The Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 is a huge upgrade for Android phones



Qualcomm has revealed its new top-end mobile processor that will power the next wave of Android flagships in 2024. But this time around, the focus is not just on raw performance and camera enhancements. Instead, Qualcomm is turning its attention to generative AI and bringing it to smartphone users with an on-device approach. If you’ve played with products like ChatGPT and DALL.E image generator, well, prepare for such tricks to be available natively on your next Android phone.

At the heart of Qualcomm’s latest mobile processor is the next-gen Kryo core based on Arm’s Cortex-X4 that offers a clock speed of up to 3.3 GHz. It is claimed to be 30% faster than its predecessor while also being 20% more frugal at power intake. It is based on TSMC’s 4nm fabrication technology, which is a generation behind the 3nm stack deployed by Apple for the A17 Pro silicon powering the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max.

A leap in mobile gaming

Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 powering mobile games.

The core architecture is somewhat unconventional with a 1 + 5+ 2 format. Doing the heavy lifting is a prime core, assisted by five performance cores ticking at 3.2 GHz. For less demanding tasks, there are only two efficiency cores clocked at 2.3 GHz. For gaming enthusiasts, Qualcomm claims all that firepower now allows 240fps gaming. You’ll just have to find a fittingly high-refresh-rate panel and., of course, a game that can pull those figures.

Qualcomm is also taking some inspiration from the PC gaming ecosystem, thanks to a new frame generation algorithm that can upscale the fps count from 60 to 120. It’s a massive leap, but we’ll have to in actual tests how the games look. Unreal Engine 5’s Lumen system is here to do what hardware-accelerated ray tracing does in PC and console games, which is producing more accurate and realistic shadows and reflections in games.

Qualcomm also mentions 8K gaming on an external display in its press release, which is definitely ambitious, but there aren’t many details available on that front. Those gaming chops come to life courtesy of the onboard Adreno GPU, which offers a performance and energy efficiency boost of 25% each.

Leaning into the AI phone future

Features of Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 SoC.

The Snapdragon 8 Gen 3, following in the footsteps of Google’s Tensor G3, is a sign of many tantalizing AI tricks to come, especially those that have so far remained exclusive to Google’s Pixel phones or hidden behind paywalls in professional desktop-grade editing apps. Qualcomm says the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 will allow users to remove undesirable objects from videos. Additionally, it leverages Stable Diffusion’s generative AI tricks to let users switch the background in their images.

Generative AI fill is also a part of the package, allowing users to expand the canvas of their original photos by using AI to add more elements that weren’t originally in the camera’s frame courtesy of predictive pixel generation. All those AI tricks are made possible by deploying specialized modules (which include a 98% faster NPU (Neural Processing Unit), support for multiple-modal AI models like OpenAI’s ChatGPT, and a dedicated AI stack.

The chipmaker claims that the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 is the fastest chip of its kind that can handle Stable Diffusion queries for text-to-image generation in less than a second. Qualcomm also says its latest chip can process over 20 tokens each second for generative AI models like Meta’s Llama 2. When it comes to practical implementation, an AI assistant based on this model works in tandem with a third-party plug-in like SkyScanenr to help users manage their travels with just a brief text/voice command.

More camera tricks

Video capture on a phone with Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 inside.

On the imaging side, support for DCG image sensors for computational HDR upscaling, night mode for video recording, and compatibility with standalone T0F (Time of Flight) sensors for detailed depth mapping also come to life courtesy of Qualcomm’s latest silicon. Dolby HDR photo capture is also here, which means compared to 8-bit JPEG shots that only depict around 16.7 million colors, you will get 10-bit depth in photos that can reproduce over a billion color shades.

For video recording enthusiasts, Qualcomm’s latest flagship brings support for 8K HDR and 4K 120fps recording. Slo-mo video capture at 960fps is also on the table, alongside 12-layer multimedia segmentation for more control over editing and an enhanced bokeh detailing system in videos. The most impressive of all, however, is night mode video capture at 4K 60fps.

The connectivity suite is led by the Snapdragon X75 5G modem and the FastConnect 7800 system, bringing Wi-Fi 7 and 5G Advanced-ready to devices. On the display front, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 ups the ante by introducing external display support for 8K panels and screens that refresh at 240Hz.

Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 availability

A render of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 sitting on top of someone's fingertip.

Alongside the chip itself, we also have confirmation about which companies will be using the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 in their future phones. So far, Asus, Honor iQoo, Meizu, Nio, Nubia, OnePlus, Oppo, Realme, Redmi, RedMagic, Sony, Vivo, Xiaomi, and ZTE are all confirmed to use the new processor in future releases.

Qualcomm says that the first Android phones with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 are “expected to be available in the coming weeks.” It’s likely we’ll see some phones with the Gen 3 chip before the end of the year, but the vast majority of phones with the processor should be launching throughout 2024.

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