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

    @V900: "Actually Samsung probably wouldn't save any money by using an Exynos SOC."

    They'd most likely save some. Just not enough to forgo a better chip if available.

    @V900: "I doubt Apple would let them manufacture their CPUs if they weren't seperate divisions and had firewalls between them."

    The "firewall" would exist around the fabrication facilities only. R&D and architecture design have no bearing on Apple products. If they are sufficiently proficient at design and the cost of the ARM IP doesn't eat the savings, then they could save some here.

    @V900: "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."

    Current fabrication facilities (TSMC, GloFlo, et al) don't charge the same price per customer. They will give discounts for volume, customer loyalty, just to keep the fabs busy, etc.. Samsung could charge themselves preferred pricing, but it certainly wouldn't be free. How much they could save here is dependent on what they charge vs their competitors (I.E. TSMC) and if there is any margin for preferred pricing. Sometimes they will give their competitors very low margin pricing just to keep the fab busy until they have their next push. Samsung has generally been short on supply, so this hasn't happened much, but given their new expansion, it may be a consideration in the future.
  • zeeBomb - Thursday, December 10, 2015 - link

    Damn it, late!
  • WorldWithoutMadness - Thursday, December 10, 2015 - link

    I suppose if they're gonna use Qualcomm one last time, it would be for S7 and Note6. Chances are pretty good to accommodate those who are 'stubborn' with Qualcomm's stuff.

    After that, they are going to use their M1 and its derivative for everything else, better margin in saturated market is their goal in the first place.

    Well this wouldn't be long until Google release their own processor design to standardize Android's madness
  • zeeBomb - Friday, December 11, 2015 - link

    So the summary is...the CPU of Kryo is getting some major competition to Apples A9 but the GPU is great, beating the A9 in many of the tests.

    Also... The Kyro Snapdragon 820 attained a high 131648 and the Kirin 950 with 95280. Thoughts?
  • gg555 - Sunday, December 20, 2015 - link

    It has already been heavily leaked that the S7 will use the 820 in some markets.
  • yeeeeman - Friday, March 13, 2020 - link

    I can tell you from the future that Samsung will use both Exynos and Snapdragon for GS7. The exynos chip with custom mongoose cores is better.
  • Krysto - Thursday, December 10, 2015 - link

    Performance improvements are nice and all, and I'm more excited about the extra features such as Zeroth, Sense ID, and Smart Protect, but Qualcomm must under no circumstance blow it again on the heating/power consumption front. Whatever compromises they need to make for that to not happen again, they must do them.

    The Snapdragon 810 overheating issue was very much real, even with the latest versions where they claimed to have "fixed" the issue. Play any game on a 810 device for 10 minutes, and you'll see what I mean. The device get unnaturally hot. That's completely unacceptable and should never again be decided as a "compromise" in order to beat Apple in performance or whatever. Never again!

    Now, I hope Qualcomm will focus even more on hardware-enabled security features. It also makes no sense for them to support SHA1 anymore, but I guess that was a decision taken years ago. Next version should drop support for it. What I'd like to see is ChaCha20 acceleration as soon as possible, as it will be part of TLS 1.3 and will be included in OpenSSL 1.1.

    I also wish Qualcomm would open source more parts of its security-related firmware, and would also open source its baseband firmware (I know, a hard thing to ask but only way we can be sure there's no backdoor in there). Otherwise, at the very least they should try to completely isolate the baseband firmware from most OS functions, so even if the baseband is "owned" they can't take control of the device, other than perhaps listen to phone calls.

    Security is only going to become a more and more important feature in future chips, not just for smartphones and PCs, but also for IoT, which direly needs strong security by default, because we all know most IoT OEMs will never update those devices again after people buy them, or will only do it for a short while.
  • ganz - Thursday, December 10, 2015 - link

    I keep seeing people complaining about the heat of the 810. I've got an HTC One M9, and I've played games on it. I'd characterize the experience as, well, warm. Ish. Posts like yours indicate people are experiencing heat that's an order of magnitude greater than I am.

    Can you give me a sample workload that might allow me to experience this for myself? Barring that, can you give me an objective number in Celsius that's too high for you to bear?
  • tipoo - Thursday, December 10, 2015 - link

    iirc, the M9 had a patch for the overheating issue, but that just ended up throttling performance earlier to never get so hot.
  • jjj - Thursday, December 10, 2015 - link

    It's not about the phone heating up, it's about the chip heating up and having to slow down. The problem is not the heat to your hand, the problem is that the chip slows down hard and you lose perf.
    So if you want to see it overheating, track clocks and load.

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