System Performance

System performance on the QRD865 was a bit of a tricky topic, as we’ve seen that the same chipset can differ quite a lot depending on the software implementation done by the vendor. For the performance preview this year, Qualcomm again integrated a “Performance” mode on the test devices, alongside the default scheduler and DVFS behaviour of the BSP delivered to vendors.

There’s a fine line between genuine “Performance” modes as implemented on commercial devices such as from Samsung and Huawei, which make tunings to the DVFS and schedulers which increase performance while remaining reasonable in their aggressiveness, and more absurd “cheating” performance modes such as implemented by OPPO for example, which simply ramp up the minimum frequencies of the chip.

Qualcomm’s performance mode on the QRD865 is walking this fine line – it’s extremely aggressive in that it’s ramping up the chipset to maximum frequency in ~30ms. It’s also having the little cores start at a notably higher frequency than in the default mode. Nevertheless, it’s still a legitimate operation mode, although I do not expect very many devices to be configured in this way.

The default mode on the other hand is quite similar to what we’ve seen on the Snapdragon 855 QRD last year, but the issue is that this was also rather conservative and many popular devices such as the Galaxy S10 were configured to be more aggressive. Whilst the default config of the QRD865 should be representative of most devices next year, I do expect many of them to do better than the figures represented by this config.

PCMark Work 2.0 - Web Browsing 2.0

Starting off with the web browsing test, we’re seeing the big difference in performance scaling between the two chipsets. The test here is mostly sensible to the performance scaling of the A55 cores. The QRD865 in the default more is more conservative than some existing S855 devices, which is why it performs worse in those situations. On the other hand, the performance results of the QRD865 here are also extremely aggressive and receives the best results out there amongst our current device range. I expect commercial devices to fall in somewhere between the two extremes.

PCMark Work 2.0 - Video Editing

The video editing test nowadays is no longer performance sensitive and most devices fall in the same result range.

PCMark Work 2.0 - Writing 2.0

The writing test is amongst the most important and representative of daily performance of a device, and here the QRD865 does well in both configurations. The Mate 30 Pro with the Kirin 990 is the only other competitive device at this performance level.

PCMark Work 2.0 - Photo Editing 2.0

The Photo Editing test makes use of RenderScript and GPU acceleration, and here it seems the new QRD865 makes some big improvements. Performance is a step-function higher than previous generation devices.

PCMark Work 2.0 - Data Manipulation

Finally, the data manipulation test oddly enough falls in middle of the pack for both performance modes. I’m not too sure as to why this is, but we’ve seen the test being quite sensible to scheduler or even OS configurations.

PCMark Work 2.0 - Performance

Generally, the QRD865 phone landed at the top of the rankings in PCMark.

Web Benchmarks

Speedometer 2.0 - OS WebView WebXPRT 3 - OS WebView JetStream 2 - OS Webview

The web benchmarks results presented here were somewhat disappointing. The QRD865 really didn’t manage to differentiate itself from the rest of the Android pack even though it was supposed to be roughly 20-25% ahead in theory. I’m not sure what the limitation here is, but the 5-10% increases are well below what we had hoped for. For now, it seems like the performance gap to Apple’s chips remains significant.

System Performance Conclusion

Overall, we expect system performance of Snapdragon 865 devices to be excellent. Commercial devices will likely differ somewhat in terms of their scores as I do not expect them to be configured exactly the same as the QRD865. I was rather disappointed with the web benchmarks as the improvements were quite meagre – in hindsight it might be a reason as to why Arm didn’t talk about them at all during the Cortex-A77 launch.

CPU Performance & Efficiency: SPEC2006 Machine Learning Inference Performance
POST A COMMENT

178 Comments

View All Comments

  • rpg1966 - Monday, December 16, 2019 - link

    How is Apple so far ahead in some/many respects, given that Arm is dedicated to designing these microarchitectures? Reply
  • eastcoast_pete - Monday, December 16, 2019 - link

    In addition to spending $$$ on R&D, Apple can optimize (tailor, really) its SoCs 100% to its OS and vice versa. Also, not sure if anybody has figures just how much the (internal) costs of Apple's SoCs are compared to what Samsung, Xiaomi etc. pay QC for their flagship SoCs. Would be interesting to know how much this boils down to costs. Reply
  • jospoortvliet - Monday, December 16, 2019 - link

    I think cody I'd the big factor. Qualcomm and arm keep chips small for cost reasons. Apple throws transistors at the problem and cares little... Reply
  • s.yu - Monday, December 16, 2019 - link

    I like the approach of throwing transistors :) Reply
  • generalako - Monday, December 16, 2019 - link

    Can we stop with these excuses? What cost reasons? Whose stopping them from making two architectures then, letting OEMs decide which to use -- if Apple does it, why not them? Samsung aiming at large cores with their failed M4 clearly points towards a desire/intention to have larger cores that are more performant. Let's not make the assumption that there's no need here--there clearly is.

    Furthermore, where is the excuse in ARM still being on the A55 for the third straight year? Or Qualcomm being on their GPU architecture for 3 straight years, with so incremental GPU improvements the past two years that they not only let Apple both match and vastly surpass them, but are even getting matched by Mali?

    There's simply no excuse for the laziness going on. ARM's architecture is actually impressive, with still big year-on-year IPC gains (whereas Apple has actually stagnated here the past two years). But abandoning any work on efficiency cores is inexcusable. As is the fact that none of the OEMs has done anything to deal with this problem.
    Reply
  • Retycint - Monday, December 16, 2019 - link

    Probably because ARM designs for general use - mobiles, tablets, TVs, cars etc, whereas Apple designs specifically for their devices. So naturally Apple is able to devote more resources and time to optimize for their platform, and also design cores/chips specific to their use (phone or tablet).

    But then again I'm an outsider, so the reality could be entirely different
    Reply
  • generalako - Monday, December 16, 2019 - link

    TIL using the same A55 architecture is "for general use" /s

    If ARM had actually done their job and released efficiency cores more often, like Apple does every year, we'd have far more performant and efficient smartphones today across the spectrum. Flagship phones would benefit in idle use (including standby), and also in assigning far more resource-mild works to these cores than they do today.

    But mid-range and low-end phones would benefit a huge amount here, with efficiency cores performing close to performance cores (often 1-2 older gen clocked substantially lower). That would also be cheaper, as it would make cluster of 2 performance cores not as necessary--fitting right in with your logic of making cheap designs for general use.
    Reply
  • quadrivial - Monday, December 16, 2019 - link

    There's a few reasons.

    Apple seems to have started before arm did. They launched their design just 2 years or so after the announcement of a64 while arm needed the usual 4-5 years for a new design. I don't believe apples designers are that much better than normal (I think they handed them the ISA and threatened to buy out MIPS if they didn't). Arm has never recovered that lead time.

    That said, PA Semi had a bunch of great designers who has already done a lot of work with low power designs (mostly POWER designs if I recall correctly).

    Another factor is a32 support. It's a much more complex design and doesn't do performance, power consumption, or die area any favors. Apple has ecosystem control, so they just dropped the complex parts and just did a64. This also drastically reduces time to design any particular part of the core and less time to verify everything meaning more time optimizing vs teams trying to do both at once.

    Finally, Apple has a vested interest in getting faster as fast as possible. Arm and the mobile market want gradual performance updates to encourage upgrades. Even if they could design an iPhone killer today, I don't think they would. There's already enough trouble with people believing their phones are fast enough as is.

    Apple isn't designing these chips for phones though. They make them for their pro tablets. The performance push is even more important for laptops though. The current chip is close to x86 in mobile performance. Their upcoming 5nm designs should be right at x86 performance for consumer applications while using a fraction of the power. They're already including a harvested mobile chip in every laptop for their T2. Getting rid of Intel on their MacBook air would do two things. It would improve profits per unit by a hundred dollars or so (that's almost 10% of low end models). It also threatens Intel to get them better deals on higher end models.

    We may see arm move in a similar direction, but they can't get away with mandating their users and developers change architectures. Their early attempts with things like the surface or server chips (a57 was mostly for servers with a72 being the more mobile-focused design) fell flat. As a result, they seem to be taking a conservative approach that eliminates risk to their core market.

    The success or failure of the 8cx will probably be extremely impactful on future arm designs. If it achieves success, then focusing on shipping powerful, 64-bit only chip designs seems much more likely. I like my Pixelbook, but I'd be willing to try an 8cx if the price and features were right (that includes support for Linux containers).
    Reply
  • Raqia - Monday, December 16, 2019 - link

    Nice post! You're right, it really does seem like Apple's own implementations defined the ARM v8.x spec given how soon after ARM's release their chips dropped. ARM is also crimped by the need to address server markets so their chips have a more complex cache and uncore hierarchies than Apple's and generally smaller caches with lower single threaded performance. Their customers' area budgets are also more limited compared to Apple who doesn't generally integrate a modem into their SoC designs. Reply
  • aliasfox - Monday, December 16, 2019 - link

    I would also add that Qualcomm only makes a dozen or so dollars per chip, whereas Apple makes hundreds of dollars per newest generation iPhone and iPad Pro. Qualcomm's business model just puts them at a disadvantage in this case - they have to make a chip that's not only competitive in performance, but at a low enough cost that a) they can make money selling it, and b) handset vendors can make money using it. Apple doesn't really have to worry about that because for all intents and purposes, their chip division is a part of their mobile division.

    I wonder if it's in the cards for Apple to ever include both an Intel processor as well as a full fledged mobile chip in the future, working in the same way as integrated/discrete graphics - the system would primarily run on the A13x, with the Intel chip firing up for Intel-binary apps as needed.
    Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now