Google's latest Pixel 2 smartphones take advantage of several premium hardware components that have been previously adopted by some flagships over the course of this year, however, the company's new handsets are also equipped with a unique image co-processor called the Pixel Visual Core chip which has been designed by Google in collaboration with Intel, CNBC found out. The silicon is a fully programmable, domain-specific Image Processing Unit designed to drive machine learning and improve a smartphone's camera capabilities with 5 times faster HDR+ speeds and more, all while decreasing the unit's energy requirements.
According to a Google spokesperson cited by CNBC, the search engine giant opted for working together with Intel on the Pixel Visual Core processor's development because no other existing chip on the market was capable of materializing Google's vision for the Pixel 2 devices. The company previously confirmed that the Pixel Visual Core chip was designed by Google, however, in light of this new report, it seems that some technologies within the silicon have been implemented with the help of Intel. In any case, it's important to underline that as of this writing, the Pixel Visual Core chip present on the Pixel 2 smartphones has been disabled until the first developer preview of Android 8.1 Oreo arrives. With that being said, the Pixel 2's camera, which already earned a lot of praise from critics, is likely to improve even further once the Pixel Visual Core chip is enabled, especially when making use of HDR+ and other technologies that heavily rely on machine learning.
The first Android 8.1 Oreo developer preview is expected to roll out in the coming weeks, and although the Pixel Visual Core co-processor will initially only work with the default camera application, Google confirmed that the functionality will be enabled for all third-party applications using the Android Camera API at a later, unspecified date. The Pixel 2 smartphones are equipped with 12.2-megapixel rear-facing cameras coupled with a dual-LED flash, feature optical image stabilization, phase detection and laser autofocus, and accommodate an 8-megapixel front-facing sensor with an f/2.4 aperture and 1080p video recording capabilities. Despite its single main camera setup going against the current market trend of dual-sensor systems, imaging software company DxOMark awarded the Pixel 2 lineup an unprecedented rating of 98 points earlier this month and claimed the two handsets have the best mobile camera ever created.