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December 1, 2021
☕ Good morning! Happy first of December! The countdown to Christmas and holidays and such is on.
Qualcomm’s new flagship chip
Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 hero image

Qualcomm has announced what your next Android flagship will have: a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, its new flagship processor likely to be seen in a bunch of Android phones (unless MediaTek really has a winner in its Dimensity 9000).

Once again, there’s a list of new specs, tech details, features, and claims that the CPU, GPU and other modules are faster, more efficient, and it’s all better than ever. 

  • One of the problems for great new mobile hardware is that most of us aren’t exactly stressing the CPUs or GPUs as we send messages and check email and so on. 
  • But to assume it won’t make much difference wouldn’t be right.
  • Increasingly, the details that matter are better power efficiency (ie. longer lasting battery without performance trade-offs), heating problems and packaging demands for manufacturers (the previous 888 ran hot), better/faster photography and video, reception improvements for those times when you’re on the margin of signal, and so on.

What’s new:

  • Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Tech Summit happening in Hawaii launched the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 and its new marketing name/brand, plus all the specs, in a keynote and a deep dive, all of which is on YouTube.
  • It’ll be manufactured on Samsung’s 4nm process node, the same company that made the 5nm 888. 
  • Qualcomm is saying its CPU alone will be 20% faster than the 888, thanks to new Armv9 CPU cores, especially its new X2 cores. The chipset will hold one Cortex-X2 core clocked at 3GHz, three Cortex-A710 cores, and four Cortex-A510 cores for low-power processing, and deliver a claimed 30% power saving.
  • Samsung’s Foundry business unit has previously said the node step from 5nm to 4nm implies a 16% reduction in power, so Qualcomm claiming more indicates further efficiencies that’ll be intriguing to put to the test.
  • GPU: A 30% graphical boost and 25% power saving over the Snapdragon 888 series.
  • Modem: 8 Gen 1 has an integrated X65 modem that was announced earlier this year, with speeds of up to 10Gbps and a bunch of features like 3GPP Release 16. It’s a little more futureproof: real-world speeds won’t get you 10Gbps any time soon, but by comparison, the Snapdragon 888 topped out at 7.5Gbps.
  • There’s also support for Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2, and Snapdragon Sound wireless tech.
  • ISP: Imaging seems to be a big deal here. Qualcomm says its new processor is an 18-bit ISP touting 3.2 gigapixels per second speeds, along with the headline feature of 8K/30fps recording in HDR, and more.
  • AI: the new seventh-generation AI engine has a big uplift, including 70% power efficiency improvements for AI workloads. 
  • And one slightly cursed thing, via Twitter: you can mint NFTs with the latest Snapdragon, for some reason.
  • Here’s our deep dive into the tech.

What it means:

  • We’ll know more when the first Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 phones come out, and you guessed it, that’s happening soon.
  • The Xiaomi 12 series will be first to launch with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, with a leaked date pinning this to December 12th.
  • Realme is also getting in on the act, with its GT2 Pro being marketed as “one of the first” phones to get the 8 Gen 1, so presumably that happens within a few weeks as well.
  • Then there’ll be the Samsung S22 line, expected early next year — January or February, perhaps.
  • That’s when real benchmarks, battery life, new features, and sustained performance vs. overheating, and any price increase, will all be found out.

What’s next:

  • Qualcomm has more coming out of Day 2 of the summit, including “Qualcomm’s role across Infrastructure (5G + Wi-Fi 6), Compute, Handheld Gaming, Auto, and more.”
  • Compute and handheld gaming, eh? Meaning Windows and something to power a Steam Deck or so? 
  • Let’s see what’s coming…

👀 This is really, really poor from Nokia: its Nokia 9 PureView won’t even get last year’s Android 11, and HMD says just buy a new Nokia instead (Android Authority).

🚿 Water resistance could come to more budget Samsung phones in 2022 (Android Authority).

🔑 WhatsApp, iMessage give the most info to the FBI, new document shows (Android Authority).

👉 Amazon’s been announcing AWS things at its re:Invent conference, which might all be interesting for enterprise-types, but some of it is intriguing for us plebs too: for example, AWS Private 5G, where you can build your own 5G network using Amazon infrastructure, and on the hardware front, Amazon’s up to its third-generation of its Graviton ARM SoC, plus its latest custom ML chip Trn1 that can handle machine learning data faster. Big competition for Nvidia/Intel/etc in the AI/ML/server space (TechCrunch).

🍎 These transparent Apple prototypes clearly show the greatness of see-through gadgets (The Verge).

🎮 ‘I am not gonna die on the internet for you!’: How game streaming went from a dream job to a burnout nightmare (The Guardian).

💵 The horse, the drone and the epic fight for gambling success (Wired).

📺 Netflix sure has a lot of nerd stuff coming in 2022: The Sandman, Magic: The Gathering, The Witcher: Blood Origin, Cyberpunk: Edgerunners, and Stranger Things Season 4 too… (Gizmodo).

🔋 Formula E says third-gen vehicle will be the world’s most efficient race car, racing in 2022-23 (Engadget).

🎄 Microsoft’s ugly holiday sweater is an ode to Minesweeper (Gizmodo).

🌠 Asteroid-sample return shows water on its rocks’ surface: “a cubic meter of asteroid dust may have as much as 20 liters of water” (Ars Technica).

🪓 “‘If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound?’ Why is that considered a philosophical question when it seems to have a straightforward answer?” (r/nostupidquestions).

Wednesday Weirdness

Some weird and beautiful: A time-lapse of the Earth setting on the moon, captured by the Japanese spacecraft Selene, or Kaguya. It was a lunar orbiter that orbited the moon for 20 months. This via JAXA/NHK on YouTube:

earth set

Mostly orbiting the coffee pot,

Tristan Rayner, Senior Editor

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