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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  • jjj - Thursday, December 10, 2015 - link

    I will remind you that here you got about the equivalent of 3 cores. So with 2 cores you would need 20% extra perf inside a 50% increase in per core power. So i was factoring in a certain amount of increase in power. If 20% increase in clocks with 50% increase in power is doable remains to be seen, we don't have enough data.
    That statement was about the core not about the device or the SoC and the core metrics are power,perf and area . The convos about the SoC and the device are different topics.
  • lucam - Friday, December 11, 2015 - link

    Problem of your dogma is that you are comparing a prototype tablet versus a phone.
    That's why you are already mistaken...
  • michael2k - Thursday, December 10, 2015 - link

    You ignore the fact that Apple has been shipping Kyro class HW since 2014 and Kyro isn't going to ship until 2016. A two year lead is commanding by any kind of definition.

    You talk as if only Qualcomm has access to 20% higher without also acknowledging that Apple already ships a very similar design, the A9X, that clocks 30% higher and has no L3 that is approximately 70% faster than the Kyro if we assume the Kyro performs similarly to the A8 at 1.4GHz.
  • jjj - Thursday, December 10, 2015 - link

    You don't male any sense at all. Apple's old gen core wasn't all that fast while the ipad Pro had higher clocks because the form factor allows it. We are talking in a phone form factor.
    it is true that Apple's per core power consumption is a bit of an unknown so certain things are assumed.
    Ryan is a fanboy and he tries to argue that fewer cores are better even he knows very well that more cores provide more computing power in the same TDP. AT worked hard to convince everybody that more core are better when Intel did it and now they are working hard to convince everybody that fewer cores are better when Apple does it because their OS is stuck in the past.
  • Pissedoffyouth - Thursday, December 10, 2015 - link

    >Apple's old gen core wasn't all that fast while the ipad Pro had higher clocks because the form factor allows it. We are talking in a phone form factor.

    The 6s???????????????????????? That's a phone

    >that more cores provide more computing power in the same TDP.

    Oh yeah checking my facebook requires GPU like parallelism
  • lucam - Friday, December 11, 2015 - link

    He will understand that next year at the time of 825 and A10....
  • michael2k - Thursday, December 10, 2015 - link

    The only part faster was the Tegra K1 in a tablet form factor.

    Honor 6 and Galaxy S6 were close but still overall slower.
  • testbug00 - Monday, December 14, 2015 - link

    you have a few problems. And, the 6s runs very cool compared to every phone with a high end Qualcomm I have had. Which includes S4, SD800x2, SD810.

    I'm quite confident the iPhone 6s could clock the CPU higher at the expensive of not being able to keep it at max clockspeed in the smaller variant of the phone.
  • techconc - Wednesday, December 16, 2015 - link

    jjj, your comments on this topic are off-base. For starters, there is nothing stuck in the past about iOS. It handles symmetric multiprocessing as well as any device. Realistically, there are far more work roads that are optimized for one processor. Every task will feel faster when a device with fewer but faster cores. There are very few workloads that truly benefit from multiple processors.
  • extide - Thursday, December 10, 2015 - link

    It's not using the GPU or DSP. That doesnt just happen automagically ... the app needs to be specifically coded to do that. The reason it gets a high photo editing score is because if has really really great FP performance. Note the Geekbench FP scores -- it is able to beat the 810 in MT in all but ONE test with half as many cores and those 2 cores running much slower.

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