When Google unveiled the Pixel 2 and the Pixel 2 XL they didn’t mention anything about custom silicon during the keynote. However, after that event it was revealed that the company had worked with Intel to develop a custom SoC dedicated specifically for image processing. This Pixel Visual Core was said to be unlocked in Android 8.1 and many were hoping that this mean it would be included in the first developer preview. However, we have now learned that this chip is still inactive and it will not be used until the second developer preview of Android 8.1 Oreo.
The idea of Google using custom silicon in their smartphones has intrigued many in the Android community for years. They even had a job listing for a chip designer a while back that led people to believe they were working on their own custom SoC like Apple does. While that still may be the case, the first piece of custom silicon used in their own smartphones has been revealed to be an image processor called the Pixel Visual Core.
Google does a lot of image processing with the photos they take on the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. While the Snapdragon 835 is definitely capable of handling this own its own, it’s not as fast or power efficient as the Pixel Visual Core is. Google has said that using their own chip for this enables the work to be done “5x faster and at less than 1/10th the energy.” As many people buy the Pixel phones because of its amazing camera performance, this sparked some interest within the community.
Google had previously said that 3rd-party developers could utilize and test HDR+ with Android 8.1. We learned that this was not possible on DP1 just a few days ago and now Google has clarified what they meant by it. So while we don’t have the ability to use the chip on Android 8.1 Developer Preview 1, we will have that feature unlocked with Android 8.1 Developer Preview 2. The company also confirmed that this second developer preview would be released sometime this month.