Despite a somewhat more eventful 2021–2022 product cycle than Qualcomm may have preferred, 2023 has been a much simpler year for the well-known SoC and cellular modem manufacturer.
The company is getting ready to evolve through the next stage of its product stack with the Snapdragon 7+ Gen 2 after introducing the first member of their Gen 2 series of parts this year with the flagship-class Qualcomm 8 Gen 2.
For the Snapdragon 7+ Gen 2, Qualcomm is trying to give a significant performance bump to the platform with an eye towards what has become Qualcomm’s regular $400 to $600 “premium” segment of the market, which emphasizes flagship-level functionality with more modest performance and pricing.
Qualcomm Snapdragon 7+ Gen 2 – All You Need to Know
This year’s generation of the Snapdragon 7, the successor to last year’s Snapdragon 7 Gen 1, is generally more concerned with increasing performance than introducing new capabilities. There aren’t many new features this year compared to last year’s Gen 1 component, which brought mmWave support and new CPU and GPU architectures, particularly Armv9 architecture CPU cores.
Instead, the Snapdragon 7 family has received what Qualcomm claims to be one of the most significant performance gains ever. This is primarily made possible by TSMC’s 4nm process, which replaces Samsung’s troubled 4nm process. This is similar to Qualcomm’s swap last year for the well-received mid-cycle Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 component.
Moreover, this year, Qualcomm is teasing that this won’t be the first Snapdragon 7 Gen 2 component we see, given their choice to introduce their first Gen 2 component as the 7+ rather than the 7. Qualcomm has room to release a vanilla Snapdragon 7 part by removing a Snapdragon 7+ part.
While Qualcomm isn’t formally releasing any such part at the moment, there isn’t much of a need for them to launch a 7+ initially unless they had plans for something underneath it. If not, they could have released it as a 7-part like the Snapdragon 7 Gen 1, which was always a single-chip stack.
The Snapdragon 7+ Gen 2 maintains the same 1+3+4 CPU core configuration as previous generations of the Qualcomm 7 family regarding CPU organization. The significant headline here is that Qualcomm switches from a slightly faster mid-core to a more potent CPU design, resulting in a considerable performance gain for the top-performing Prime core.
Thus, Qualcomm is using one of Arm’s Cortex-X cores for the Prime core in a Snapdragon 7 component for the first time. Although the Cortex-X2 employed here is an older Arm design, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 and its Cortex-X3 core won’t be imposed upon it. However, regarding IPC and clock speeds, the Cortex-X2 offers a significant upgrade over the A710 heart used for the 7 Gen 1’s Prime core. With the IPC advantages of the more sophisticated nature, the Prime core’s peak clock speed has increased from 2.4GHz to 2.91GHz.
Qualcomm claims that the new Prime core would enhance CPU performance for the Snapdragon 7+ Gen 2 by “up to” 50% compared to the 7 Gen 1.
As there is only one Cortex-X2 core, the trade-off is that such a significant performance boost is only available for single-threaded workloads. The three mid-performance cores are still based on the Cortex-A710 and have a 2% increase in clock speed. As a result, the 7+ Gen 1 won’t significantly improve on workloads with a lot of threads. There should be some benefits from the increased power efficiency of TSMC’s 4nm process, but part of those gains have made the power-hungry Cortex-X2 practical regarding battery life.
A faster Adreno GPU is also included in the Snapdragon 7+ Gen 2. We cannot give much information because Qualcomm isn’t giving it a product number or revealing important architectural specifics, as has been the case with its integrated GPUs for a few generations. Based on the feature overview, it appears this is not utilizing the more modern GPU architecture from the 8 Gen 2. As a result, it seems Qualcomm has added a larger version of their current GPU and very probably increased its clock speed.
Qualcomm claims that, at least in terms of “long everyday use,” the Snapdragon 7+ Gen 2 has 13% more power efficiency. Last year’s 8+ Gen 1 part shows that switching to TSMC’s 4nm process should yield significant benefits. Yet, it’s also apparent that Qualcomm has been allocating a substantial portion of those advantages towards enhancing overall performance.
A 32-bit (dual 16-bit) LPDDR5 memory controller feeds the dragon. The Snapdragon 7+ Gen 2 does not enable faster LPDDR5X memory, unlike the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2. Therefore the Qualcomm 7 series is stuck with the status quo. This means that LPDDR5-6400, or 25.6 GB/second of memory bandwidth, is supported. In contrast to the vast improvements in CPU and GPU speed, Qualcomm’s cache and memory subsystem will be under much more strain to help the numerous processing blocks.
Speaking of which, substantial speed improvements have not simply been witnessed in the CPU and GPU blocks. The performance of Qualcomm’s Hexagon DSP/AI engine block has also been significantly improved, matching the GPU’s 2x improvement. Nevertheless, in our briefing, Qualcomm did not mention INT4 or micro-tiling, two critical elements of the next-generation Hexagon block on the 8 Gen 2. As a result, this is likely a significantly improved version of the Hexagon block utilized on the prior 7 Gen 1.
The triple 18-bit Spectra ISP of the Snapdragon 8 is one feature being brought down to the Snapdragon 7. The 18-bit unit on the Snapdragon 7+ Gen 2 will replace the 14-bit unit used in earlier iterations of the platform and support triple exposure computational HDR video capture in addition to better low light photography, or what Qualcomm terms their Mega Low Light feature. The ultimate result is that the Snapdragon 7+ Gen 2 can now record 4K video at up to 60fps, doubling the 7 Gen 1’s 4K30 limit, and can capture at greater resolutions when employing zero shutter lag capabilities.
An updated version of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X62 integrated modem completes the package. Similar to the SoC from the previous year, this one utilises mmWave + Sub-6 Release 16 and has a theoretical maximum download speed of 4.4Gbps.
The design for this year does have a unique twist, though, in that it supports dual SIM dual active (DSDA), another first for the Snapdragon 7 platform. The Snapdragon 7+ Gen 2’s dual active radios support 5G and 4G communications, letting dual SIM customers access any network on any radio. Another premium feature formerly exclusive to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 platform is this one.