Snapdragon Summit 2022 Day 1: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 mobile platform with new AI experiences, real-time ray tracing, Wi-Fi 7 announced

Qualcomm unveiled the next-gen Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 mobile platform at its annual Snapdragon Summit 2022 event on the beautiful Hawaiian island of Maui. The new and improved Qualcomm SoC aims to deliver smart and intelligent AI experiences across different domains – from performance to photography and connectivity. Below is our quick summary and analysis of Qualcomm’s Day 1 announcement.

AI takes centerstage with Snapdragon 8 Gen 2

A big part of the keynote presentation focused on the new AI experiences that the mobile platform offers. It starts with the new Qualcomm AI Engine featuring the Hexagon Processor and the Sensing Hub. Previous iterations of application processors used different elements within the SoC to perform some AI computation, but the Hexagon Processor was the main AI driver. This could lead to a lack of processing capacity. With 8 Gen 2, Qualcomm is distributing AI processing capability throughout the SoC as well as making the Hexagon Processor more powerful and efficient. The net is substantial inference performance gains while improving power efficiency.

There are several firsts that Qualcomm is bringing to the Hexagon Processor –

  • A dedicated power delivery system.
  • The architecture features a new micro tile interfacing and a large tensor accelerator offering up to 4.35X performance improvement,
  • INT4 support on mobile with 60% per/watt performance improvements.

Qualcomm says the performance boost enables faster natural language processing, multiple language translations, and advanced AI-powered camera features. The new Integer 4 precision (INT4) will allow OEMs to shrink AI models while increasing AI inferencing speed by up to 90%.

Talking about the Sensing Hub, it now has 50% more memory and offers a 2X jump in AI performance. Together with a Dual AI processor, the Sensing Hub controls several AI functions that include:

  • Different sensors (ambient light, gyroscope, accelerometer, and more).
  • Voice/audio – like the wake word such as Alexa, Hey Google.
  • Connectivity – including Wi-Fi, GPS, and Mobile Data.
  • Always-sensing camera for gesture detection, face recognition, eye-detection, Iris Authentication, and more.

All this processing is happening on the device and is safeguarded with Snapdragon Secure. There are key features such as near-face detection to turn the screen on or off, depending on whether you are looking at it or not. When the sensor detects other persons in the vicinity, it will hide notifications, thus keeping your conversations and alerts secure. Lastly, there is also liveness detection for face authentication, which can tell the difference between a real face vs fake one, thus making your smartphone more secure. Qualcomm trusted execution environment does all the analysis before unlocking the device, and all camera data is protected within the environment.

5G AI processor, faster Wi-Fi 7 connectivity    

Qualcomm is bringing an advanced 5G platform with improvements across 5G, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. The new SoC is powered by a Snapdragon X70 5G modem-RF system along with a 5G AI processor. This AI processor optimizes critical network parameters in real-time, such as channel state feedback, antenna tuning, mmWave beamforming, latency, and more, all this while saving battery life. The chipset includes support for dual-SIM, dual-active 5G+5G/4G support. It can offer peak download speeds up to 10Gbps, and peak upload speeds up to 3.5Gbps.

The Qualcomm FastConnect 7800 connectivity system also brings Wi-Fi 7, first to the mobile platform, with 2X peak download speeds up to 5.8Gbps, and latency under 2ms. Lastly, there is also dual Bluetooth technology offering 2X connection range while consuming 50% less power.

Snapdragon Sight: AI photography to capture beautiful memories

The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 SoC is fine-tuned to support new image sensors and deliver advanced photography experiences. Qualcomm is working closely with Samsung to optimize the ISOCELL HP3 200MP image sensor for the Snapdragon platform. It will enable users to click photos with rich details, in full 200MP resolution, 50MP binned, and 12.5MP binned images in low light. But that’s not all, Qualcomm is also working with Sony to develop quad digital overlap HDR technology for video recording and bringing optimized support for the newer sensors. The 8 Gen 2 is also the first Snapdragon chipset to include AV1 codec and 8K HDR video playback support for up to 60fps.

The biggest highlight of Snapdragon Sight is the Cognitive ISP which brings real-time semantic segmentation for enhanced photography and videography experience. The AI story continues here too, where the neural network is contextually aware of faces, people, grass, trees, clothing, and accessories. It will apply AI photo editing in real time while capturing photos and videos. For instance, if you are wearing shades or glasses, it can detect them, and remove the reflection. The AI can boost the colors of the sky, flowers, and much more.

Snapdragon 8 Gen 2: Key specifications

The new SoC is built by TSMC on its 4nm process node. Qualcomm says the new Kryo CPU is 35% faster and up to 40% more power efficient. It still comes with an eight-core tri-cluster CPU, but there is a slight change this time around. Instead of one-three-four, you now have a one-four-three configuration. Basically, Qualcomm has added an extra performance core and reduced one efficiency core.

In a nutshell, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 comes with:

  • One Cortex-X3 prime core clocked at 3.2GHz.
  • Two Cortex-A715 & two Cortex-A710 performance cores clocked at 2.8GHz (two microarchitectures to support 64-bit and legacy 32-bit apps).
  • Three Cortex-A510 efficiency cores clocked at 2.0GHz.

On the graphics side, with the new Adreno GPU Qualcomm claims to offer a 25% boost in performance and 45% better power efficiency. There is also support for Vulkan 1.3 with up to a 30% performance boost. The GPU also supports HDR Vivid (which is China’s HDR standard) for producing richer colors and image details. Lastly, there is also something new called OLED aging compensation which could help solve the screen burn-in issue, especially now that most of us spend more time on our devices consuming different types of content.

On the gaming side, Qualcomm has been improving the Snapdragon Elite Gaming features, and the latest addition is real-time hardware-accelerated ray tracing. The company says this helps in delivering life-like reflections, lights, and illuminations when playing mobile games, thus elevating the overall experience. There is also a partnership with Unreal for mobile-optimized support to offer detailed, photorealistic human characters in games. Snapdragon Ray Tracing features will be available on smartphones from OEMs like vivo, HONOR, OPPO, ASUS, and others. Qualcomm has also partnered with game developers such as Tencent and NetEase Games among others to enable these features.

Snapdragon Sound with Spatial Audio and head tracking

The personal audio space is growing, and the popularity of TWS is on a rise as content consumption increases. With the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, Qualcomm is adding support for spatial audio with dynamic head-tracking to enable a premium and immersive surround-sound listening experience. You will now be able to stream music in 48kHz lossless format, even on the new Bluetooth LE standard. And for gamers, the latency has been reduced to around 48ms.

OEM partners & expected timeline

The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 mobile platform has secured design wins from several global OEMs, including ASUS, HONOR, Motorola, OnePlus, and OPPO. Even nubia and sub-brand REDMAGIC, Xiaomi and sub-brand Redmi, vivo sub-brand iQOO have committed to using the flagship Snapdragon chipset in their devices. During the Q4 earnings call, Qualcomm also confirmed that the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S23 series will go all-in with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 SoC. Clearly, there’s a lot to look forward to, and the first commercial devices powered by the latest mobile platform are expected by the end of 2022.

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Qualcomm FastConnect 7800: Introducing Wi-Fi 7 to Power Multi Gigabit, Low-Latency Metaverse & Computing Experiences

It took less than three years for Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) one of the latest generation Wi-Fi technologies to go mainstream across smartphones, tablets, PCs, routers, and gateways. The pandemic has been a catalyst to drive even stronger demand for Wi-Fi 6 which saw rapid adoption despite chipset supply crunch being an inhibitor. Billions of devices across infrastructure and personal use are now Wi-Fi 6, whereas Wi-Fi 6E (6GHz) capable devices are also growing rapidly.

While Wi-Fi 6 is about to go mass-market in the near to mid-term, the industry is already warming up for the commercialization of Wi-Fi 7 solutions later this year. Wi-Fi 7 or IEEE 802.11be, enables an even higher throughput for wireless networks that use 5GHz and 6GHz frequency bands to maximize the overall capacity. It also decreases the latency and improves speeds for sophisticated scenarios such as XR, 8K streaming, gaming, Cloud computing, Virtual Work, intense bandwidth scenarios as well as mission critical and industrial applications.

Qualcomm Technologies, one of the leading end-to-end wireless connectivity solutions providers, recently announced and showcased the industry’s first Wi-Fi 7 system solution – FastConnect 7800. FastConnect 7800 aims to push the boundaries of wireless connectivity with advanced innovative features to match peak performance and complement the high-speed 5G cellular networks.

Wi-Fi 7 & Qualcomm FastConnect 7800 Solution: Unlocking the True Potential of Wireless Connectivity

Source: Qualcomm

Key Highlights

  • Qualcomm’s FastConnect 7800 is a system-level solution featuring 4-stream High Band Simultaneous (HBS) Multi-Link Operations (MLO), Dual Bluetooth (BT 5.3), advanced audio (Snapdragon Sound, LE Audio, aptX Lossless tech, Qualcomm TrueWireless) and a plethora of other new innovations. FastConnect 7800, which is built on the 14nm process node, allows Qualcomm to optimize the connectivity subsystem to deliver peak data speeds in excess of 5.8Gbps, and sub-2ms latencies with relatively better power efficiencies.
  • The FastConnect 7800 features triband support in terms of 6GHz, 5GHz, and 2.4GHz spectrum, thus maximizing the available channel bandwidth to boost capacity and coverage. The key Wi-Fi 7 feature is the 4096-QAM modulation in 320MHz channel bandwidth (single channel or 160MHz + 160MHz) of High Band Simultaneous Multi-Link Operation (MLO) with 5 and 6GHz connections which helps in achieving multi-gigabit performance and peak speeds of up to 5.8Gbps.

Wi-Fi 7 & Qualcomm FastConnect 7800 Solution: Unlocking the True Potential of Wireless Connectivity

Source: Qualcomm

  • When 6GHz is unavailable, using multiple links of 240MHz of 5GHz spectrum, the system can achieve up to 4.3Gbps throughputs. Simultaneous Multi-Link which makes use of 5GHz and 6GHz bands simultaneously frees the 2.4GHz spectrum that can be used for Bluetooth and IoT Devices, making spectrum management very efficient.
  • The FastConnect 7800 also features a Comprehensive Multi-Link which uses two Wi-Fi radios to create a single synchronized link between multiple bands. In doing so, Qualcomm can reduce the overall latency and boost the throughput.
  • Further, features such as Preamble-Puncturing allow the access point to transmit data on a “punctured” 80MHz or 160MHz channel in high-density or congested scenarios where the secondary 20 MHz channel is busy. The feature allows bonding of the non-contiguous available channels other than the busy secondary channel, thereby preventing the bandwidth from being halved and boosting capacity.
  • Meanwhile, the FastConnect 7800 also brings along Bluetooth 5.3 and advanced Dual Bluetooth features that are great additions for reliable, and consistent long-range connections. Enhanced handoff and continuity feature provides the users with a seamless switching experience when swapping devices. Smart antenna switching dynamically selects the best of the two links to reduce the interference or drop in audio quality.
  • Dual Bluetooth also enables broadcast and audio sharing features for audiophiles. Multi-stream audio support for True Wireless Earbuds (TWS) facilitates for an immersive audio experience. Qualcomm also indicates power savings of up to 30-50% for extended audio sessions, whether you are a globetrotter or an explorer. aptX Lossless, aptX Adaptive with advanced modulation & code optimizations promise to present the user with splendid voice quality, crystal clear audio clarity, and a redefined premium audio experience.
  • For gamers, FastConnect 7800 brings along a low latency gaming mode where speech is required to communicate with fellow players, and a reduction in latency enables the player to have an edge, which is essential for online multi-player gaming scenarios.

Key Takeaways:

  • Wi-Fi 7 should be able to build alongside 5G, which promises to provide a consistent premium experience of higher capacity, multi-Gigabit throughputs, and lower latencies required for applications such as Cloud Gaming, Extended Reality (XR), 4K video streaming, and uploads, among others.
  • Qualcomm’s FastConnect 7800 brings a complete system-level premium personal area network (PAN) connectivity experience for users to enjoy advanced use-cases in flagship devices by the end of 2022.
  • The key features in the FastConnect 7800 such as High Band Simultaneous Multi-Link Operation (MLO), Preamble-Puncturing, Comprehensive Multi-Link, Low-Latency gaming Mode, Intelligent Dual-Bluetooth are the foundation for unlocking the immersive experiences which warrant higher throughputs, capacity, and lower latency.
  • We would love to see what Qualcomm has in store for the infrastructure (retail routers, enterprise gateways) to drive Wi-Fi 7 penetration beyond endpoint devices this year.

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Snapdragon Sound Makes Pitch With High Quality Wireless Audio Solution

In today’s smartphone market, wireless devices are increasingly becoming our means to listen to music and communicate hands free. There are fewer devices on the market with 3,5mm audio jacks, while the streaming music market is increasingly offering higher quality audio listening experiences. Until now, Bluetooth technology has fallen short in supporting lossless audio playback, meaning that these upgrades in audio quality have largely been lost through a wireless listening experience.

Snapdragon Sound was launched by Qualcomm in March 2021 as an end-to-end audio system solution to provide premium sound — up to 24-bit, 96kHz high-resolution Bluetooth music through its aptX codec suite called aptX Adaptive. To kick things off, Snapdragon Sound had its first in-person event of the year in NYC on September 1 to demonstrate its latest aptX Adaptive codec called aptX Lossless to analysts, media and other influencers. Steve Aoki, who is a big proponent for audio advancements, even ended the night with a DJ-set and cake-throwing performance for fans, Qualcomm invitees, and the new Snapdragon Insider program.


Snapdragon Sound

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Sound certification promises to create high-resolution wired quality audio for the wireless market.

AptX Lossless – newest piece to the puzzle

Qualcomm initially had several different audio codecs, from aptX and aptX HD to aptX LL. AptX Adaptive essentially can dynamically scale the bitrate to adjust for quality, whereas the other codecs were locked into a bitrate.

Snapdragon Sound AptX Lossless

With the latest aptX Lossless announcement, Snapdragon Sound adds a new layer to its codecs by promising CD quality 16-bit 44.1kHz lossless audio over Bluetooth. With more music-streaming services offering HD, hi-res and even lossless quality music files, Qualcomm is hoping to cater to consumers looking for the highest quality wireless listening experience possible. AptX Lossless is also capable of scaling down the bitrate to as low as 140kbps in congested RF environments to ensure there are no audio drops or other issues. CD lossless audio is supported for 44.1kHz, but for hi-res 24-bit 96kHz lossy is still supported.

Future of wireless streaming

Aside from the universally used low-complexity sub-band codec (SBC), there are other codecs in the market, such as Sony’s LDAC, HWA Alliance’s LHDC and Samsung’s Scalable Codec to name a few. Each have their pros and cons. The new aptX Lossless codec will help Qualcomm deliver a very holistic solution to the wireless market for those looking for high-fidelity Bluetooth devices. Not only will this solution attract audiophiles, but it will also target gamers and those working on the go through ultra-low latency audio synchronization (89 ms) and the aforementioned bitrate scalability to adapt to different RF environment settings.

Snapdragon Sound will be the first to offer a codec that provides true CD quality 16-bit 44.1kHz lossless audio over Bluetooth. Since it is an end-to-end solution, OEMs that manufacture both smartphones and TWS may be especially interested in this offering as an added ‘premium’ feature for their higher-end products. The Snapdragon Sound certification can also be a strong marketing tool to cater to consumers looking for the best possible wireless sound experience, especially since aptX has already built up a great reputation over the years.

Apple Music is already offering lossless CD and hi-res audio to its subscribers for free, and with Spotify HiFi coming later this year, there is a clear demand for higher quality music. With global TWS sales growing 27% YoY, the market is also readily adopting Bluetooth and other wireless hearables. Snapdragon Sound is well-positioned with aptX Lossless to capture the attention of consumers looking for a very versatile and robust audio experience. Xiaomi and Audio-Technica are the first two companies that have adopted Snapdragon Sound. Qualcomm has also made its own devices sporting Snapdragon Sound via its Snapdragon Insider program in partnership with Asus and Master and Dynamic. The Asus smartphone is powered by Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 888 processor while the Master and Dynamic TWS device has Qualcomm’s QCC5141 Bluetooth audio chip. Products with aptX Lossless will not be available until the end of this year or early 2022.

More to come as devices are announced and launched.


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