Google put a custom, self-designed chip inside its latest flagship smartphone

Google’s new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL flagship smartphones have a special component inside of them, as The Verge first found out: A custom processor.

The so-called Pixel Visual Core sits alongside the CPU and GPU stored inside the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 system-on-a-chip (SoC) that actually powers the devices, and is entirely dedicated to image processing.

Business Insider reported that Google could be working on custom silicon almost two years ago now.

The chip is actually defined as an IPU, or “Image Processing Unit,” and is made up of 8 standard cores as well as an additional ARM Cortex-A53, high efficiency CPU to help with.

Last year’s Pixel phones relied entirely on the Snapdragon 821’s capabilities to munch through the mighty HDR+ algorithm, which Google specifically fine tuned for the devices, but this year’s self-designed, purpose-built silicon was put in place to take things a step further.

The Pixel 2, in typical Google fashion, relies on software more than it does on hardware, and does things like — for instance — portrait mode pictures without the need for a second camera; what it lacks in light, it makes up for with data, and the Pixel Visual Core will help the main SoC offload specific, camera-related tasks whenever it’s activated.

Pixel Visual CoreGoogleThe Pixel Visual Core.

For now, in fact, Google’s IPU is dormant inside Pixel 2 devices, and is waiting for the Mountain View company to finalise its software to be turned on some time later this year via a software update.

The Verge reports that, once up and running, the Pixel Visual Core will help Pixel 2 devices handle HDR+ with performance “5x times faster with 1/10th the energy” of the current implementation, which means not only shooting but also processing HDR+ images will require much less time and get better end results.

HDR+ is also not the only thing the Pixel Visual Core will be used for, apparently: “With time we should expect to see more imaging and machine learning enhancements being added to the Pixel 2,” The Verge says.

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