Premium segment SoC gets a Cortex-X CPU core

After a 2021/2022 product cycle, that was a little more iInteresting than Qualcomm might have wished, 2023 was a far more straightforward year for the prolific SoC and cellular modem vendor. After launching the first member of its Gen 2 family with the flagship-class Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 earlier this year, the company is preparing to launch the next step in its product stack with the Snapdragon 7+ Gen 2 run through. Aimed at what has become Qualcomm’s traditional $400-$600 “premium” market segment, which focuses on flagship-level features with modest performance and lower cost, Qualcomm is aiming for the Snapdragon 7+ Gen 2 to achieve a sizeable performance boost for the platform.

Positioned as the successor to last year’s Snapdragon 7 Gen 1, this year’s iteration of the Snapdragon 7 is broadly more focused on improving performance than adding features. While last year’s Gen 1 installment added mmWave support and new CPU and GPU architectures – specifically ARMv9 architecture CPU cores – this year there are only a handful of new features. Instead, this is what Qualcomm is touting as one of their biggest performance upgrades ever for the Snapdragon 7 family. This is made possible in large part by a much-welcomed switch from Samsung’s beleaguered 4nm process to TSMC’s 4nm process, mirroring the switch Qualcomm made last year for the well-received mid-cycle Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 made part.

Also new this year, Qualcomm is dropping hints that this won’t be the only Snapdragon 7 Gen 2 part we’ll see this year, given the decision to launch their first Gen 2 part as a 7+ instead of a 7th In In short, launching as a Snapdragon 7+ part leaves Qualcomm room to launch a vanilla Snapdragon 7 part later. Of course, Qualcomm isn’t explicitly announcing such a part now, but there’s little reason to launch a 7+ first unless they had plans for something underneath; Otherwise, they could have launched it as a 7-piece Snapdragon 7 Gen 1, which was always a one-chip stack.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 7-class SoCs
SoC Snapdragon 7+ Gen 2
Snapdragon 7 Gen 1
CPU 1x Cortex-X2
@ 2.91GHz

3x Cortex-A710
@ 2.49GHz

4x Cortex-A510
@ 1.8GHz

1x Cortex-A710
@ 2.4GHz

3x Cortex-A710
@ 2.36GHz

4x Cortex-A510
@ 1.8GHz

graphic card Adreno Adreno
DSP/NPU hexagon hexagon
2x 16-bit CH

@ 3200MHz LPDDR5 / 25.6GB/s

2x 16-bit CH

@ 3200MHz LPDDR5 / 25.6GB/s

ISP/Camera Triple 18-bit Spectra ISP

1x 200MP or 108MP with ZSL
64+36MP with ZSL
3x 32MP with ZSL

4K HDR video and 64MP burst recording

Triple 14-bit Spectra ISP

1x 200MP or 84MP with ZSL
64+20MP with ZSL
3x 25MP with ZSL

4K HDR video and 64MP burst recording

4K60 10-bit H.265

Dolby Vision, HDR10+, HDR10, HLG

1080p240 slow motion recording

4K30 10-bit H.265

Dolby Vision, HDR10+, HDR10, HLG

720p480 slow motion recording

Integrated modem X62 integrated

(5G NR Sub-6 + mmWave)

DL = 4400Mbps
5G/4G Dual Active SIM (DSDA)

X62 integrated

(5G NR Sub-6 + mmWave)

DL = 4400Mbps

Mfc. Proceedings TSMC4nm Samsung 4nm

In terms of CPU organization, the Snapdragon 7+ Gen 2 maintains the same 1+3+4 CPU core configuration that we’ve seen in previous generations of the Snapdragon 7 family. The big news here is that the top-performing Prime core sees a significant boost in performance as Qualcomm makes the switch from using a slightly higher clocked mid-core to using an overall more powerful CPU architecture.

So for the first time for a Snapdragon 7 part, Qualcomm is tapping into one of Arm’s Cortex-X cores for the Prime core. The Cortex-X2 used here is technically the design of Arm’s previous generation, so it won’t step on the toes of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 and its Cortex-X3 core. But compared to the A710 core used for the Prime core of 7 Gen 1 (and the middle cores of 7+ Gen 2), the Cortex-X2 represents a significant improvement in both IPC and clock speeds. As a result The peak clock speed for the Prime core has increased from 2.4GHz to 2.91GHz, further boosting the IPC gains of the more complex core.

All in all, Qualcomm touts a CPU performance boost of “up to” 50% for 7+ Gen 2 vs 7 Gen 1; practically all of it comes from the new Prime core.

The downside is that since there’s only one Cortex-X2 core, such a big performance boost is really only accessible to single-threaded workloads. The three middle (performance) cores are again based on Cortex-A710 and clock a full 2% higher than before. As such, the 7+ Gen 1 won’t make huge gains on heavily multithreaded workloads. The improved power efficiency of TSMC’s 4nm process should pay dividends there, but some of those gains have been invested to make this power-hungry Cortex-X2 viable from a battery life perspective.

Meanwhile, the 7+ Gen 2 packs a faster Adreno GPU as well. As has been the case with Qualcomm’s integrated GPUs for several generations, the company doesn’t assign a product number to these – let alone reveal key architectural details – so we can only share a limited amount of detail. Based on the feature summary, it doesn’t look like it will be using the newer GPU architecture of 8 Gen 2; So it appears that Qualcomm has thrown in a larger version of their existing GPU and almost certainly given it a healthy clock speed boost.

Be that as it may, expectations for GPU performance for the new SoC are high: Qualcomm boasts a massive 2x performance increase over the 7 Gen 1 – a platform that delivered just 20% more than its own predecessor. While these aren’t flagship-class SoCs, Qualcomm still likes to position the Snapdragon 7-series as a good complement for gaming smartphones, especially in China, so it’s not too surprising that Qualcomm is putting so much into GPU performance invested.

Overall, Qualcomm touts a 13% improvement in power efficiency over the 7 Gen 1, at least for “extended daily use.” The move to TSMC’s 4nm process should pay off significantly, as evidenced by last year’s 8+ Gen 1 part, but at the same time it’s clear that Qualcomm has invested a good chunk of those gains into improving overall performance.

The dragon is fed by a 32-bit (dual 16-bit) LPDDR5 memory controller. Unlike the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, the 7+ Gen 2 doesn’t get support for faster LPDDR5X memory, meaning the status quo prevails for the Snapdragon 7 family. In this case, that means support for memory speeds up to LPDDR5-6400, which translates to 25.6 GB/second of memory bandwidth. In contrast to the significant increases in CPU and GPU performance, Qualcomm’s cache and memory subsystem will put a lot more pressure to feed the various processing blocks.

Speaking of which, it’s not just the CPU and GPU blocks that have seen big performance gains. Qualcomm’s Hexagon DSP/AI engine block has also received a significant performance optimization to compete with the 2x increase in GPU. Qualcomm went into the technical details here, but our brief didn’t mention features like INT4 or micro-tiling – two key features of the next-gen Hexagon block on the 8 Gen 2 – so it seems likely that’s the case a vastly improved version of the Hexagon block used on the previous 7 Gen 1.

However, one part of the Snapdragon 8 technology that makes its way to the Snapdragon 7 is its triple 18-bit Spectra ISP. The 18-bit unit of the 7+ Gen 2 replaces the 14-bit unit of previous generations of the platform and offers support for triple exposure computational HDR video recording as well as improved low-light photography, which Qualcomm calls Mega Low light function. The end result is that the 7+ Gen 2 can shoot at higher resolutions when using the Zero Shutter Lag feature and combined with the upgraded GPU it can now record 4K video at up to 60 fps, breaking the 4K30 limit of the 7 Gen 1 is doubled.

Finally, rounding out the package is a repeat of Qualcomm’s integrated Snapdragon X62 modem. Like last year’s SoC, it’s a mmWave+ Sub-6 Release 16 design capable of a theoretical maximum download rate of 4.4 Gbps. However, this year’s design has a twist: Dual SIM Dual Active (DSDA) support, another first for the Snapdragon 7 platform. Both active radios on 7+ Gen 2 support 5G and 4G communications, allowing dual SIM users to use essentially any network they want on both radios. This is another premium feature that was previously limited to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 platform.

For non-cellular connectivity, the 7+ Gen 2 uses a FastConnect 6900 radio system. This is a relatively modest update over the earlier 6700 radio, increasing Bluetooth support to version 5.3 of the protocol and increasing the peak bandwidth of the 2×2 stream Wi-Fi 6E radio to 3 thanks to Dual Band Simultaneous (DBS) support .6 Gbit/s increased .

In summary, the Snapdragon 7+ Gen 2 will come to market very quickly. According to Qualcomm, phones using the SoC will be available later this month, with Redmi and Realme among the OEMs expected to release phones based on the new chip.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *