third Gen 5G & Cortex-X1 on 5nm

This 12 months though we’re not reporting from Hawaii, Qualcomm’s Tech Summit remains to be taking place in digital type, representing the corporate’s most necessary launch occasion of the 12 months because it showcases the brand new flagship merchandise that may energy subsequent 12 months’s smartphones. Qualcomm yesterday introduced the brand new Snapdragon 888 SoC and platform, and at this time we’re going in-depth into the specs and options of the brand new silicon design.

The Snapdragon 888 is an enormous leap for Qualcomm, a lot in order that they’ve veered off from their ordinary naming scheme increments this era and even skipped the 87x sequence altogether. The 888 quantity is just not there just for advertising functions because it represents fortune and luck in Chinese language, however the brand new SoC has some substantial generational modifications that units it aside from the standard yearly enhancements of previous.

That includes the primary ever implementation of a Cortex-X1 CPU core as its efficiency engine, new Cortex-A78 cores for effectivity, an enormous +35% enhance in GPU efficiency, a completely new DSP/NPU IP redesigned from the bottom up, triple digital camera ISPs, built-in 5G modem, all manufactured on a brand new 5nm course of node, the brand new Snapdragon 888 touches and updates nearly each a part of the SoC design with vital uplifts in efficiency and capabilities. There’s a lot to cowl, so let’s go over the small print piece by piece:











Qualcomm Snapdragon Flagship SoCs 2020-2021
SoC Snapdragon 865

Snapdragon 888

CPU 1x Cortex-A77
@ 2.84GHz 1x512KB pL2

3x Cortex-A77
@ 2.42GHz 3x256KB pL2

4x Cortex-A55

@ 1.80GHz 4x128KB pL2

4MB sL3

1x Cortex-X1

@ 2.84GHz 1x1024KB pL2

3x Cortex-A78

@ 2.42GHz 3x512KB pL2

4x Cortex-A55

@ 1.80GHz 4x128KB pL2

4MB sL3

GPU Adreno 650 @ 587 MHz

 

Adreno 660 @ ?MHz

+35% perf

DSP / NPU Hexagon 698

15 TOPS AI

(Whole CPU+GPU+HVX+Tensor)

Hexagon 780

26 TOPS AI

(Whole CPU+GPU+HVX+Tensor)

Reminiscence

Controller
4x 16-bit CH

@ 2133MHz LPDDR4X / 33.4GB/s
or

@ 2750MHz LPDDR5  /  44.0GB/s

3MB system degree cache

4x 16-bit CH

@ 3200MHz LPDDR5  /  51.2GB/s

3MB system degree cache

ISP/Digital camera Twin 14-bit Spectra 480 ISP

1x 200MP or 64MP with ZSL
or

2x 25MP with ZSL

4K video & 64MP burst seize

Triple 14-bit Spectra 580 ISP

1x 200MP or 84MP with ZSL
or

64+25MP with ZSL
or

3x 28MP with ZSL

4K video & 64MP burst seize

Encode/

Decode
8K30 / 4K120 10-bit H.265

Dolby Imaginative and prescient, HDR10+, HDR10, HLG

720p960 infinite recording

8K30 / 4K120 10-bit H.265

Dolby Imaginative and prescient, HDR10+, HDR10, HLG

720p960 infinite recording

Built-in Modem none

(Paired with exterior X55 solely)

(LTE Class 24/22)

DL = 2500 Mbps

7x20MHz CA, 1024-QAM

UL = 316 Mbps

3x20MHz CA, 256-QAM

(5G NR Sub-6 + mmWave)

DL = 7000 Mbps

UL = 3000 Mbps

X60 built-in

(LTE Class 24/22)

DL = 2500 Mbps

7x20MHz CA, 1024-QAM

UL = 316 Mbps

3x20MHz CA, 256-QAM

(5G NR Sub-6 + mmWave)

DL = 7500 Mbps

UL = 3000 Mbps

Mfc. Course of TSMC

7nm (N7P)
Samsung

5nm (5LPE)

 

Re-integration of the 5G modem into the SoC

Crucial facet for this 12 months’s design is the truth that Qualcomm goes again to an totally built-in modem design, contrasting final 12 months’s stunning alternative of the Snapdragon 865 not containing any modem in any respect and having as a substitute to depend on the exterior X55 modem.

Final 12 months’s rationale of going with an exterior modem was mentioned to have been a sensible one, stemming from the truth that 5G was nonetheless in its early phases and that many distributors needed to make a number of design efforts when designing their new handsets for 5G. A exterior 5G modem such because the X55 helped the 5G transition because it was obtainable to distributors sooner than the Snapdragon 865 SoC itself, permitting them to design their RF methods earlier than getting access to the latest SoC.

This 12 months, the market has developed and is extra mature, and Qualcomm selected to re-integrate the modem into the identical silicon die because the SoC. The brand new X60 modem subsystem is the corporate’s 3rd era 5G design and brings new capabilities by way of service aggregation and 5G frequency band interoperability.

The platform’s reabsorption of the modem into the SoC die ought to signify higher energy effectivity, decrease platform value in addition to decrease PCB complexity for smartphone distributors.

2020 definitely was the 12 months that 5G grew to become a mainstream characteristic amongst gadget distributors, with primarily all people adopting the brand new normal into their flagship and even mid-range units. The brand new X60 modem will additional mature the 5G expertise by offering extra flexibility to community operators by way of frequency band assist.

mmWave specifically has been a somewhat contentious facet of 5G in 2020 as community deployments has been somewhat scarce and restricted to US cities, with customers reporting spotty reception with a bigger influence on battery life. mmWave community enlargement is progressing at a gentle tempo, and Qualcomm states that the brand new Snapdragon 888 platform fully solves the ability effectivity issues round mmWave utilization. Hopefully 2021 would be the 12 months the place mmWave turns into much more helpful and sensible for customers.

While mmWave is predicted to nonetheless be comparatively area of interest for the overwhelming majority of customers, Sub-6GHz would be the workhorse of 5G, and right here we’re seeing speedy enlargement and deployments in international locations everywhere in the world. The brand new X60’s modem functionality of permitting for service aggregation between FDD (Frequency Division Duplex, devoted frequency bands between add & obtain) and TDD (Time Division Duplex, add & obtain in the identical frequency band) signifies that community carriers will have the ability to combine and match extra obtainable Sub-6GHz spectrum collectively for even better bandwidth.

DSS, or dynamic spectrum sharing, can also be going to be a key expertise enabling community operators emigrate current LTE frequency bands to 5G NR dynamically primarily based on the natural LTE/5G consumer demand – which means that the frequency spectrum doesn’t must be segregated for every expertise, thus permitting extra precise usable bandwidth for each varieties of customers within the first few years and shoppers swap over to 5G-capable handsets.

Manufactured on Samsung 5nm / 5LPE

The brand new Snapdragon 888 is making the transition from 7nm to 5nm, however the brand new design doesn’t merely make a course of shift, it’s additionally making a foundry shift. After being with TSMC for the 7nm generations of the Snapdragon 855 and Snapdragon 865, Qualcomm is now switching again to Samsung Foundry and their new 5LPE course of node for the brand new Snapdragon 888.

Qualcomm lately had been dual-sourcing from each TSMC and Samsung relying on the SoC design and product vary, however within the high-end flagship SoC phase the corporate appears to have all the time chosen the technologically superior node because it had bigger implications for the competitiveness of these elements. N7 and N7P have been clear successful selections for the S855 and S865 as Samsung’s personal 7LPP course of was type of late, and didn’t appear to be fairly nearly as good as TSMC’s variants. Qualcomm notably nonetheless used the 7LPP node on this 12 months’s Snapdragon 765 SoC which has seen a number of success within the premium vary of gadget designs, nonetheless we had famous earlier within the 12 months that it didn’t seem like almost as environment friendly because the TSMC-manufactured flagship SoC.

This 12 months’s alternative of switching again to a Samsung course of for the flagship SoC appears to be a vote of confidence within the new course of node- as in any other case Qualcomm probably wouldn’t have made the swap. Versus 7LPP, Samsung guarantees a 20% lower in energy consumption on the identical efficiency, or a ten% enhance in efficiency on the identical energy, along with a +-20% space discount. How these figures will translate over to sensible enhancements for the brand new Snapdragon 888 stays to be seen.

One other rationale for the foundry swap could possibly be manufacturing capability. As Apple is consuming up a number of TSMC’s early 5nm capability with the A14 and M1, Qualcomm in all probability noticed Samsung’s 5LPE because the safer alternative this 12 months as the brand new Snapdragon 888 could also be manufactured within the new devoted EUV V1 line at Hwaesong.

It’ll be laborious to gauge the method node swap for this era as we don’t count on to see an identical design on TSMC’s 5nm node – until MediaTek in some way has a brand new Cortex-X1 SoC within the pipeline for subsequent 12 months.

Powered by Cortex-X1 and Cortex-A78 CPUs

The Snapdragon 888 is the primary publicly introduced SoC powered by the brand new Cortex-X1 and Cortex-A78 CPU IPs by Arm. The Cortex-X1 specifically is the primary of a brand new era of CPU IP by Arm that focuses on maximising efficiency at the price of lesser energy effectivity, whereas the Cortex-A78 being the same-generation design however which nonetheless prioritises a steadiness between efficiency, energy and space.

The brand new X1 core, primarily based on Arm’s numbers, promised a +30% uplift in IPC over the past era Cortex-A77 which was additionally deployed within the Snapdragon 865. Qualcomm advertises a 25% uplift over the Snapdragon 865, however that’s probably due to a couple configuration variations on the a part of the brand new Snapdragon 888 in comparison with Arm’s personal inner figures.

The S888 continues to make use of a 1+3+4 CPU setup this era, with the massive distinction being that as a substitute of utilizing the identical CPU IP with a unique bodily implementation, the brand new 1+3 large cores are literally of various microarchitectures.

The “prime” efficiency core as Qualcomm likes to name it’s the new Cortex-X1 design, clocking in on the identical 2.84GHz because the Snapdragon 865’s prime core. The brand new core is configured with the utmost 1MB of L2 cache.

What stood out for me throughout our briefing of the brand new chip is that the clock frequency of the brand new design isn’t all very aggressive in any respect. Qualcomm’s 25% efficiency enhance is compared to the vanilla Snapdragon 865 which additionally got here on the identical frequency. In comparison with the Snapdragon 865+ which clocks in at 3.09GHz, this efficiency benefit ought to cut back to solely 13%, which is much less spectacular.

Qualcomm’s 25% generational enhance can also be lower than Arm’s marketed 30% as the brand new S888 continues to make use of a 4MB L3 cache for the CPU cluster, versus Arm’s envisioned 8MB configuration for a high-end 5nm SoC with the brand new X1 cores. Qualcomm defined to us that this was merely a steadiness between value, implementation effort, and diminishing returns of a better cache configuration design.

What this all means is that there’s a excessive probability that the Snapdragon 888 gained’t be holding the Android CPU efficiency crown subsequent 12 months if Samsung’s next-gen Exynos SoC is even just a little extra aggressive by way of clocks or cache configurations.

The high-performance X1 cores is joined by three Cortex-A78 cores clocking in at as much as 2.4GHz, serving because the every-day workhorse CPUs for many computational duties. By way of cache, the brand new cores see their L2 doubled up from 256KB to 512KB.

One facet I used to be occupied with discovering out is whether or not the brand new design nonetheless continues Qualcomm alternative of becoming all the massive cores collectively on a single voltage aircraft, which oddly sufficient, additionally appears to be the case for the brand new Snapdragon 888. Because of this whereas the X1 and A78 cores can run at totally different frequencies, they’re all powered by the minimal voltage of both working frequency at anyone time. Qualcomm explains that that is once more a sensible alternative surrounding the design complexity of the ability supply system, significantly mentioning that the X1 core can benefit from the elevated capacitance obtainable from the bigger shared energy aircraft. While this has labored nicely for the Snapdragon 855 and 865, I’m wondering that given the brand new X1 core’s elevated efficiency and dynamic vary, if the corporate isn’t leaving additional efficiency or effectivity good points on the desk for the sake of decrease energy supply design value. It’ll be attention-grabbing to see how different SoC distributors deal with their X1 implementations.

Lastly, the massive cores are once more accompanied by 4 Cortex-A55 cores. This 12 months the corporate but once more clocks them at 1.8GHz, which makes this the 4th era SoC with an primarily an identical configuration of little cores, which is a bit disappointing. Qualcomm can’t do a lot right here as there’s merely a necessity for a brand new little core CPU IP, one thing which we’ll hopefully see launched subsequent 12 months in 2021 for 2022 SoCs.

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