Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 Runs BIG AI Models

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 uses more, faster CPUs and fewer power-efficient CPUs to boost performance. The company’s glitzy AI demos highlight’s what’s now possible on a phone.
Joseph Byrne
Joseph Byrne

Qualcomm has boosted the CPU, GPU, and AI unit performance of its flagship smartphone processor by 25% or more, showing glitzy game and AI demos to highlight what’s possible with the upgraded hardware. Already available in the Xiaomi Mi 14, the chip is in production and will be in other phones expected by the end of the year.

Compared with its predecessor, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 (SD8G3) adds a workhorse Cortex-A7xx CPU and subtracts one efficiency-focused Cortex-A5xx CPU, raising aggregate CPU performance while retaining an overall eight-core configuration. By adopting Arm’s newest Cortex CPUs and raising clock speed, the SD8G3 increases peak multicore performance by 30%.

Qualcomm shows graphics performance increasing by 25% on benchmarks. More importantly, the company reports GPU efficiency increases, indicating that the added performance requires little or no additional power. The SD8G3 also introduces mesh shading, a more flexible and higher-performance alternative to previous geometry pipelines that also saves energy by passing results directly to the pixel-processing pipeline instead of writing them to memory.

Performance on MLPerf tests increased 50% on average. Software tweaks push the gains higher on the MobileBert natural language processing (NLP) model. As AI comes to assist with text and email composition in addition to image processing, NLP will be increasingly important. Qualcomm claims AI processing is more power efficient than the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 (SD8G2). Although AI processing is more intermittent than GPU use, efficiency is nonetheless important to keep device temperatures in check and to prolong battery life.

We expect sales of premium smartphones to be flat in 2023 and grow 6% in 2024. Qualcomm must offer new features to motivate consumers to upgrade and to differentiate Snapdragon-based phones from MediaTek-based and Apple devices. Novel AI-based functions are one way to accomplish these goals.

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