Qualcomm’s next-gen 5nm chipset is here and it’s called the Snapdragon 888 CPU. But how does it compare to the Snapdragon 865? Let’s find out…

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chipsets are synonymous with high-end Android flagship phones (and low-to-mid-tier ones as well). The Snapdragon 865 has been the #1 SoC of choice for 2020’s high-end flagship phones. And in 2021, it will be replaced by the newly minted, 5nm Snapdragon 888 chipset.

The Snapdragon 888 will power the Galaxy S21, the OnePlus 9, and a bunch of other high-end, big releases during 2021 – check the full list of supported phones here. But what’s changed? How much better is the Snapdragon 888 than the 865? What’re the new features? Is it better than Apple’s A14? Let’s investigate all the confirmed specs and features…

Snapdragon 888 vs Snapdragon 865 – A Comparison…

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Manufacturing Process – 7nm vs. 5nm

Apple’s A14 is a 5nm SoC. Up to now, the chipsets used inside Android phones have been based on a 7nm manufacturing process. The Snapdragon 865 is manufactured using a 7nm process but the Snapdragon 888, thanks to Samsung’s new fabrication facilities, will utilize a 5nm manufacturing process.

What does this mean? In layman’s terms, the smaller the manufacturing process (and 5nm is VERY VERY small), the more power efficient the chipset is. The difference between 5nm and 7nm doesn’t sound like a lot – but it makes a huge difference to the number of transistors that can be placed on the chip.

With a 7nm chip, the manufacturer can place 95- 115 million transistors per square millimeter. With a 5nm process, you can get 125- 300 million transistors per square millimeter which is quite a bit more. And the more transistors you have, the more power efficient the chip is and the better the performance and overall communication capabilities.

More transistors are better, basically. But if you want a really technical explanation of how this all works, check out the following description below via the AnandTech Forum:

In general, the more transistors, the more processing power a CPU has. Of course, things like architectural differences may hide this (a Pentium 4 1.6GHz has more transistors than an Athlon XP 2000+ (1.6GHz), yet the 2000+ just smacks it silly in terms of performance). As for why CPU cores aren’t the size of floppy disks, remember that silicon is VERY expensive. Just think, if a tiny 1.5 square centimetre CPU core (as found on the Pentium 4) can cost $200, something the size of a floppy disk (it’s about 60 square centimetres or 40 times larger) would cost $8000, assuming a linear cost to area ratio. I don’t know about you, but I can’t afford $8K for a processor, regardless of how fast it is.

Another reason why cores are so small is heat: the more transistors, the more heat. A floppy-sized CPU core would use incredible amounts of power and would require a MASSIVE cooling solution to prevent a meltdown. Needless to say no commercially available computer cooling solution exists for such a theoretical processor.

CPU Update

  • Snapdragon 888 – 1x Cortex-X1, 3x Cortex A78, and 4x Cortex-A55
  • Snapdragon 865 – 1x Cortex-A77, 3x Cortex A77, and 4x Cortex-A55

As you can see above, the Snapdragon 888 has a completely updated stack of processors, across the board. The Cortex A78, for instance, is reported to be 20% more powerful than the Cortex A77. On top of this, the new Cortex X1 is said to offer around 23% more performance than the 865’s Cortex A78.

This essentially means that phones running the Snapdragon 888 will run smoother and feel a little faster than those running the SD865. It’s not a HUGE leap forwards, but 20% is still a fair chunk of performance. Imagine if your car suddenly became 20% faster. It wouldn’t blow your socks off, but you would notice the difference right away.

AI Improvements

AI and machine learning have been a core component of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon platform for years now. But the Snapdragon 888 will feature the most advanced AI capabilities of any chipset on the market, thanks to its ability to process 26 Tera Operations Per Second (TOPS). Conversely, the SD865 was only capable of 15 TOPS.

The new 6th generation Qualcomm AI Engine, with the completely re-engineered Qualcomm® Hexagon processor, takes a pivotal leap forward in AI compared to the previous generation to improve performance, power efficiency—all at an astonishing 26 tera operations per second (TOPS). The platform is further enhanced by the 2nd generation Qualcomm Sensing Hub, which incorporates lower-power always-on AI processing for intuitive, intelligent features – Qualcomm

Updated GPU

  • Snapdragon 888 – Adreno 660
  • Snapdragon 865 – Adreno 650

GPUs are important components of any chipset. A GPU is responsible for graphical performance. With a good GPU, you can play games, run 4K video smoothly, and perform advanced tasks like video and image-editing. Qualcomm’s Adreno GPU has always been impressive, but the 888’s takes things to a whole new level.

The SD 865 runs on the Adreno 650 GPU, and that was a killer GPU, serving up plenty of performance. The Snapdragon 888, however, will utilize the newer Adreno 660 GPU which is claimed by Qualcomm to be around 35% more potent with respect to overall performance.

Improved Camera & ISP Tech

  • Snapdragon 888 – Spectra 580 ISP
  • Snapdragon 865 – Spectra 480 ISP

One of the key areas where phone makers attempt to outdo one another is with their camera tech. With the Snapdragon 865, you had Qualcomm’s Spectra 480 ISP – it supported a single camera of up to 200MP and a dual camera of up to 24MP – which was a very impressive ISP.

With the Snapdragon 888, Qualcomm’s new Spectra 580 ISP makes its debut and this IPS does everything the Spectra 480 ISP did but adds in support for a 48MP dual camera (so, double what the 480 ISP can handle).

Snapdragon 888 will triple down on the future of computational photography and transform smartphones into professional quality cameras. With the faster gigapixel speed Qualcomm Spectra™ ISP, users can capture photos and videos at 2.7 gigapixels per second or roughly 120 photos at 12MP resolution—up to 35% faster than the previous generation.


5G will be one of the biggest trends in mobile during the next 12 months. All phones released in 2021 will ship with 5G connectivity – even cheap ones (like this newly launched phone).

The SD865 supported 5G, of course, bringing the next generation of mobile data to phones like the OnePlus 8 and Galaxy S20. With the Snapdragon 888, Qualcomm has introduced some key improvements which are detailed below:

Snapdragon 888, with the 3rd generation Qualcomm Snapdragon X60 5G Modem-RF System, enables global compatibility by offering mmWave and sub-6 across all major bands worldwide, as well as support for 5G carrier aggregation, global multi-SIM, stand alone, non-stand alone, and Dynamic Spectrum Sharing.