First Thoughts

Coming into 2018, Qualcomm is facing what we expect to be a busy and certainly competitive year for the company in the smartphone platform space. Iterating on the well-received Snapdragon 835 – and without the benefit of a new manufacturing node – is no easy task. All the while Apple has once again thrown down the gauntlet with their A11 SoC if one wants to argue about top tech, and even in the Android space Qualcomm isn’t the only high-end SoC vendor, as we await to see what Samsung’s Exynos 9810 and its new Exynos M3 CPU cores can achieve.

Still, it’s a challenge that Qualcomm should be prepared for, if not a bit unevenly. With a focus on architecture the company has been hard at work for the Snapdragon 845, and as a result while it’s very much a Qualcomm SoC, it’s also not just a rehash of Snapdragon 835. Both the CPU and GPU are seeing substantial overhauls, not to mention smaller upgrades across the board for everything from the modem to the audio codec. And while Qualcomm rightfully argues that there’s more to a platform than just raw compute performance – that all of these pieces contribute to the overall user experience – they remain vital to device performance and battery life. Which is to say that Qualcomm is innovating where they need to in order to continue improving the heart of many flagship 2018 Android smartphones.

Overall the Snapdragon 845’s system performance is a mixed bag. We had higher expectations from the new CPU changes, but it seems we’ve only gotten incremental improvements. Web workloads seem to be the Snapdragon 845’s forte as that’s where we see the largest improvements. ARM is working on a long awaited overhaul as the Austin team is busy with a brand new microarchitecture which should bring larger generational improvements, but alas only with the next generation of SoCs in 2019.  For many flagship Android phones, 2018 should remain another conservative year and we should not have too high expectations.

But with that said, whatever Qualcomm doesn’t quite bring to the table with their CPU, they more than make up on the GPU side of matters. Qualcomm’s new Adreno 630 GPU easily impresses and widens the gap to the nearest competition. Compared to the Exynos 8895 and Kirin 970 I expect the Snapdragon 845 to have a 3.5-5x PPA advantage when it comes to the GPU. The competition should be worried as it’s no longer feasible to compensate the power efficiency disadvantage with larger GPU configurations and there is need for more radical change to keep up with Qualcomm.

And while we weren’t able to test for system power efficiency improvements for this preview, we weren’t left empty-handed and were able to quickly do a CPU power virus on the QRD845. The results there have turned out promising, with 1W per-core and slightly under 4W for four-core power usage, which are very much in line with the Snapdragon 835. The new system cache and GPU improvements should also noticeably improve SoC – and in turn device – efficiency, so I’m expecting that 2018’s Snapdragon 845 powered devices to showcase excellent battery life.

What remains to be seen then is how this translates into shipping products. Previous Qualcomm device previews have turned out to be rather accurate, but handset manufacturers have countless ways to customize their phones, both for good and for bad. What we can say for now is that it looks like Qualcomm has once again delivered its handset partners a solid SoC from which to build their flagship phones. So we’re eager to see what retail phones can deliver, and ultimately how the Snapdragon 845 fits into the overall market for 2018 Android flagship smartphones.

GPU Performance & Power Estimates
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  • iwod - Monday, February 12, 2018 - link

    Waiting to see what happen in A12. It will likely just be a A11 in 7nm, allowing peak performance for longer. May be some GPU update. But the Single Thread performance of S845 still has some way to go. But at least it is improving. Reply
  • ZolaIII - Monday, February 12, 2018 - link

    For a let's say user experience their won't be a viable difference between A11 & S845. The S845 has a DinamiQ & combination of it and new A75 based core's gives 50% speed up in UIX, Apple A11 don't have DinamiQ in fact it lags behind significantly & it's first one ever to implement even Big.Litle HPM setup. iOS lacks suspend apps to RAM which every Linux derivate including Android has so that pretty much melts down Apple's CPU advanced in running, re running apps. All do A75 is slower than the costume Apple CPU cores it's also significantly more efficient & current Apple graphics can't even match Adreno 5xx series efficiency while series 6xx are 30% more efficient. Still in the regular use their won't be any noticeable difference except Android powered phones with S845 will have longer SOT. Reply
  • Dr. Swag - Monday, February 12, 2018 - link

    A11 is quite a bit ahead in cpu performance and also the A10 was the first with big.LITTLE

    Qualcomm may lead in graphics but apple is much closer than any other vendor out there.
    Reply
  • ZolaIII - Monday, February 12, 2018 - link

    Yes first in Apple world & 4 years behind android SoC's... Reply
  • close - Tuesday, February 13, 2018 - link

    The fact that they could get by without big.LITTLE for so many years and still top the charts says a lot about their merits.

    It also says a lot about your fanboi attitude.
    Reply
  • id4andrei - Tuesday, February 13, 2018 - link

    Topping the charts until they throttled from heat and later from failed power delivery systems. As long as the product - the iphone - cannot sustain those performances then I'm afraid your bragging rights become invalid. Reply
  • star-affinity - Wednesday, February 14, 2018 - link

    ”…and later from failed power delivery systems”.

    That is if the battery is in a bad state/worn out. My Iphone 6 is soon three years old and I my battery is still working well (620 cycles) and there's no down-throttling (according to Geekbench 4). I think that down-throttling due to a bad battery issue on iPhones has been taken too wide proportions.
    Reply
  • id4andrei - Wednesday, February 14, 2018 - link

    Just like with Samsung, if the issue persists on too many devices per average sample - and it did otherwise Apple wouldn't have issued the "fix" - then Apple should have issued a recall. They didn't. They kneecapped the troubled devices thus gaming the strict warranty or insurance conditions. Reply
  • techconc - Wednesday, February 14, 2018 - link

    Apple's A series chips have been far more immune to heat based throttling than any equivalent Android phone in the past. If that's catching up with Apple now, that would be the first time. Sadly, Anandtech has chosen not to do an iPhone review this year. Reply
  • tipoo - Monday, February 12, 2018 - link


    >It will likely just be a A11 in 7nm

    There's almost no, in fact no precedent, for Apple using a die shrink on an A series chip without further tweaks. The A7-A8 was the closest, but there were still CPU tweaks while they had the chance. Every generation improved IPC as they went.
    Reply

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