Is the Pixel 6 outdated already?

< type="image/webp"/>Snapdragonm 8 Gen 1 vs Google Tensor hero

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

The arrival of Qualcomm’s next-gen Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 inevitably calls into question whether current-gen hardware is completely outclassed or not. While we’re well past the point of “good enough” smartphone performance, new hardware drives innovation forward and it’s often the only way to experience new cutting-edge use cases. So we’re already eagerly anticipating 2022’s flagship smartphones.

Google also has new hardware in the market in the form of its first semi-custom Google Tensor SoC. Boasting in-house machine learning smarts, Google’s entry into the mobile chip market has already produced some standout features in the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. But has Google’s silicon already been eclipsed by Qualcomm’s upcoming flagship processor? Read on to find out.

Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 vs Google Tensor specs

Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 Google Tensor
CPU Config

Snapdragon 8 Gen 1:

1x Arm Cortex-X2 (3.0GHz)
3x Arm Cortex-A710 (2.5GHz)
4x Arm Cortex-A510 (1.8GHz)

Google Tensor:

2x Arm Cortex-X1 (2.80GHz)
2x Arm Cortex-A76 (2.25GHz)
4x Arm Cortex-A55 (1.80GHz)


Snapdragon 8 Gen 1:


Google Tensor:

Arm Mali G78 MP20
848 MHz (shader clock)
996 MHz (tiler clock)


Snapdragon 8 Gen 1:

Hexagon DSP

Google Tensor:

Google TPU

RAM support

Snapdragon 8 Gen 1:

LPDDR5 @ 3,200MHz

Google Tensor:


4G/5G Modem

Snapdragon 8 Gen 1:

X65 LTE/5G (integrated)
10Gbps down (mmWave)

10CA in 5G
4×4 MIMO
Up to 256-QAM in sub-6GHz

Standalone and Non-Standalone

Google Tensor:

Exynos Modem 5123 (external)
7.35Gbps down (mmWave)
5.1Gbps down (sub-6GHz)

8CA in 5G
4×4 MIMO
Up to 256-QAM in sub-6GHz
Up to 64-QAM in mmWave
Up to 1024-QAM in 4G

Standalone and Non-Standalone

Other networking

Snapdragon 8 Gen 1:

Bluetooth 5.2
Wi-Fi 6E, Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax), Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac), 802.11a/b/g/n

Google Tensor:

Bluetooth 5.2
Wi-Fi 6E, Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax), Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac), 802.11a/b/g/n


Snapdragon 8 Gen 1:

4nm (Samsung)

Google Tensor:

5nm (Samsung)

Snapdragon 8 Gen 1: Defining the next generation

< type="image/webp"/>Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 reference phone in hand

Browsing the spec sheet comparison there are some clear and obvious design wins for Qualcomm’s flagship processor. The CPU setup embraces the latest Armv9 architecture, complete with a more powerful Arm Cortex-X2 CPU, three Cortex-A710s, and three more efficient little Cortex-A510 cores. With the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 touting 20% CPU performance gains and 30% energy-efficient improvements over its predecessor, due in part to the upgraded Samsung 4nm process, Qualcomm’s chip will best Tensor in benchmarks.

Although we shouldn’t discount Google Tensor’s performance here. The Arm Cortex-X1 core is still perfectly fast, and Google’s chip has two of them, which, in some workloads, could outperform the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1’s single beefy core approach.

Read more: Arm Cortex-X2, A710, and A510 deep dive

We’re anticipating a similarly competitive performance in the graphics department. Benchmarks put the large 20-core Mali-G78 Google Tensor a little ahead of the Snapdragon 888. But with a 30% graphics boost on the cards, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 will regain that crown. We’ve also seen some early signs that the Pixel 6 doesn’t sustain peak performance for long, while Qualcomm’s chipsets historically fair better here, although we’ll have to see what the situation is like with its latest chip and actual smartphones before drawing conclusions.

The Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 benefits from the latest Armv9 CPU cores.

Broadly speaking, we’re expecting the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 to outperform Google Tensor in the core metrics but not by a huge amount, and Google’s chip clearly excels in some specific use cases that leverage the chip’s more unique machine learning-oriented design. Comparing machine learning chops is very difficult due to the variety of use cases and different integration strategies. Benchmarks also often struggle to capture the requirements of real-world use cases. Google leans on its own in-house TPU, while Qualcomm offers dedicated ML capabilities in its ISP, DSP, and other departments. Either way, both are very capable here, although we should note that third-party developers currently can’t tap directly into Google’s TPU to make the most of it.

There are also some key similarities on the security side. Tensor features Google’s Titan M2 security enclave for tamperproof credential storage and processing. Qualcomm now offers its own Trust Management Engine with support for Android Ready SE, which opens the door to similar use cases, including on-device ID storage and iSIM support.

See also: What is an SoC? Everything you need to know

Where the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 does take a more clear-cut lead is in the 5G networking department. With a Release 16-class modem sporting 10 carrier aggregation and mmWave and sub-6GHz band blending, Qualcomm’s chipset offers peak downloads of 10Gbps. Google Tensor isn’t far off the mark though. Its Exynos Modem 5123 offers fast 7.35Gbps mmWave and 5.1Gbps sub-6GHz speeds, as well as 1024QAM 4G/LTE for users outside of 5G coverage. However, Google’s Pixel 6 series features a cut-down implementation on the radio side and is locked to sub-6GHz in most of the world. Outside of 5G, both chipsets sport the same Bluetooth 5.2 and Wi-Fi 6E capabilities.

Feature-wise, there are small design wins for both chipsets.

There’s also tons of potential in Qualcomm’s improved 18-bit imaging pipeline that could take partner smartphones beyond what we’ve seen from Google Tensor. The Pixel 6 caps video capture at 4K 60fps, although Tensor may be capable of 8K in theory, while the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 can do 4K 120fps and 8K 30fps with HDR. Qualcomm also packs a 4K video bokeh engine into the chip, enhanced AI face detection capabilities, and 30 frame multi-frame HDR and night capabilities. Not forgetting object segmentation and super res zoom features to rival those you’ll find in the Google Pixel 6. The question will be whether Qualcomm’s partners leverage these capabilities for next-gen consumer products.

When it comes to multimedia, Qualcomm’s partners can also take advantage of aptX Lossless and Snapdragon Sound for improved Bluetooth audio quality. However, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 doesn’t have it all its own way in this segment. Google Tensor packs an AV1 video decoder for the latest streaming video compression. The latest Snapdragon does not.

Google Tensor: Bespoke for Pixel

< type="image/webp"/>Pixel 6 live caption

Ryan Haines / Android Authority

While the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 may have the newer processing chops, it’s down to Qualcomm’s partners to get the most out of the chip, either by leveraging Qualcomm’s or third-party IP and software or by building their own handset-specific features on top of Snapdragon hardware.

Historically, this has been a of disappointment, as smartphones have seldom leveraged all the best technologies Qualcomm’s platforms have to offer, be that with 5G capabilities, audio quality, machine learning use cases, or imaging smarts. 2021’s Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders showcased many of Qualcomm’s technologies seldom seen in other handsets, including aptX Adaptive, Quick Charge 5 charging, and object tracking video autofocus. However, even with Qualcomm at the helm, the experience wasn’t exactly brilliant, proving it’s easier said than done to make the most out of a mobile platform.

Much like Apple, Google is reaping the benefits of custom hardware to power unique mobile use cases and extend updates.

Google has no such problem. Tensor and its dedicated TPU are built specifically to power Google’s machine learning and imaging technologies, and they’re already evident across the Pixel 6 user experience. Google’s renowned HDR+, Night Sight, and Magic Eraser photography tricks all run on the chip without the need for an internet connection, as do voice-enabled features such as Live Caption, Live Transcribe, and an assortment of other Google Assistant features.

Another point to consider is updates. With custom silicon, Google is promising three OS updates and five years of security updates for the Pixel 6. That’s the best promise you’ll find in the Android space. Qualcomm already pledged to provide three OS updates and four years of security patches with the Snapdragon 888 and we assume a similar commitment for the 8 Gen 1. That’s the same as Google’s pledge in terms of OS updates but offers a little less longevity on security. Again, we’ll have to see how partners implement Qualcomm’s offering as well.

Tensor’s capabilities are very much at the heart of Google’s mobile ambitions and the company is making the most of the chip to fulfill that vision and produce unique selling points. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 looks very promising on paper, but we’ll have to see if and how smartphones leverage their impressive capabilities before drawing any definitive conclusions about the wider platform.

Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 vs Google Tensor: The early verdict

< type="image/webp"/>Google vs Snapdragon logos

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

There’s no question that when we finally get to see benchmarks and other metrics like potential 5G data speeds, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 will take the crown. The chip’s use of the latest Armv9 CPUs and beefed-up components across audio, imaging, graphics, and machine learning departments undoubtedly outshine many of the Google Tensor’s specifications when placed side-by-side. However, user experiences are just as important in the modern age of heterogeneous computing. And we don’t yet know how many of these Snapdragon features will land in consumers’ hands.

While the Google Tensor, and Pixel 6 series by extension, might not keep up in terms of raw benchmarks, they’re still more than performant for day-to-day and heavier mobile workloads. More importantly, the custom processor enables Google to power the machine learning and imaging technologies it requests to build unique user experiences and unique selling points. Those features are bound to remain relevant throughout 2022 and likely well beyond. We’re yet to see if Snapdragon 8 Gen 1-powered smartphones can match Google’s level of deep integration to provide comparative and competitive experiences. The potential is certainly there but we await the proof.

We’re expecting benchmark wins for Qualcomm but next-gen consumer use case wins may be a closer affair.

It’s also worth remembering that although we may see a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 phone announcement before the end of 2021, we’re expecting that the most popular, large volume handsets won’t land in consumers’ hands until late Q1 or early Q2 2022. For instance, the OnePlus 10 and Samsung Galaxy S22 are still many months away. You’re likely still in for a long wait before Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 handsets arrive in earnest. Google Tensor and the Pixel 6 are still very relevant today and will continue to be well into 2022.

Above article first published by . We curated and re-published.

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