Qualcomm announces new Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset offers 18-bit triple-ISP design, can process up to 3.2 Gigapixels per second


Qualcomm has announced the details of its next-generation mobile chipset, Snapdragon 8 Gen 1. In addition to a new naming scheme, the new mobile platform brings a number of firsts and improves upon its already-capable Snapdragon 888+ predecessor.

Starting first with the photo-centric improvements, Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor features Snapdragon Sight Technology—the name given to the 18-bit image signal processor (ISP) onboard the chipset. This marks the first time an 18-bit ISP has been developed for mobile devices and there are three of them onboard the new mobile platform. In total, the ISP can process up to 3.2 gigapixels per second, four times more data than its predecessor. That kind of bandwidth means you can up to 200MP photos from a single camera module or up to 36MP photographs from three camera modules at once. It also means 8K HDR and HDR10+ video will be possible.

Qualcomm says the new triple-ISP array can support up to 30 frames per second (fps) stills shooting with three 36MP cameras, one 64MP camera and one 36MP camera or a single 108MP camera, all with zero shutter lag.

The ISP will also have an array of dedicated engines for specific photo-related tasks. One is Bokeh Engine, a new tech that for adding background blur to images and video. Qualcomm has partnered with Leica to bring a collection of three new Leitz Looks filters that replicate the unique out-of-focus blur seen in some of Leica’s most iconic lens designs. The new ‘Noctilux,’ ‘Street’ and ‘Vintage’ Leitz Looks will be based on the bokeh from Leica’s 50mm Noctilux, 35mm Summilux and 28mm Summilux lenses, respectively.

Another engine is a new Multi-Frame engine, designed specifically for merging multiple frames together to reduce noise and increase dynamic range in challenging scenes. The last is an Ultrawide Engine, designed specifically to de-warp the perspective distortion and minimize chromatic aberrations in images captured with ultrawide camera modules.

Aritifical intelligence is once again at the forefront of Qualcomm’s new processor and is behind many of the AI-powered features it has to offer. At the heart of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 is a 7th Gen Qualcomm AI Engine that uses both high-performance and energy-efficient cores to deliver double the memory and speed of its predecessor. This not only powers the aforementioned Leica Leitz Look filters, but also Qualcomm’s face-detection capabilities, natural language processing for personal assistants and a health feature, designed in collaboration with Sonde Health, that uses on-device AI to analyze users vocal patterns to determine if the owner of the device is at risk for various health issues, such as asthma, depression, COVID-19 and more.

Qualcomm has also included a new Always-On ISP, separate from the three main ISP cores. This dedicated ISP will enable manufacturers to keep a single camera running at all times without draining the battery. While the privacy implications of this are certainly something to consider, Qualcomm says this technology can be used for always-on face unlocking and automatically locking the display or hiding sensitive notifications if the always-on camera module recognizes someone else is looking at the screen (or peeking over your shoulder for that matter).

Speaking of security, Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 features a dedicated Trust Management Engine for keeping users data secure on-device, including personal effects like digital car keys, drivers’ licenses and more using the Android Ready Secure Element (SE) standard.

As for connectivity, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 mobile platform includes Qualcomm Technologies’ 4th gen Snapdragon X65 5G Modem-RF System, which tops out at speeds up to 10Gbps. There is also support for more 5G bands than ever before, as well as global multi-SIM support. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity has also been improved, with speeds up to 3.6Gbps over Wi-Fi 6 and 6E and improved Bluetooth support, including lossless audio via Snapdragon Sound Technology, which uses Qualcomm’s aptX Lossless Technology for CD-quality playback over Bluetooth.

If past years are anything to go by, we can expect to see the first devices with Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 mobile platform in the first quarter of 2022. And, as always, it’s up to the various smartphone manufacturers to include the required hardware and featureset to make the most of all of these capabilities. If you’re wondering what is possible, XDA Developers have gotten their hands on a reference device and taken it through the paces to see what manufacturers could, in theory, develop.

Qualcomm didn’t elaborate on much it in our briefing, but DPReview was informed that Qualcomm has partnered with Sony Semiconductor Solutions Group to develop an internal lab in its San Diego headquarters to develop future image sensors destined for smartphones.

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