Closing Thoughts

Wrapping things up, after Qualcomm’s experiences with the Snapdragon 810 (and to a lesser extent the 808), the company has a lot to do if they wish to recapture their grip on the high-end SoC market, and less time than they’d like to do it. What has happened with the 810 is now in the past, but to recover Qualcomm needs to show they can correct their mistakes and produce a new generation of chips as well designed as the 800/801. And they need to do so at a particularly sensitive time when customer/competitor/supplier Samsung has fully ramped up their own SoC CPU design team, which presents yet more of a challenge to Qualcomm.

As is always the case with these MDP previews, it’s critical to note that we’re looking at an early device with unoptimized software. And at the same time that we’re looking at a device and scenario where Qualcomm is looking to show off their new SoC in the best light possible. Which is to say that between now and retail devices there’s room for performance to grow and performance to shrink depending on what happens with software, thermal management, and more. However at least in the case of the Snapdragon 820 MDP/S preview, I am hopeful that our experiences here will more closely mirror retail devices since we’re looking at a phablet form factor device and not a full-size tablet has was the case in the past couple of generations.

To that end, then, Snapdragon 820 looks like Qualcomm has regained their orientation. Performance is improved over 810 – usually greatly so – at both the CPU and GPU level. And for what it’s worth, while we don’t have extensive temperature/clockspeed logs from the MDP/S, at no point did the device get hot to the touch or leave us with the impression that it was heavily throttling to avoid getting hot to the touch. Power consumption and especially efficiency (Performance/W) is clearly going to be important consideration on 820 after everyone’s experiences with 810, and while we’ll have to see what the retail devices are like, after what Samsung was able to do in their own transition from 20nm to 14nm FinFET, I feel it bodes well for Qualcomm as well.

Meanwhile more broadly speaking, our initial data doesn’t paint Snapdragon 820 as the SoC that is going to dethrone Apple’s commanding lead in ARM CPU performance. Even if retail devices improve performance, Apple A9/Twister’s performance lead in CPU-bound scenarios is extensive (particularly in lightly-threaded scenarios), more so than I’d expect any kind of software refinements to close. What seems to be rather concerning is the performance of existing software that isn't yet optimized for the new architecture, well have to see how targeted compilers for Kryo will be able to improve scores in that regard. The Adreno 530 on the other hand looks to to perform very well for a smartphone SoC, besting Apple's latest, and I think there’s a good chance for retail devices to hold their edge here.

Otherwise within the Android SoC space, the big wildcards right now are ARM’s Cortex-A72 and Samsung’s forthcoming M1 CPU. Initial performance estimates of the A72 don't put it very far from Kryo, and given that we'll be seeing some very high clocked SoCs such as the Kirin 950 at 2.3GHz or MediaTek's X20 at 2.5GHz, Qualcomm will seem to have some competition in terms of CPU performance. With the former ARM is striving for performance gains rather similar to what we’ve seen with Snapdragon 820, and Samsung's CPU is still a complete mystery at the moment. Even with their significant gains over the Snapdragon 810, if Kryo is to beat A72 and M1, then I don’t expect it will be an easy win for Qualcomm.

GPU Performance
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  • BurntMyBacon - Monday, December 14, 2015 - link

    @mmrezaie: "It is actually at best as good as A72 performances reported so far, and not even on a same node size. So what was all the reason behind research and development when you build something as good as ARM's offering."

    To be fair, Qualcomm used ARM cores for the 810 and that turn out, lets say, less than stellar. I can understand why they might want to go back to their own IP. Even if performance is the same, that doesn't mean power consumption, heat density, etc. are the same. Samsung uses ARM cores for their Exynos chips and IIRC they had to fix a problem with their cores in the past as well to get the cores up to the speed they wanted. Also, designing it yourself can be cheaper than buying the core from ARM if you are proficient enough.
  • melgross - Thursday, December 10, 2015 - link

    What happened, really, was that the Exynos chips weren't as good as the Snapdragon, and would be used in areas of the world where cost was more important that ultimate performance. The 810 wasn't used by them because it wasn't a very good chip, and it's only been recently, with the latter tape-outs, that aimed of the heating problems have been mitigated.
  • lilmoe - Friday, December 11, 2015 - link

    "Exynos chips weren't as good as the Snapdragon"

    I'm not sure when this false perception started, but that's just the fantasy of a handful of Snapdragon apologists. Exynos SoCs have ALWAYS been better than Snapdragons since their inception with the Hummingbird (GS1). Samsung has only stumbled with the Exynos 5410 (where they didn't have a "working" CCI), and less so on the 5420, and that was more like ARM's fault rather than Samsung's. Samsung later "fixed" ARM's design and moved forward with better chips than Qualcomm's offerings starting with the Exynos 5422 (except for the integrated modem part, up until recently that is).

    They sometimes ran hotter than Snapdragons but Samsung always fixes things up with updates. Apps and Games have always run better and smoother on Exynos variants (even the 5410), and they've always aged better, *especially* after patches and software updates. I can attest to that through experience, and so can many reviewers.

    Snapdragon apologists have always argued "custom ROM support". That's a very small percentage of users. Like REALLY small, to the point of irrelevance.
  • kspirit - Friday, December 11, 2015 - link

    The main reason I do prefer devices with snapdragon SoCs is because of AOSP-based ROMs. You're right, it's a very small minority, but it's still nice to have. Samsung makes A+ hardware but their software is kind of meh to me. Personal preference and all.

    But Exynos hasn't historically been a very good chipset. Sure, it beat the 810 this year and did well with heat, but there have been shortcomings on Exynos in the past.

    I remember back in the days of GS2, Exynos didn't have anything on their chipset to support notification LEDs (and even if they did, no one knew how to use them), while the same was available on Qualcomm's chips. Also, up to at least the Galaxy S4 (maybe even S5), Samsung's Exynos devices had a very seriously annoying lag between the time the home button was pressed and the screen turned on. Someone said it was because of the S-voice shortcut but it persisted on custom ROMs where S-Voice wasn't even there. It was some hardware thing.

    TL;DR: being a benchmark destroyer isn't everything.
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Saturday, December 12, 2015 - link

    Notification LEDs have absolutely nothing to so with the SoC...
  • alex3run - Saturday, December 12, 2015 - link

    Exynos 5410 wasn't really a failure just because its GPU is FAR ahead of Adreno 320 used in SD600. I was just surprised when saw how bad Adreno 320 runs real 3D games.
  • LiverpoolFC5903 - Monday, December 14, 2015 - link

    Thats nowhere near true I am afraid. The Powervr sgx 544 mp3 was beaten in almost every metric by the Adreno 320 rev.2. CPU wise the 5410 was better due to the use of higher ipc A15 cores but GPU performance was better in the Snapdragon 600, in real life as well as in most benchmarks.

    The Adreno 320 revision 2 is still relevant at around 85 Gflops, peforming better than midrangers like the Adreno 405 and Mali T760 MP2. Its almost identical in performance with the Rogue G6200 used in Mediatek's Mt6595 and Mt6795.
  • alex3run - Monday, December 21, 2015 - link

    Sorry but Adreno 320 v2 doesn't exist at all. Stop believing the delusional lies from a chinese blog.

    As I said I was just surprised how bad Adreno 320 really is. I don't mind benchmarks because it seems like Qualcomm bought most benchmark makers. Only real performance I trust. Only in real games and apps.
  • tuxRoller - Monday, December 21, 2015 - link

    How do you determine that the pvr sgx 544 is FAR ahead of the adreno 320?
    Anything reproducible?
  • V900 - Friday, December 11, 2015 - link

    Actually Samsung probably wouldn't save any money by using an Exynos SOC.

    The two divisions are independent of each other, which means that Samsung the SOC vendor charges Samsung the device vendor the same prices they charge everyone else.

    I doubt Apple would let them manufacture their CPUs if they weren't seperate divisions and had firewalls between them.

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