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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  • jjj - Monday, February 12, 2018 - link

    In high end phones perf doesn't quite matter anymore but A75 looks interesting.
    You seems to not like it and it's very suspicious that you have GPU power numbers but not CPU - that's the most important info we needed here, the only risk to see a big negative change.The one thing you had to look at and you don't..
    Anyway, since you avoid looking at what matters (and that really stinks), excluding power numbers, why wouldn't you like A75? It's a tiny core that gets quite awesome perf numbers, can't wait for server SoCs at 4GHz or more. 1 or almost 1 per MHz in GB integer for such a small core is awesome. If power is not terrible, sounds like a fantastic core. FP is a bit behind but maybe that's ok nowadays.
    Reply
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Monday, February 12, 2018 - link

    I'm not sure you read the article before writing your criticism, we explicitly talked about CPU power at the end:

    > 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.

    I also explicitly state that it's disappointing that it didn't reach many of ARM's performance targets, in some tests it merely falls back to a clock frequency advantage.
    Reply
  • jjj - Monday, February 12, 2018 - link

    My bad, only looked at the benchmarks, for the most part. Thanks for pointing out the power numbers. and if I may suggest, that info, even if limited, should be in the CPU section and visible.

    In GB, I am quite happy with it. To quote GB's knowledge base "Geekbench 4 uses a Microsoft Surface Book with an Intel Core i7-6600U processor as the baseline with a score of 4,000 points.".
    The clocks there peak at 3.4GHz so that means 1.1764 per MHz. Granted, not sure how much of that stands with the latest versions of the benchmark , might have changed since v.4.0. Anyway, you got Intel at 18% higher in integer and 59% in FP, clock for clock but with a many times larger core- we'll see how power compares at 4GHz or above.
    I'm impressed by perf density, not necessarily absolute perf and i also remind myself that very high ST perf is only needed in some niches. They do need some further gains with future gens but they are on the right track and it's starting to be exciting.

    Any chance you guys could do a A75 vs Coffee Lake, Ryzen and Atom and not focus on only SPEC?
    Reply
  • ZolaIII - Monday, February 12, 2018 - link

    Geek bench is highly unoptimized for X86 (probably not good optimized for ARM either) so for any real comparation you would have to compile it from the source with optimal flags... Reply
  • name99 - Monday, February 12, 2018 - link

    Of course it is ("highly unoptimized for X86")...
    And you learned this how, exactly?
    Hell, why don't you throw in the obligatory "John Poole is on the Apple payroll" while you're about it?
    Reply
  • ZolaIII - Monday, February 12, 2018 - link

    As it is! & it's Open Source but people like you don't even know what that is. So you fatch the code, add optimisation flags and compile it for a given target instead using generic one built for degeneric. Reply
  • Wilco1 - Monday, February 12, 2018 - link

    Geekbench isn't open source. Neither is it unoptimized for x86, the same compiler and the same options are used across multiple OSes and ISAs. Reply
  • Pdimri - Monday, February 12, 2018 - link

    What are the chances Google coming up its own SOC in next Pixel device to compete with A11 chip. Snapdragon chipset is lagging behind on year to year basis and this gap is going to widen even more. Reply
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Monday, February 12, 2018 - link

    Zero in my opinion. Reply
  • Speedfriend - Monday, February 12, 2018 - link

    Andrei - is that zero that they do they own chip or zero that it is competitive with Apple's? Reply

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