just last month, and rumors have already started about its successor, which we presume will be known as the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2. Most chips meant for Android phones out there have an octa-core CPU with three clusters, but it looks like the Gen 2 will have a different layout.
Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 will have four medium cores
Leaker Digital Chat Station, who has many credible leaks under his belt, claims that SM8550 Kailua, which apparently are the model number and codename, respectively, for the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, will be based on Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC)’s 4nm process, which was also used for the 8 Plus Gen 1.
What’s more interesting though, is that the chip will deviate from the common one big Arm core, three medium cores, and four low-power cores design employed by most chip makers for their high-end chips that power the best Android phones around.
In fact, even the Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 is based on that setup, featuring one Cortex-X2 core, three Cortex A710 cores, and four Cortex A510 cores. There was a time not too long ago when chips used to have four big cores and four little cores. For instance, the Snapdragon 845 had four A75-based cores and four A55-based cores.
The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 will seemingly shake things up. Per today’s leak, the chip will feature one tier with one Makalu generation core, another cluster with two Makalu generation cores, followed by two Matterhorn cores, and three Klein R1 cores.
If that sounds like a word salad, Arm’s Matterhorn generation refers to its 2021 Cortex CPUs, whereas Makalu is meant for 2022 phones.
That implies that the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 will have one Cortex-X3 core, which is yet to be announced, two Cortex-A720 cores, two 2021’s A710 cores, and three older A510 cores. The tipster adds that it will come with the Adreno 740 GPU.
Qualcomm is still not ready to abandon an instruction architecture which Apple got rid of long ago
Arm announced the Matterhorn and Makalu generations in 2020 and said that they would provide up to a 30 percent performance uplift. The company had also said that starting with 2022 designs, its Cortex-A big cores would only support the 64-bit instruction set.
That’s because 64-bit code leads to a faster and more responsive experience when compared to 32-bit. Chinese outlet IT Home reports that OPPO, Vivo, and Xiaomi do not allow new 32-bit apps on their app stores any longer to boost user experience.
Chip makers apparently plan to gradually reduce support for 32-bit code, which appears to explain why the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip will also have A710 and A510 cores. Otherwise, if it solely opts for Makalu cores, next year’s high-end Android phones might not be able to run some older apps.
Apple has an architectural license with Arm which allows it to make changes to designs. Its smartphone chips have six cores: two high-performance cores and four energy-efficient cores, and they are believed to be way faster than Android chips, largely because the company has been using 64-bit instruction architecture since 2013.
Google’s bespoke Tensor chip that powers the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro also has an unusual setup which is aimed at improving efficiency and features two Arm Cortex-X1 cores, as well as older medium and lower power cores, and that seems to have worked well for the company.
So while it’s not unusual for chipmakers to use old CPU designs, what’s still not clear is why Qualcomm is going for a different design.
What seems odd – as noted by Android Authority – is that instead of sticking with Arm’s merged-core approach for the Cortex-A510, which sees two cores paired together to allow resource sharing, Qualcomm is also opting for a single core with its own dedicated sources, which could reduce efficiency.
Could it be that efficiency gains from 2+2 medium cores will compensate for that? It seems likely, given that well-known leaker Ice Universe
said late last month that the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 is a lot more efficient than the Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1.
Still, it’s hard to make complete sense of what Qualcomm is up to here, but the rumored specs have definitely piqued our interest. Will this be the year when Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip finally takes over the iPhone’s A-series SoC? Well, it’s too soon to comment on that, but if Qualcomm is veering away from Arm’s chip design guidelines, it’s surely onto something.