Qualcomm announces next flagship Snapdragon SoC most of us won’t get

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US chipmaker and rival to Samsung’s Exynos team, Qualcomm, has announced its latest flagship-grade chipset this week called the Snapdragon 888. If you’re wondering whatever happened to the Snapdragon 875, the answer is nothing. Snapdragon 875 was an unofficial temporary name given to Qualcomm’s upcoming flagship-grade chipset but the actual product turned out to carry the Snapdragon 888 moniker.

The Snapdragon 888 is expected to power key Samsung devices next year. The Galaxy S21 series is the prime contender for the Snapdragon 888 SoC, albeit not in every market. Indeed, Samsung is expected to split the Galaxy S21 series much like it did in previous years, with some markets getting the Qualcomm-powered variants and others receiving the Exynos models. In other words, many of us won’t have access to the Snapdragon 888 chipset even if we buy the Galaxy S21 early next year.

Snapdragon 888 specifications

Qualcomm kicked off its summit by detailing the main features and improvements provided by the new Snapdragon 888 platform, such as the embedded Snapdragon X60 5G Modem-RF system that offers mmWave and sub-6GHz across all major bands worldwide. The chip supports Dynamic Spectrum Sharing, 5G carrier aggregation, global multi-SIM and more.

The new Snapdragon 888 also takes advantage of a 6th generation AI engine capable of 26 tera operations per second (TOPS). It’s designed to improve power efficiency and performance. The chipset will debut with the 3rd generation Snapdragon Elite Gaming platform that boasts not only updatable GPU drivers, Desktop Forward Rendering, and support for up to 144fps, but also a low-power always-on AI engine for intelligent features.

The chipset was built on a 5nm process and it’s the first to be based on the ARM Cortex-X1 subsystem. It sports Kryo 680 CPU cores and an Adreno 660 GPU, resulting in CPU performance improvements of up to 25% and up to 35% faster graphics rendering compared to the previous generation.

Enabling pro-grade photography

The Snapdragon 888 chipset also boasts a new, faster-by-35% Qualcomm Spectra ISP that’s technically capable of capturing photos and videos at 2.7 gigapixels per second. This translates to around 120 photos at resolutions of 12MP per second.

Unsurprisingly, Qualcomm revealed that the first devices based on the Snapdragon 888 chipset will be commercially available in the first quarter of 2021. The Galaxy S21 series will most likely be one of these devices, at least in markets where the Snapdragon 888 chipset won’t be replaced by Samsung’s Exynos solution.

Qualcomm makes no mention of Samsung

Something peculiar that’s worth noting is the fact that Samsung wasn’t mentioned in Qualcomm’s recent announcements, though this doesn’t mean that the Korean tech giant won’t be a Snapdragon 888 buyer.

Qualcomm claims that various OEMs have provided support for the Snapdragon 888 platform, including brands like LG, OnePlus, Xiaomi, ZTE and more, but Samsung hasn’t been listed. This could be an unintentional omission, seeing how the Galaxy S21 has already been benchmarked running the Snapdragon 888 (Snapdragon 875) in mid-November. Whatever the case may be, we’re hoping that the Snapdragon 888 solution has been or will be properly optimized for the Galaxy S21 series.

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