new use cases where your phone can unlock just by looking at it and “also prevent unnecessary looks at your display,” Asghar said. Essentially, your phone will be always looking for your face, eliminating the need to “unlock” it.
Qualcomm may be walking a fine line here. Google Glass failed, in part, because users were never sure if they were being recorded or if their behavior was being tracked and there were similar questions asked of Facebook regarding the recent introduction of its own smartglasses. Some laptops have included privacy shutters over their webcams because of concerns, justified or not, that users could be illicitly recorded.
In response to a question about the ethics of an always-on camera, Asghar noted that Qualcomm attempts to “make sure that the data that is there stays on the device.” Any images captured by the camera will be kept on the device itself. “As you know, these are capabilities that add to experiences…and [we want] to make sure that we have solutions that are abiding by all the privacy parameters and everything,” Asghar added.
More importantly, Asghar said he believed that the always-on camera would be an OEM-enabled feature, meaning that it will be up to the smartphone OEM to actually enable it as well as provide user controls to manage its use.
Otherwise, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1’s camera has added some interesting new features.
Qualcomm is calling its new camera ISP brand “Snapdragon Sight,” representing what the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1’s camera can do. It can take pictures, certainly, but also recognize what the camera is taking photos of. Last year’s Snapdragon 888 offered AI-based auto-exposure and auto-face detection, but the Snapdragon 8’s Spectra Image Signal Processor now performs intelligent face detection. That matters, according to Judd Heape, vice president of product management at Qualcomm, when the camera is asked to unlock the phone for a user whose face is partially obscured by a mask. The camera’s sensor can now map up to 300 “facial landmarks”, tracking your eyes, nose, mouth, cheeks, and so on for animojis and other applications where the camera has to map your facial expression.
Smartphone cameras powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 processors will also feature dynamic range that has increased by four stops, part of a move from a 14- to an 18-bit ISP that will see the ISP capturing over 4,000 times more data than before, or 3.2Mpixels per second.
While the 888’s camera ISP allowed users to shoot 8K video, the 8’s ISP will add HDR capabilities to that 8K video. There’s also a dedicated hardware engine that will apply bokeh in real time to 4K video, too. In addition to the various still-image capabilities talked about in the specifications, Qualcomm also developed “Panoramic View,” a 140-degree wide panoramic-like shot that can be captured in a single shot, without the need to stitch photos together.
The AI engine and camera engine will work together to perform extreme ultra zooming. Basically, it’s digital zoom with smart interpolation to eliminate graininess. Last year’s Snapdragon 888-powered “night mode” stitched together about six frames to form a composite image. The Snapdragon 8’s camera will combine about 30 frames, delivering “five times better night mode,” Heape said. That’s because each pixel in a night scene is tracked, so the camera can intelligently filter out the pixel “movement” caused by your hands shaking. The result will be a sharper, crisper image, he said. Finally, the company is using AI to eliminate chromatic aberration from wide-angle lenses.
Heape also provided a few more details about the always-on camera will work. Essentially, it will be able to automatically unlock your phone, but also notice when someone may be peering over your shoulder and alert you. We’ve seen this before in the PC space. The “Glance” utility Lenovo bundled with its ThinkPad X12 Detachable Gen 1 tablet, for example, blurs your screen if you’re not there. Dell’s laptops simply detect your presence, then turn on the Windows Hello-enabled webcam.
Qualcomm also showed off a video where a cook propped up his smartphone against a mixer, then periodically crouched down to unlock his phone and turn on the screen — and showed that the recipe that he was using. The phone can also hide sensitive notifications when someone else may be looking at it, too.
Mobile gaming may not be something you think of when you think of mobile phones — well, nothing more than a casual round of Candy Crush. But mobile versions of Player Unknown: Battlegrounds and similar games can sell smartphones, too. Here, processing power and GPUs rule, just as they do with PCs. Essentially, GPU performance has gone up by 30 percent within the new Adreno, while power consumption has dropped by 25 percent.
Qualcomm is promising three improvements with the Snapdragon 8. First, a new Adreno GPU frame motion engine that will essentially double frames at the same power consumption, or reduce power up to 50 percent at the same frame rate. Second, the new chips will add “desktop-level volumetric rendering,” executives said. Finally, the company is promising a “pro” level version of variable rate shading, which will allow the GPU and display to sync up to provide “tear-free” gaming with fewer visual artifacts.
Modem, trust and security
On the modem side, Qualcomm is bringing together full mmWave and sub-6-GHz enablement, Asghar said. More importantly, Qualcomm is introducing 5G uplink carrier aggregation, where multiple uplink channels will be able to be used simultaneously to improve upload bandwidth. The X65 modem will support 10Gbit 5G, chief executive Cristiano Amon said, with a 3.5Gbps uplink, when the two technologies are aggregated.
WiFi 6 and WiFi 6e are also being added, as is Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and support for CD lossless audio. Finally, Qualcomm is adding something called a “trust management engine,” which is designed to help users secure confidential information. It will be compliant with Google’s Android Ready SE, which can be used for provisioning of Android keys, including digital keys for cars and homes, driving licenses and digital wallets. You will even be able to mint and store NFTs with Snapdragon 8, executives said.
The Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 supports iSIM, eliminating the need for a physical SIM card or SIM tray.
Qualcomm has yet to reveal whether updates to its Snapdragon Compute line of PC processors are en route. However, the company’s Snapdragon Tech Summit will run for another day.
This story has been updated with additional details at 6:34 PM.
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If you’re looking for a new phone, a key consideration is always budget – you want to buy the best phone you can afford. But maybe, even if you’ve got the money for a premium device, you should still opt for a cheap phone.
“Wait,” you’re probably thinking, “are you asking me to spend less than I’m able on my new phone?” Yes, I am – you’re absolutely right.
You see, despite budget phones being weaker than premium ones in quite a few ways (obviously), there are a few departments in which they actually beat top-end models.
So we’re going to run through some different areas in which cheap phones actually trump their pricier rivals.
1. It costs less money
Okay, we’ve got to start with the really, really obvious point. A cheap phone is – you guessed it – cheaper than an expensive one.
If you spend less on your phone, you’ve got more to spend on the best power banks, phone cases, charging cables, and so on. Plus, you’ve got extra for non-smartphone things. Y’know: bills, food, transport, and so on.
Smartphones operate on the rule of diminishing returns: a $400 smartphone is not twice as good as a $200 one, and a $1,200 phone isn’t twice as good as a $600 version or four times better in any way than a $300 one.
So if you want the best bang for your buck, a budget mobile will get you there.
2. Much better battery life
Phones don’t have great battery life sometimes: when you factor in features like 5G, high refresh rates, top-end processors, and so on, a giant battery can get worn down incredibly quickly.
But you know what cheap phones don’t have? That’s right – any of those features. If a phone is 4G-only, has a low-res screen, and only runs with a middling chipset, it uses the battery at a much slower rate. All of the longest-lasting smartphones are budget ones.
That’s doubly the case when you consider that cheap phone makers like to use huge batteries in their phones – plenty have 5,000mAh power packs. Motorola has even used 6,000mAh ones in some phones, and certain Chinese rugged phone brands have gone even higher.
If you want a long-lasting phone, you’ve got to opt for a cheap handset with fewer features. It also makes such devices reliable for more extended periods.
3. Hardier designs
Glass has become one of the most commonly-used materials for smartphones – it adds to a premium-feeling build and looks good from all angles.
But you know what glass isn’t? Durable. It can easily smash from an impact like a drop. It’s also slippery, making glass phones harder to hold. Because of this, mid-range and premium phones are more susceptible to damage, even if brands slap silly marketing terms on them like ‘Gorilla Glass Victus’ or ‘Ceramic Shield’.
Cheap phone makers generally stay away from glass. This is mainly because of cost, but it’s beneficial for affordable phone fans because plastic is hardier.
A plastic phone is much more likely to survive a drop or hard knock, letting you avoid the experience of having to get your device repaired as often (or ever, hopefully).
4. Cooler chipsets
Cheap phones often have cooler chipsets. No, we don’t mean ‘sunglasses and Tommy Bahama shirt cool’ – we mean temperature-wise.
Premium phones get top-end chipsets, which provide loads of processing power for tasks like games. An annoying side-effect of loads of power, though, is that these chips can get incredibly hot if you use them for long periods.
Counter-intuitively, this means that mid-range chips can be better for gaming if you like playing for extended amounts of time, and don’t need the most top-end graphics available to you.
As you can imagine, budget phones often have weaker internals, so they generally don’t have overheating issues, and are fine for gaming. Plus, in this day and age, you rarely find phones that are slow, even in the lower-cost market.
5. A bigger range of fingerprint scanners
There’s a trend in the premium phone market towards in-screen fingerprint scanners, where the sensor for unlocking your phone is embedded under the display.
This is a fine way of unlocking your device for some, but if you prefer a back- or side-mounted scanner, you’re mostly out of luck at the top end of the market.
That’s not the case for cheap phones, though: you’ll find those digit sensors all over the place in the lower end of the market. Some phones have them in-screen, others have them on one or both sides of the phone, while plenty have the scanner on the back.
So if you like tapping the rear of your phone to unlock it, or caressing the side of the device, instead of just tapping the screen, budget devices are, in fact, the best phones for you.
Tom’s role in the TechRadar team is to specialize in phones and tablets, but he also takes on other tech like electric scooters, smartwatches, fitness, mobile gaming and more. He is based in London, UK.
He graduated in American Literature and Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. Prior to working in TechRadar freelanced in tech, gaming and entertainment, and also spent many years working as a mixologist. Outside of TechRadar he works in film as a screenwriter, director and producer.
The clip starts by showing the premium Xbox Series X|S controller’s box. Next, we’re given a look at the controller itself, which wears a clean white-on-black coat.
All the usual Elite Controller bells and whistles are accounted for. That includes the carry case, swappable analog sticks and customizable back paddle buttons. It looks like the genuine article, though we’ve heard nothing from Microsoft to confirm if or when the pad will actually be released.
A sign of pads to come?
Leak: I think this is our first footage of the Xbox Elite Series 2 White Edition controller. A leaked image of the controller was shown by @IdleSloth84 back in March. Source: https://t.co/WfMCEk3FQv#Xbox #XboxOne #XboxSeriesX pic.twitter.com/t97qbaNPCuAugust 8, 2022
Okay, sure, the White Edition isn’t exactly the most daring design Microsoft could’ve chosen for its Elite pad. But it’s nonetheless eye-catching. I think that keeping certain parts of the controller black – like the sticks and grips – is a smart aesthetic choice. They contrast really nicely with the white center.
I hope that this new White Edition not only comes to market, but that it’s also a gateway for more ambitious designs for Xbox’s top pad. Seriously, a purple Elite pad would be an instant buy for me, and probably for many others, too.
Rhys is Hardware Writer for TechRadar Gaming, and while relatively fresh to the role, he’s been writing in a professional capacity for years. A Media, Writing and Production graduate, Rhys has prior experience creating written content for app developers, IT firms, toy sellers and the main TechRadar site. His true passions, though, lie in video games, TV, audio and home entertainment. When Rhys isn’t on the clock, you’ll usually find him logged into Final Fantasy 14, Halo Infinite or Sea of Thieves.
Kimberly, the spunky new ninja, and Juri, the sadistic thrill-seeker, join #StreetFighter6 when it arrives in 2023! Spray cans, a portable cassette player, and motorcyles have never looked more fresh. ️ pic.twitter.com/Lnw87p27aP
Student of Guy and successor to the bushinryu tradition, Kimberly is spunky and colorful with an affinity for spray painting her enemies midmatch. Though Kimberly is a teenager and Street Fighter 6 seems to be set in the current day, she’s enamored with all things ‘80s, carrying around a cassette player that some younger players probably won’t even recognize.
It’s like Capcom is aware that, in addition to its younger audience, there’s a certain subset of older Street Fighter players rising from their creaking knees and aching back looking at the ‘80s with fondness. In that way, Kimberly is a send-up, a reminder of simpler times. In other ways, she’s a very rude reminder that those happy days are so far behind us now that current teenagers are adopting the aesthetic because it’s quaintly “retro.” Thanks, Capcom, for reminding me I’m old.
Accompanying Kimberly in the character reveal is Juri, a character first introduced in Street Fighter IV. Juri arrives in flashy style with an homage to the Akira slide that’s been having a moment lately, as it was also used to awesome effect in Jordan Peele’s Nope. Juri seems a bit edgier than Kimberly, stomping all over her enemies in bare feet emphasized in ways that would make Bob Odenkirk click “like.” It’s always neat when companies seemingly embrace the thirst players have for its characters.
We’ll get the chance to see more of Juri and Kimberly’s stories when Street Fighter 6 launches on Xbox, PC, and PlayStation in 2023.
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