Having reviewed smartphones for many years, I can say that benchmarking them is necessary, but generally pointless. That’s because, unlike laptops and game consoles, they use the same collection of chipsets which leads to near-identical performance within price points.
Even before Huawei’s slide into near irrelevancy, Qualcomm was by far the biggest player in the Android space, with nearly every flagship (Google’s Pixel 7 aside) using its Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 or Gen 1 Plus chipset in 2022.
Now we’ve got our first glimpse of what the follow-up will offer — and this sadly won’t include a more concise name. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 will add many improvements, including a 35% boost to CPU speeds, 25% faster GPU performance and 40% more energy efficency, but a catchy brand name ain’t one of them.
Built to the 4nm process, the octa-core chip flips the balance of 2.8GHz “Performance” to 2Ghz “Efficiency” cores with four of the former and three of the latter — the reverse of the 2022 chip. These work with the main core — the 3.2Ghz Arm Cortex X3.
Other than these headline improvements, Qualcomm says the new chip has made huge strides in AI performance. It’s 4.35x faster, which means it can tackle tasks like translating one language into several others in real-time — should that be the kind of thing you use your phone for, rather than doomscrolling Twitter or playing throwaway mobile games on toilet breaks. Speaking of the latter, the introduction of ray tracing might be of interest too — though not if you just like to play Solitaire and Angry Birds.
It also embraces Wi-Fi 7, just as the world is getting used to Wi-Fi 6, and comes with the Snapdragon X70 modem built in, meaning you can use two different 5G networks simultaneously if you like to juggle SIMs.
Dynamic spatial audio — where sound moves with you as you move your head — is also now supported if you have compatible earbuds and apps. And on the camera front, the Spectra Image Signal Processor can now identify elements of a photo or video before you capture them. That should mean that the preview is a closer match for what’s actually captured, after the image processing changes everything.
Speaking of cameras, the ‘always on’ camera from the last generation has been rebranded ‘always sensing’ and does clever things like hiding notifications if it spots someone who isn’t you looking at your phone. Neat, but still a little creepy.
While nex year’s Samsung Galaxy S23 is likely to be the most high-profile early handset adopting the new chipset, Qualcomm says it will appear in phones before the year is out. So expect online benchmarks to appear soonish, probably via some super eager early-adopting Chinese handsets.