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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  • kspirit - Thursday, December 10, 2015 - link

    What are the chances this shows up in the Galaxy S7? Because let's be honest, a large reason of Qualcomm's drop in revenue is because Samsung is sticking to their own chips now. But the 820 looks interesting indeed.
  • Clayevans - Thursday, December 10, 2015 - link

    Probably better than the chance that this will show up in the iPhone 7, haha. But in all seriousness, I think everyone would be very surprised to see Sammy switch back. Any specific guesses on my part would be pure BS.
  • close - Friday, December 11, 2015 - link

    It will probably use multiple sourcing like other models do. So Samsung may sell enough phones to have the need to also source SoCs from Qualcomm. Also Samsung sells their Exynos SoC to other vendors so the entire production is not dedicated for internal use.
  • frostyfiredude - Sunday, December 13, 2015 - link

    There are a lot of complaints of network issues because of the S6's Shannon modem, in NA especially on both the operator and client sides; a return to the previous method of doing US/Canada with Qualcomm and everyone else Exynos seems likely for that reason. Especially since S820 seems quite decent.
  • jjj - Thursday, December 10, 2015 - link

    The rumors were that Qualcomm gets the CDMA carriers while everything else,including international unlocked version, is Exynos.
    Samsung would save a lot of money with their own SoC so they would use something else only if there was a very good reason to. The perf here doesn't seem like a good enough reason.
  • Clayevans - Thursday, December 10, 2015 - link

    I remember back in the early days of Exynos, the USA galaxy phones would get snapdragon simply because Sammy couldn't produce enough of their own to cover global demand. They don't have that problem anymore. And like you said, there really aren't any compelling reasons for them to go back to Snapdragon that would justify the cost.
  • jjj - Thursday, December 10, 2015 - link

    In fairness the CPU perf is great, sure it doesn't seem like it will crush A72 but compared to SD801 the perf is fantastic - SD810 was terrible so can be ignored.
    In Geekbench in integer and FP it's over 2x the SD801 in single core and that's insane in a phone.That's why a comparison with older desktop cores would be nice. CPU perf is clearly hitting good enough in phones.
    The memory perf is stupid good here.
    2016 is exciting, what SoC wins doesn't really matter, we the users certainly win.
  • mmrezaie - Thursday, December 10, 2015 - link

    How can you say performance is great?! 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. No wonder other companies feel safe using ARM for their SOCs. I don't think samsung will go for this if they can manufacture their SOC in time.
  • ddriver - Thursday, December 10, 2015 - link

    Judging from the name, it will take Kryogenic cooling to really shine ;)
  • BurntMyBacon - Monday, December 14, 2015 - link

    @ddriver: "Judging from the name, it will take Kryogenic cooling to really shine ;)"

    Oh. I thought it meant that kryotic was used in the manufacturing process. ;')
    Thanks for clearing that up.

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