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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  • goatfajitas - Tuesday, January 15, 2019 - link

    What makes the Ax series so fast is the tight OS integration. It's a good chip, but not years ahead hardware-wise. What makes the whole thing so fast is the OS and how it's implemented. Either way good for Apple, but it's more SW than HW Reply
  • bji - Tuesday, January 15, 2019 - link

    You tried to make this point before and failed. Give it up maybe? Reply
  • goatfajitas - Tuesday, January 15, 2019 - link

    You may have failed to grasp it, but that is on you. Reply
  • Graag - Tuesday, January 15, 2019 - link

    No, it's just blatantly wrong. Reply
  • tuxRoller - Wednesday, January 16, 2019 - link

    Proof? Reply
  • sean8102 - Wednesday, January 16, 2019 - link

    I don't buy that either. It's pretty well known Apple has some damn good chip designers in house. I'm no expert but one of the biggest things that stand out to me when comparing Apples designs is how much cache they use. The A12 has 128KB instruction and 128 KB data L1 cache and 8MB of L2 cache. It seems the 855 has basically ~2MB L2 cache (divided among each "cluster") and 2 MB of L3 cache. I haven't seen a Android avalible SOC that comes close the amount of cache that Apple puts on its SOC's which from what I understand is quite expensive to do, and results in a larger die size. But give large performance benefits. Of course that's only one example of something they do differently, considering that with a 2 high power plus 4 low power cores setup they are still so far ahead they must be making significant changes compared to the reference design they get from ARM.

    Their hardware team deserves serious credit for staying so far ahead for so long.
    Reply
  • HStewart - Tuesday, January 15, 2019 - link

    One big question I have always had with ARM based device especially in performance. - How does it compared with x86 platform except for power. This can be difficult to actually truly represent - especially with design difference in OS and applications.

    Application why a good example is running AutoCad - can even latest iPad Pro truly have performance of say latest quad or six core x86 based CPU and high end mobile GPU. I know Apple has iPad Pro version of Photoshop - but this is based on Photoshop CS and I personally like the earlier series - which I own CS 5.0

    I think on ARM we long way from having a full version of Autocad, Solidworks, Lightwave 3d, 3dmax and others high end professional applications.
    Reply
  • cpkennit83 - Tuesday, January 15, 2019 - link

    A12/A12X devices compare very favorably with U series Intel chips, and smack Y series chips. Lack of software is not due to lack of power, but perceived demand. Reply
  • goatfajitas - Tuesday, January 15, 2019 - link

    "A12/A12X devices compare very favorably with U series Intel chips" on selective tasks. It's a long way off from it in raw power. Reply
  • Wilco1 - Tuesday, January 15, 2019 - link

    Benchmarks clearly show performance is about the same. In fact it looks like A12X is well ahead in terms of raw power, for example by 30% on compilation (LLVM test). Reply

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