Qualcomm Unveils the Snapdragon 888

Posted on December 1, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Android, Mobile with 21 Comments

Qualcomm today announced its next flagship mobile platform, the Snapdragon 888, which it says offers dramatic performance improvements over its predecessors.

“Creating premium experiences takes a relentless focus on innovation,”  Qualcomm president Cristiano Amon said in a prepared statement. “It takes long term commitment, even in the face of immense uncertainty. It takes an organization that’s focused on tomorrow, to continue to deliver the technologies that redefine premium experiences.”

Qualcomm normally unveils its latest Snapdragon 8-series chipset, along with other innovations, at a tech summit in Hawaii, but with COVID-19 coming around for another pass, the event is, of course, virtual this year.

The Snapdragon 888 includes the third-generation Snapdragon X60 5G modem system, which offers both mmWave and sub-6 across all major bands worldwide, as well as support for 5G carrier aggregation, global multi-SIM, and Dynamic Spectrum Sharing. It also features the 6th-generation Qualcomm AI Engine, with its completely re-engineered Qualcomm Hexagon processor, for what the firm calls “a pivotal leap forward in AI.”

And perhaps most interesting, the new chipset includes Qualcomm Spectra capabilities aimed at computational photography that deliver a 35 percent performance boost over earlier chipsets.

The Snapdragon 888 will appear in flagship smartphones beginning in early 2021, most likely starting with the Samsung Galaxy S21 in January.

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Comments (22)

22 responses to “Qualcomm Unveils the Snapdragon 888”

  1. Daekar

    And the question everyone wants answered: does the performance of this chip give any sign that Qualcomm will have something to compete with Apple's M1?

    • dcdevito

      In reply to Daekar:

      Doubt it. They can’t even keep up with Apple’s A series.

    • sammyg

      In reply to Daekar:

      For sure that is "THE" question.

      At the same time rumors are already being pushed about the "M1X" with 8 fire cores and 4 ice cores (vs 4&4 in the M1).

      The only real question in my mind is, will Apple walk or run away from the rest?

      • Truffles

        In reply to sammyg:

        I can't imagine spending all that R&D budget for the last 10 years just to stay a bit ahead of x86. I'm guessing M1 might eventually be seen as another iPhone moment in tech history.

        • sammyg

          In reply to Truffles:

          Oh my gut says Apple has just opened a can of WHOOP.....you get my point. So many things going for them at one time.

          First the performance, power consumption and heat generation of their M1 and A series Chips has just been amazing.

          Second they are integrating their software with their chips, like nobody else is or even can at this moment. That point can not be stressed enough. It will only get better over time and widen the gap.

          Third Rosetta 2 is just simply amazing. Amazing to the point that Joe Consumer won't know or care if they are running an app natively or through Rosetta. If it just works and does not stand out from poor performance, like emulated x86 do on Windows for ARM, they won't care. There could be issues for some stuff though.

          Lastly they have got developers moving and moving fast towards porting their apps. Two the apps I use a lot, OmniGraffle Pro (Visio replacement, but better) and Affinity photo are already ported. Office 365 is in beta. Those three software packages would be 50% of what I use beyond the built in OS applications like Photos, iMessage, Notes etc.

          They are sitting on a mountain of money that they can use for R&D. Lots of rumors about re-designed Mac's from the laptops all the way up, removing the bezels they have, and just being able to use that free space that the M1 opens up. Micro LED screens are on the horizon as well for them.

          If the M1X or M2 or M3 start to kill AMD/Intel in performance at higher levels you could see whole industries like video editing basically become a Mac market, like 90% of users are on Mac's for those workloads.

      • Daishi

        In reply to sammyg:

        I envision it as a cocky strut.

  2. shameer_mulji

    In reply to lvthunder:

    If you read up on Apple's M1 SoC, it is based off of the core architecture of the A14 SoC in iPhone 12 / iPad Air devices. So, I think what @daekar is asking if the performance increase of the Snapdragon 888 is significant enough that Qualcomm can take the core architecture of that and design a custom SoC for laptops / desktops?

  3. buzzmodo

    Is this the kind of chip that would make the Surface Duo phone rock? I would love to consider the device, but not with present generation of chip in it.

  4. shameer_mulji

    Would love to see how the Surface Duo performs with this SoC.

  5. codymesh

    Qualcomm should be releasing performance numbers tomorrow, and frankly, the industry needs Qualcomm (or its competition) to step up their performance game and deliver true competition for Apple.

  6. crunchyfrog

    One of the complaints by some OEM's about the 865 was that the 5G modem had to be a separate module which affected performance and battery life.

    Am I reading this correctly that the 888 has the 5G modem built in again?

  7. toukale

    In reply to lvthunder:

    Why would Qualcomm be interested? The pc market is not big enough for them to make that kind of commitment that would most likely not pay off. In case folks are not paying attention, both Intel and AMD no longer have the single most important thing one needs in computing tech "scale." Apple have that crown now, meaning they will be able to keep up their r&d spending for years.

    • shameer_mulji

      In reply to toukale:

      "The pc market is not big enough for them to make that kind of commitment that would most likely not pay off."

      If that's true ( and I don't think it is), then why would Qualcomm go through the time and effort of investing resources into partnering with MS on the current SPX? Laptops are big business.

      • toukale

        In reply to shameer_mulji:

        What Qualcomm and Microsoft are doing is nothing crazy, just a tweak here or there for a chip Qualcomm is already mass producing. What they are not doing is what Apple have been doing with their iPad A-series chips for years and now with the M1. Besides, Qualcomm is no longer doing custom chips anymore, they are using off the shelf ARM design to keep costs down. It is not financially feasible/beneficial for them to do custom chips when their buyers won't pay for them. Everyone wants their chips cost to go down, that's all we've heard the last two years from every mobile oems.

        The entire pc market shipped about 250 million devices in 2019 (Apple shipped more cpu's than the entire pc market last year between all their devices). Even if Qualcomm could control that entire market (which it won't) that is still nowhere as big as the smartphone market which shipped over 1.5 billion devices last year. A large part of that market not only uses Qualcomm cpu's but also their modems and license their IP's. Microsoft with all its legacy problems is not about to abandon Intel/AMD anytime soon and spend a ton of money on R&D on a non growth market. That kind of commitment would require years of R&D and billions of investment dollars when Intel/AMD is good enough and present no legacy issues they need to worry about. Yes, the M1 is great but its only available in Apple products and Apple cares more about its profits than market shares.

  8. behindmyscreen

    Qualcomm: "Hey look we can Apple too!"

    • red.radar

      In reply to behindmyscreen:

      I doubt Qualcomm is very interested in putting R/D resources into a desktop class CPU when the applications that drive volume are so entrenched in win32.

      I see datacenters transitioning before windows systems do. Plus Intel knows where there bread is buttered. Lakefield should close the gap well enough to keep corporate customers interested.


    888 is fine but the real question is whether Qualcomm is going to compete with M1 like AMD reportedly is, because if not then Windows on ARM is going to be hinging on the AMD ARM SoC competition with M1 and M1X and later Apple Silicon and Qualcomm would no longer be relevant in Windows on ARM.

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