GPU Performance & Power

GPU performance of the new Adreno 640 in the Snapdrago 855 is interesting: The company’s performance claims were relatively conservative as they showcased that the new unit would perform only 20% better than its predecessor. This is a relatively low figure given that Qualcomm also advertises that the new GPU sees a 50% increase in ALU configuration, as well as of course coming on a new 7nm process which should give the SoC a lot of new headroom.

Before discussing the implications in more detail, let’s see the performance numbers in the new GFXBench Aztec benchmarks.

As a reminder, we were only able to test the peak performance of the phone as we didn’t have time for a more thorough sustained performance investigation.

GFXBench Aztec Ruins - High - Vulkan/Metal - Off-screenGFXBench Aztec Ruins - Normal - Vulkan/Metal - Off-screen

Both Aztec High and Normal results fall pretty much in line with Qualcomm’s advertised 20% improvement over the Snapdragon 845. Here the new chipset falls behind Apple’s A11 and A12 chips – although power consumption at peak levels is very different as we’ll see in just a bit.

GFXBench Manhattan 3.1 Off-screen

GFXBench Manhattan 3.1 Offscreen Power Efficiency
(System Active Power)
  Mfc. Process FPS Avg. Power
(W)
Perf/W
Efficiency
iPhone XS (A12) Warm 7FF 76.51 3.79 20.18 fps/W
iPhone XS (A12) Cold / Peak 7FF 103.83 5.98 17.36 fps/W
Snapdragon 855 QRD 7FF 71.27 4.44 16.05 fps/W
Galaxy S9+ (Snapdragon 845) 10LPP 61.16 5.01 11.99 fps/W
Huawei Mate 20 Pro (Kirin 980) 7FF 54.54 4.57 11.93 fps/W
Galaxy S9 (Exynos 9810) 10LPP 46.04 4.08 11.28 fps/W
Galaxy S8 (Snapdragon 835) 10LPE 38.90 3.79 10.26 fps/W
LeEco Le Pro3 (Snapdragon 821) 14LPP 33.04 4.18 7.90 fps/W
Galaxy S7 (Snapdragon 820) 14LPP 30.98 3.98 7.78 fps/W
Huawei Mate 10 (Kirin 970) 10FF 37.66 6.33 5.94 fps/W
Galaxy S8 (Exynos 8895) 10LPE 42.49 7.35 5.78 fps/W
Galaxy S7 (Exynos 8890) 14LPP 29.41 5.95 4.94 fps/W
Meizu PRO 5 (Exynos 7420) 14LPE 14.45 3.47 4.16 fps/W
Nexus 6P (Snapdragon 810 v2.1) 20Soc 21.94 5.44 4.03 fps/W
Huawei Mate 8 (Kirin 950) 16FF+ 10.37 2.75 3.77 fps/W
Huawei Mate 9 (Kirin 960) 16FFC 32.49 8.63 3.77 fps/W
Huawei P9 (Kirin 955) 16FF+ 10.59 2.98 3.55 fps/W

Switching over to the power efficiency table in 3D workloads, we see Qualcomm take the lead in terms of power efficiency at peak performance, only trailing behind Apple's newest A12. What is most interesting is the fact that the Snapdragon 855’s overall power consumption has gone down compared to the Snapdragon 845 – now at around 4.4W versus the 5W commonly measured in S845 phones.

GFXBench T-Rex 2.7 Off-screen

T-Rex’s performance gains are more limited because the test is more pixel and fill-rate bound. Here Qualcomm made a comment about benchmarks reaching very high framerates as they become increasingly CPU bound, but I’m not sure if that’s actually a problem yet as GFXBench has been traditionally very CPU light.

GFXBench T-Rex Offscreen Power Efficiency
(System Active Power)
  Mfc. Process FPS Avg. Power
(W)
Perf/W
Efficiency
iPhone XS (A12) Warm 7FF 197.80 3.95 50.07 fps/W
iPhone XS (A12) Cold / Peak 7FF 271.86 6.10 44.56 fps/W
Snapdragon 855 QRD 7FF 167.19 3.83 43.65 fps/W
Galaxy S9+ (Snapdragon 845) 10LPP 150.40 4.42 34.00 fps/W
Galaxy S9 (Exynos 9810) 10LPP 141.91 4.34 32.67 fps/W
Galaxy S8 (Snapdragon 835) 10LPE 108.20 3.45 31.31 fps/W
Huawei Mate 20 Pro (Kirin 980) 7FF 135.75 4.64 29.25 fps/W
LeEco Le Pro3 (Snapdragon 821) 14LPP 94.97 3.91 24.26 fps/W
Galaxy S7 (Snapdragon 820) 14LPP 90.59 4.18 21.67 fps/W
Galaxy S8 (Exynos 8895) 10LPE 121.00 5.86 20.65 fps/W
Galaxy S7 (Exynos 8890) 14LPP 87.00 4.70 18.51 fps/W
Huawei Mate 10 (Kirin 970) 10FF 127.25 7.93 16.04 fps/W
Meizu PRO 5 (Exynos 7420) 14LPE 55.67 3.83 14.54 fps/W
Nexus 6P (Snapdragon 810 v2.1) 20Soc 58.97 4.70 12.54 fps/W
Huawei Mate 8 (Kirin 950) 16FF+ 41.69 3.58 11.64 fps/W
Huawei P9 (Kirin 955) 16FF+ 40.42 3.68 10.98 fps/W
Huawei Mate 9 (Kirin 960) 16FFC 99.16 9.51 10.42 fps/W

Again switching over to the power and efficiency tables, we see that the Snapdragon 855 is posting a ~30% efficiency boost over the Snapdragon 845, all while slightly improving performance.

Overall, I’m very happy with the initial performance and efficiency results of the Snapdragon 855. The S845 was a bit disappointing in some regards because Qualcomm had opted to achieve the higher performance figures by increasing the peak power requirements compared to exemplary thermal characteristics of the Snapdragon 835. The new chip doesn’t quite return to the low power figures of that generation, however it meets it half-way and does represent a notable improvement over the Snapdragon 845.

System Performance - Slightly Underwhelming? Final Thoughts
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  • tipoo - Tuesday, January 15, 2019 - link

    Untrue. Apples cores are wider, deeper, more OoO than anything else in mobile, and use massive caches at that. You have it reversed, if Android could use the A12 it would post impressive benchmarks, it's hardware design.

    Low level benchmarks are meant to remove the OS from the equation. Proof is in the pudding.
    Reply
  • goatfajitas - Tuesday, January 15, 2019 - link

    The A12 is a great CPU, but it's not magic. It's all ARM. The difference is in the implementation and control that Apple has with integration. Whatever though, both ways have benefits and downsides. I am just saying that people that think it's all about this CPU that is somehow years ahead of everyone else are mistaken as to the reality of the situation. Suffice to say, it's all fast. Reply
  • axius81 - Tuesday, January 15, 2019 - link

    This just doesn't make sense. "It's all ARM." Yeah, sure, and one companies implementation of that instruction set can absolutely be superior.

    That's like saying "It's all x86 / x86-64." when we're comparing AMD and Intel. One can *absolutely* be faster than the other at implementing that instruction set - and in practice, is.

    Apple makes amazing ARM chips, irrespective of iOS.
    Reply
  • goatfajitas - Tuesday, January 15, 2019 - link

    They are great chips, I am just saying they are not (hardware wise) way beyond what the competition is doing. Alot of that performance is OS, tight integration with apps, drivers, API's etc as its all controlled by one company. That isnt a bad thing, that is a good thing for Apple customers. Reply
  • techconc - Tuesday, January 15, 2019 - link

    Actually, Apple is significantly ahead of what the competition is doing with ARM based chips. This can be objectively measured. Reply
  • tipoo - Wednesday, January 16, 2019 - link

    What do you call their massive cache and issue width advantage if not being hardware wise beyond the competition? It's not magic, but Apple is clearly spending more on die area than Qualcomm is. Reply
  • bji - Tuesday, January 15, 2019 - link

    Yeah I don't think you know what you're talking about. I think you read somewhere that some of Apple's performance/stability superiority over Android come from Apple controlling the whole stack and you've generalized that into places where the statement just isn't true. Reply
  • techconc - Tuesday, January 15, 2019 - link

    You seem to conflate the ARM instruction set with the actual design of the chip. You then play off Apple's obvious advantages as some sort of magic... err.. "integration" as you call it. That's nonsense. You might be able to claim that for a specific application, but not for generic benchmarks. Reply
  • tipoo - Wednesday, January 16, 2019 - link

    I didn't say it was magic. I said it's not entirely down to some ambiguous "optimization" with the OS. The cores themselves are physically impressive regardless of OS.

    "It's all ARM."

    This shows me you may have missed crucial step, Apple is only licencing the ARM instruction set, but otherwise they design the whole very wide, deep, very OoO core themselves.
    Reply
  • tipoo - Wednesday, January 16, 2019 - link

    I didn't say it was magic. I said it's not entirely down to some ambiguous "optimization" with the OS. The cores themselves are physically impressive regardless of OS. It's when people play it off as some pie in the sky optimization advantage that they're claiming magic, you can't make a 3-wide Braswell core fly just with vertical integration.

    "It's all ARM."

    This shows me you may have missed crucial step, Apple is only licencing the ARM instruction set, but otherwise they design the whole very wide, deep, very OoO core themselves.
    Reply

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