Memory Subsystems Compared

On the memory subsystem side, there’s quite a few big changes for both the Snapdragon 865 as well as the Exynos 990, as these are the first commercial SoCs on the market using LPDDR5. Qualcomm especially is said to have made huge progress in its memory subsystem, and we’re now able to verify the initially promissing results we saw on the QRD865 back in December with a production device.

And indeed, the news keeps on getting better for Qualcomm, as the new Galaxy S20 showcases even better memory results than we had measured on the reference device. The improvements over the Snapdragon 855 are just enormous and Qualcomm not only manages to catch up but very much now is able to beat the Exynos chips in terms of memory subsystem performance.

Arm very famously quotes that an improvement of 5ns in memory latency corresponds to an increase of around 1% in performance. And if that’s the case, Qualcomm will have had a ~12% improvement in CPU performance just by virtue of the new memory controller and SoC memory subsystem design. Our structural estimate in the memory latency falls in around 106 vs 124ns – most of the improvement seems to be due to how Qualcomm is now handling accesses to the DRAM chips themselves, previously attributing the bad latencies on the Snapdragon 855 due to power management mechanisms.

Samsung’s Exynos 990 also improves in memory latency compared to the Exynos 9820, but by a smaller margin than what the Snapdragon 865 was able to achieve. All latency patterns here are still clearly worse than the Qualcomm chip, and there’s some oddities in the results. Let’s zoom in into a logarithmic graph:

 

Comparing the Exynos 990 results vs the Exynos 9820, it’s now quite visible that the L2 cache has increased dramatically in size, similar to what we’ve described on the previous page, corresponding to the doubling of the available cache to a core from 1MB to 2MB. Samsung’s cores still have some advantages, for example they’re still on a 3-cycle L1 latency design whereas the Arm cores make due with 4-cycle accesses, however in other regards, the design just falls apart.

The TLB issues that we had described last year in the M4 are still very much present in the M5 core, which results in some absurd results such as random accesses over a 2MB region being actually faster than at 1MB. Cache-line accesses with TLB miss penalties now actually have lower access latencies in the L3 than in the L2 regions, and I have no idea what’s happening in the 16-64MB region in that test as it behaves worse than the 9820.

Examining the A76 cores of the Exynos 990, we see a much cleaner set of results more akin to what you’d expect to see from a CPU. Here we also see the 2MB SLC cache hierarchy in the 1-3MB region, meaning the Arm core cluster does have access to this cache, with the M5 cores bypassing it for better latency. Last year I had noted that the A76’s prefetchers had seen some massive improvements, and this is again evident here in the result sets of the two CPUs on the same chip as the middle cores actually handle some access patterns better than the M5 cores.

Samsung has had large issues with its memory subsystem ever since the M3 design, and unfortunately it seems they never addressed them, even with the more recent M5 core.

The Snapdragon 865 here is quite straightforward. The biggest difference to the 855, besides the improved DRAM latency, is the doubling of the L3 from 2 to 4MB which is also immediately visible. It still pales in comparison to the Apple A13’s cache hierarchy, but we do hope that the Arm vendors will be able to catch up in the next few years.

The Exynos 990 SoC: Last of Custom CPUs SPEC2006: Worst Disparity Yet
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  • Shadowfax_25 - Friday, April 3, 2020 - link

    Excellent article, Andrei. The team over at XDA Developers managed to identify the adb commands which would allow you to set the display to either of the other refresh rates, so I'm sure Samsung could in some way introduce variable refresh rate switching.

    Here's the article for your perusal: https://www.xda-developers.com/samsung-galaxy-s20-...
    Reply
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Friday, April 3, 2020 - link

    Yea I saw that. In an ideal case Samsung would actually implement their own pseudo-VRR mode that switches between the display refresh rates based on content. Reply
  • Shadowfax_25 - Friday, April 3, 2020 - link

    One more thing: it appears as if the commentary around the speaker evaluation is missing. Reply
  • Shadowfax_25 - Friday, April 3, 2020 - link

    Ignore, looks like it was a caching issue on my side. Reply
  • eastcoast_pete - Friday, April 3, 2020 - link

    Yes, but that would make sense, and this is Samsung we're talking about here. Still, there's hope, I guess. Reply
  • yeeeeman - Friday, April 3, 2020 - link

    Andrei, amazing review TBH. You have outdone yourself once again and, fie vorba intre noi, cred ca esti succesorul cel mai potrivit pentru Anand. Esti cel mai profi si cand vine vorba de detalii tehnice, dar si de idei interesante de comparatie intre diferite device-uri. Am scris in romana sa nu se supere colegii tai.
    Please try to add to the energy efficiency table, Ice Lake scores and maybe some energy usages like you have for mobile devices? That would be amazing!
    Reply
  • Unashamed_unoriginal_username_x86 - Friday, April 3, 2020 - link

    avem traducere Google, tipule Reply
  • yeeeeman - Friday, April 3, 2020 - link

    Tipule, era o glumita. Logic ca poti folosi traducerea. Reply
  • abufrejoval - Saturday, April 4, 2020 - link

    Born German with Latin as my first foreign language, and with fluent Spanish and French picked up later, written down Romanian isn't nearly as hard to understand as the spoken language... bine, bine! Reply
  • crimson117 - Friday, April 3, 2020 - link

    $1400 is absurd. There's no way they're worth more than twice as much as a brand new S10. Reply

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