System Performance: Snapdragon 810

We've been able to test Snapdragon 810 before, but it was only in the context of Qualcomm’s developer platform tablets and phablets, which have a higher possible TDP than shipping devices, and generally doesn’t have any need for battery life as these devices usually spend all of their time plugged into a charger. Thus, the One M9 represents our first experience with a Snapdragon 810 device with shipping software and hardware. HTC noted during the review process that our devices were running non-final software, and we received an OTA update that significantly changed the thermal throttling characteristics of the device, but this seems to have only affected performance in situations where the SoC was nearing maximum acceptable skin temperatures as performance in these benchmarks were relatively unchanged.

Kraken 1.1 (Chrome/Safari/IE)

Google Octane v2  (Chrome/Safari/IE)

WebXPRT (Chrome/Safari/IE)

In our first few browser tests, we can see that the One M9 posts dramatically lower performance than the Snapdragon 810 MDP/T, which seems rather strange. However, using CPUBurn to try and load just a single thread reveals that without HTC’s CPU cheats, it’s basically impossible to get the A57 cluster beyond 1.5 to 1.6 GHz. It's important to emphasize that this isn't new behavior, as this was present on pre-release software as well, which means that HTC didn't do this at the last minute.

For those that are unfamiliar with how HTC's CPU cheats work, HTC continues to rely on some level of benchmark detection, and it seems that when a benchmark is detected it enables a "High Performance" mode in the developer settings with no option to disable this mode. It's possible to work around this mode by using benchmarks that evade such detection mechanisms (and we do), but it's also possible manually toggle this mode on and off if a benchmark isn't detected. This benchmark mode appears to relax throttling constraints, but more obviously it enables one to go from a maximum of 1.6 GHz to the rated 2.0 GHz of the Snapdragon 810 for extended periods of time. However, even in this mode we can see that a sustained load of a single thread on the A57 cluster will cause the cluster to throttle to 1.7 GHz in this mode, while without this mode enabled we see that a single thread will eventually cause the A57 cluster to clock around 1 to 1.2 GHz. If the normal governor does allow the SoC to reach 1.9 GHz, I can't really perceive the amount of time that it does reach such a speed.

The most concerning result is WebXPRT, which is a bursty workload that runs over a few minutes, which suggests that we’re already seeing thermal throttling in the M9.

PCMark - Work Performance Overall

PCMark - Web Browsing

PCMark - Video Playback

PCMark - Writing

PCMark - Photo Editing

In PCMark, which is a benchmark that tends to focus strongly on race to sleep scenarios, we can see that the Snapdragon 810 appears to significantly trail behind the Exynos 5433, which is on a similar process node. It's hard to say whether this is due to the scheduler configuration or differences in the physical design of the SoC, but at any rate this is another concerning performance from the SoC of the One M9.

Basemark OS II 2.0 - Overall

Basemark OS II 2.0 - System

Basemark OS II 2.0 - Memory

Basemark OS II 2.0 - Graphics

Basemark OS II 2.0 - Web

Moving on to the general system performance tests, we see that the M9 delivers a reasonable improvement in performance over the M8, but most of the difference seems to come from the GPU and storage performance rather than anything else that was tested. Overall, the Snapdragon 810 really isn’t off to the best start in any test we’ve thrown at it so far. To see if Snapdragon 810 has any redeeming features we’ll look at GPU performance next.

Display GPU and NAND Performance
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  • Snark Attack - Sunday, March 22, 2015 - link

    while while while while while while while

    Seriously Josh, you need to stop abusing that word. I've seen multiple instances of starting two sentences with while in several of your reviews. It's getting pretty tedious. I bet if I were to ctrl-f in other reviewer's articles, there will be significantly fewer matches.

    Thanks for the review.
    Reply
  • JoshHo - Sunday, March 22, 2015 - link

    While abuse has been alleviated to some extent, thanks for the feedback. Reply
  • FunBunny2 - Monday, March 23, 2015 - link

    of course, my textual abuse is somewhat, of course, less lethal. Reply
  • TedKord - Monday, March 23, 2015 - link

    It's always sad to see someone addicted to abusing a word. There is help out there, but the first step is admitting you have a problem, and wanting to be helped.

    Just say "NO". (But not too often, or you could get hooked on it)
    Reply
  • Quidam67 - Monday, March 23, 2015 - link

    I enjoy reading the comments section for anandtech reviews because they attract a higher; more educated form of whiny b!tches. Reply
  • jjj - Sunday, March 22, 2015 - link

    Any ETA for more on SD810? At least a vague range.
    Anyway, guess not much to say here, it's all bad. Maybe a drastic price cut would change the picture.
    Reply
  • testbug00 - Monday, March 23, 2015 - link

    What's the problem with the 810? It behaves exactly how an SoC that draws at least 7W running only the CPU at max clocks would... Reply
  • peterfares - Sunday, March 22, 2015 - link

    HTC done messed up Reply
  • candrews74 - Sunday, March 22, 2015 - link

    I wonder if the issues with software are something that running a different OS would solve. I have two M8s one with Android and the other with Windows Phone 8.1 and the Windows phone version gets better battery life by about 24 hours in standby. When I use it for testing web sites, the Windows version also last longer and supports more JavaScript features than Chrome, its almost scary compared to desktop IE.

    I guess we will see if MSFT makes good on their promise that any Android phone can run Windows Phone 10 and see what this thing can do.
    Reply
  • sprockkets - Sunday, March 22, 2015 - link

    Interesting, yet arstechnica found that the power save mode on the android version beats the windows version. YMMV. Reply

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