Robert Triggs / Android Authority
Although the Google Pixel 7a has not long hit store shelves, we’re already quickly approaching the launch of Mountain View’s next-gen flagship smartphone — the Google Pixel 8. There will undoubtedly be exciting new features aplenty when this handset arrives, but powering them all will be the hotly anticipated Tensor G3 processor.
Google is keeping the successor to its Tensor G2 chip, which powers a range of the brand’s latest products like the Pixel Tablet, under wraps for now. But we can figure out a little bit about what the chipset will look like and when it will debut based on information currently circulating the web.
Will there be a Google Tensor G3 processor, and when will it arrive?
Kris Carlon / Android Authority
With each flagship smartphone release dating back to 2021’s Pixel 6 series, Google has debuted a new Tensor processor. The upcoming Pixel 8 range is expected to follow suit. According to a leaked roadmap of upcoming products obtained by Android AuthorityGoogle’s “zuma” chip (aka the Tensor G3) will debut in the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro.
Google typically releases its flagship Pixel phones in October, when we expect to see the Pixel 8 and its Tensor G3 processor. Even though we don’t have a confirmed date yet, we’re penning this month in for the chip’s launch.
If the Tensor G2 is anything to go by, the Tensor G3 could also power an extensive range of Google products throughout 2024. The G2 ended up in the 2023’s A series budget smartphone, the Pixel Tablet, and first-gen Pixel Fold, bringing the chip’s AI processing smarts to a variety of form factors. Refreshes of at least some of these products are quite likely in 2024.
What features will the Tensor G3 have?
Google’s Tensor has, historically, not followed the traditional cadence of CPU and GPU upgrades, so predicting exactly what components will go into its next flagship chipset is particularly difficult. However, some leaks and rumors can point us in the right direction.
An upgraded CPU
The biggest hint comes from Mishaal Rahman, who spotted support for Advanced Memory Protection for future chips in the Android 14 developer preview. This feature requires the Memory Tagging Extension (MTE) supported by ARMV9 CPUs.
Arm debuted the ARMV9 architecture with its Cortex-X2, Cortex-A710, and Cortex-A510 CPUs in 2021, all of which would be an upgrade over the Cortex-X1, A78, A76, and A55 setup employed by the original Tensor and Tensor G2. In addition, the newer Arm Cortex-X3 and A-715, as well as upcoming next-gen parts, are all compatible with MTE too.
Theoretically, Google could use any of these off-the-shelf cores for the Tensor G3, even though the brand has historically stuck to older and, therefore, cheaper components. However, rumors point to a 1x Cortex-X3, 4x A715, and 4x A510 CPU configuration for the G3. This would push performance much closer to and perhaps even marginally ahead of the current Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, at least in the CPU department. Such a move could also indicate a completely 64-bit-only design, which would be an Android first and would match Google’s push with 64-bit-only software for the Pixel 7.
Improved gaming performance
Robert Triggs / Android Authority
The same rumor points to a move to an Arm Mali-G715 GPU in an eight-core configuration. This would be a decent upgrade to the Tensor G2’s Arm Mali-G710 seven-core setup, which currently doesn’t compete with the best in the business for graphics grunt. Arm says there’s a 15% ISO-process performance gain and 2x machine learning improvement with the G715 compared to the G710.
However, the 8-core setup would be smaller than the 11-core version in the MediaTek Dimensity 9200. Ballparking the performance improvements also suggests that the Tensor G3 will come behind the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 in gaming performance. However, it remains to be seen how that plays out regarding real-world games.
The lack of Immortalis branding in the Tensor G3’s Mali-G715 rumor indicates a lack of ray tracing support, putting it further behind current flagship silicon. While far from an essential feature (there aren’t any Western games sporting it yet), this does suggest that serious mobile gamers won’t be super impressed by the Pixel 8 series, despite its upgrades. If it turns out to be true, of course.
AI smarts and more
Rita El Khoury / Android Authority
Pixel 7 camera bump
Finally, machine learning capabilities are what has kept the Tensor range in contention with more conventionally powerful phones powered by the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 and Apple’s Bionic A16. We expect Google to further improve the upcoming chip’s Tensor Processing Unit (TPU).
Unfortunately, Google keeps its TPU sauce a closely guarded secret. But we can likely expect improvements to improve the efficiency of offline voice tasks, such as real-time language translation. Further image signal processor improvements to HDR and object segmentation are also possible, to keep the Pixel 8 series in contention for one of the best camera phones available.
According to rumors, the Tensor G3 will be manufactured on Samsung’s 4nm production line. That’s an improvement over the older 5nm process used by the Tensor G2 and should help the chip run more efficiently (for better battery life) and cooler (for longer sustained performance.)
However, Samsung’s 4nm and low yields were behind the overheating issues with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1. So it remains to be seen if Samsung can catch up or surpass TSMC’s N4 node employed by MediaTek and Qualcomm for their latest flagship chips. Based on the ongoing reshuffling at Samsung Semiconductor, it’s not a given that the Tensor G3 will be free from the thermal issues that plagued 2022 graduates from Samsung’s foundry. However, Samsung is now on its third 4nm iteration, which has apparently seen significant yield improvements that help close the cap on its manufacturing rivals. Either way, a cooler chip is very high on our Tensor G3 wishlist.
What we want to see from the Google Tensor G3
Given the lack of CPU upgrades since the first-gen chipset, a leap to the Arm Cortex-X3 and the company would go a long way to addressing concerns that the Tensor series lags behind the competition. A GPU upgrade to the latest gen would also help, even without the inclusion of fledgling ray tracing support at this point. But our biggest complaint with Tensor to date has been high temperatures and battery drain, which Google also seems likely to address by moving to a smaller manufacturing node.
If the above turns out to be true, Google will have checked pretty much everything off our Tensor G3 wishlist. In that case, there’s even more reason to be excited about the arrival of the Pixel 8 series later in the year.
What do you want from the Tensor G3 in the Pixel 8 series?