Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 vs Apple A17 Bionic Rivalry Could Be Less Lopsided?

The upcoming Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 processor is set to bring more power to the next generation of top Android smartphones. This is a much needed upgrade as Qualcomm's top-of-the-line mobile chip has seemingly fallen behind Apple's A-series SoCs in terms of performance and benchmark test results.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 and Gen 2 processors for Samsung Galaxy S-Series models in the US and EU managed to somehow narrow the gap, with the Galaxy-exclusive version even surpassing the A16 Bionic in graphics performance. This has raised expectations for the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 to at least keep up this progress. 

Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3

To understand how Qualcomm plans to achieve this, let's explore some rumored and confirmed details about the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 Release Date Speculations

Usually, the latest iteration to the Snapdragon 8 line is announced toward the end of the year. For instance, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 came out in November 2022, and the Gen 1 was introduced in early December 2021. Devices with these chips typically start appearing a few weeks later. High-end phones like the Samsung Galaxy S series are among the first to adopt these SoCs.

However, there's speculation this year about a change in this schedule. There's talk of the Gen 3 being launched in October 2023, with phones possibly featuring this chip in the last quarter of 2023. This speculation has gained traction because there hasn't been a Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 2 release this year, fueling these rumors.

Qualcomm has officially announced that the next Snapdragon Summit is scheduled for October 24 to 26, 2023. Since this event is where they unveil their latest Snapdragon innovations, it's very likely that the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 will be introduced there.

Potential Design and Hardware Configuration

If there's one thing that tech experts seem to agree on, it is that the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 will be made using 4nm technology. Both the Gen 1 and Gen 2 chips were also built on the 4nm architecture.

There's talk in the industry that Apple has taken up all the available 3nm production capacity for its A17 Bionic chip so this could mean that Qualcomm might have a disadvantage in sticking to the 4nm process for now.

The difference here is in the size of the chips. Chips made on the 3nm process are smaller than those made on the 4nm process. This size advantage gives 3nm chips an edge in terms of power and energy efficiency. Although the Gen 2 chip showed that reducing size isn't the only way to improve these aspects, transitioning to 3nm could have helped the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 better match up with Apple's iPhone 15 series in terms of features.

Rumors in March suggested that the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 would have a configuration of 1+5+2 cores, totaling eight cores. This includes one main 3.2 GHz Cortex-X43 for high performance, five 3.0 GHz Cortex-A720s for efficient tasks, and two 2.0 GHz Cortex-A520s for basic functions. There's also speculation that the chip will come with an X75 5G modem, Adreno 750 GPU, and surprisingly, support for UFS 4.1 storage – a feature not widely discussed so far.

Rumored Supported Devices

At present, there's limited confirmation about which devices would adopt the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 apart from recent rumors about the Xiaomi 14 and the Samsung Galaxy S24 US variants. There's talk in the industry that the new chip might come with a higher price tag compared to its predecessor. This might lead some devices to skip upgrading to the Gen 3 and stick with the Gen 2 chip, or go for a more affordable MediaTek Dimensity alternative.

It's possible that a tiered approach to CPU power might emerge, where higher-end or more expensive models get the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 while cheaper options stick with older chipsets. This strategy resembles Apple's practice of reserving its latest A-series chip for Pro model iPhones, while the base models continue with the previous version. Previous expectations of devices with Gen 2 chips upgrading to Gen 3 are now uncertain, especially if the Gen 3's higher cost comes into play.

Indications also point to Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 as processor for Samsung Galaxy S24 Series, based on leaked Geekbench benchmark results. This suggests that Samsung is considering using the new chip in at least one of its Galaxy S24 models, expected to be released in January 2024. If Samsung exclusively uses the Gen 3 chip, it might feature in all Galaxy S24 models, although it could also be reserved for the Plus or Ultra models, which are pricier than the base variants. We'll have to wait and see how this unfolds.

Leaked Benchmark Test Results

Early reports suggest that all eight cores of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 will together reach a maximum clock speed of 3.75 GHz. This is 0.5 GHz faster than the expected clock speed of the A17 Bionic and the 3.36 GHz of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy. While CPU performance involves more than just clock speed, the success of this improvement depends on using it effectively without using too much power or generating excessive heat.

There are reports that the performance of the Adreno 750 GPU in the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 has been significantly improved. However, the details about this improvement are limited. It's also expected that the Gen 3 chip will maintain the overall energy efficiency of the Gen 2, which is a welcome update. Rumors suggest that the GPU's performance could be 50% better than the Adreno 740.

Leaks have revealed benchmarking results for the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 for Galaxy, with a single-core score of 2,223 and a multi-core score of 6,661 in the Geekbench 6 test. In comparison, the Gen 2 for Galaxy chip in the same phone scored 1,867 in single-core and 4,949 in multi-core. If these numbers are accurate, it represents a significant improvement in performance.

It's important to compare these scores with those of the iPhone, regardless of the impressive performance gains. Notably, the iPhone 14 Pro, which uses the A16 Bionic chip from 2022, scored 2,514 in single-core, surpassing the Gen 3's expected score of 2,223. Despite the Gen 3's higher multi-core score of 6,661 compared to the A16's 6,361, these scores put the Gen 3 in a challenging position considering the upcoming launch of the Apple iPhone 15 Series and the Apple A17 Bionic.

To wrap up, I just want to note that the leaked benchmark test results of Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 haven't been confirmed by Qualcomm itself so it's possible that the company might introduce some improvements to boost the performance of the SoC upon launch. However, I do wonder if those tweaks would be enough to make the chipset's imminent rivalry with Apple A17 Bionic more interesting. I guess only time will tell. Stay tuned for updates.

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