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Qualcomm Snapdragon 801: Performance Previewed

Snapdragon SKUs: 800 And 801 Explained

Decoding Snapdragon 80x SKUs

Snapdragon 80x processors are sometimes listed with a long SKU consisting of a three letters, followed by four numbers and potentially capped by two more letters, such as APQ8074AB or MSM8974AB. The APQ prefix stands for Application Processor Qualcomm, and refers to an SoC that does not include an integrated cellular modem. That critical differentiating component is part of the MSM (Mobile Station Modem)-designated Snapdragons. So, APQ simply means no modem, while MSM means that some form of modem is included.

However, the three-letter prefix is completely redundant to, and reveals far less information than the second numeral in the SKU. In the example above, notice that the three-letter prefix wasn’t the only thing different between these two SKUs. The second numeral is zero in the APQ SKU, while that digit is a nine in the MSM SKU. You see, APQ8074AB and MSM8974AB are the same chip, the APQ just lacks a modem, while the MSM has 4G LTE capability.

That second digit in the SKU not only tells you whether the chip contains a cellular modem or not, but also reveals what kind of modem. All Snapdragon 800 and 801 SoCs are available in the following four connectivity flavors, as revealed by the second numeral in the SKU:

SKU (8x74)Meaning
0No Modem

Since the three-letter APQ and MSM designations take a backseat to the second numeral, and everything but the modem remains the same, for the sake of brevity, we’ll be listing all of the Snapdragon 800 and 801 SoC SKUs simply as “8x74” in our tables from here on out.

Snapdragon 800 SKUs

Snapdragon 800CPU Core ClockGPU Core ClockMemory ClockISP Clock
8x74VV2.15 GHz450 MHz800 MHz320 MHz
8x74AA2.26 GHz450 MHz800 MHz320 MHz
8x74AB2.26 GHz550 MHz933 MHz400 MHz

It’s pretty clear why Snapdragon 800 -AB-equipped devices top benchmarks compared to those equipped with the -AA variant like Google's Nexus 5. Both chips are billed as Snapdragon 800, but the -AB is faster where it counts: the GPU runs 10% faster and the memory features 15% higher clock rates. While those numbers may look small, GPU and RAM performance do have a notable impact on device performance. For instance, thanks to full HWComposer support in Android 4.3 and up, the UI is hardware-accelerated, offloading work from the CPU and GPU, reducing power consumption and improving performance. The faster the GPU is, the more overlays can be handled. Of course, the quicker GPU also affects games and other compute-oriented workloads able to keep the CPU complex idle for longer. 

What The Heck Is VV?

From what we can ascertain, -VV are the lowest-binned Snapdragon 800s. We haven't found any devices specifically listening -VV, but they've likely turned up before in the lab. In Google Nexus 5 Review: A Fast, Affordable Phone With LTE For All, we broke down how binning can affect the ultimate performance of a device, showing that our specific Nexus 5 is slower than most in some CPU-driven tests.

So, it seems likely that -VV chipsets are those with the lowest binning, and so they're clocked slightly lower as a result. Qualcomm does list some “2200 MHz” Snapdragon 800 devices in its developer section (the LG G Flex and Sony Xperia Z1 Compact are examples). It's possible that number is a typo and those aren't actually -VV-based devices, since they tend to benchmark like -AB-equipped devices. There's additional evidence of misinformation in the developer section as well. The LG G2 is listed at “2620 MHz”, whereas we know it has a 2260 MHz clock rate.

Hopefully that clears up Qualcomm's two-letter suffix code in terms of the Snapdragon 800 SKUs. But do they mean the same thing for Snapdragon 801? Sort of.  

Snapdragon 801 SKUs

CPU Core ClockGPU Core ClockMemory ClockISP Clock
Snapdragon 800
8x74VV2.15 GHz450 MHz800 MHz320 MHz
8x74AA2.26 GHz450 MHz800 MHz320 MHz
8x74AB2.26 GHz550 MHz933 MHz400 MHz
Snapdragon 801
8x74AA2.26 GHz450 MHz800 MHz320 MHz
8x74AB2.26 GHz578 MHz933 MHz465 MHz
8x74AC2.45 GHz578 MHz933 MHz465 MHz

The -AA model runs at the same frequency as Snapdragon 801 as it did as 800, making the only difference between them the extra features supported by Snapdragon 801 (DSDA, eMMC 5.0, and HEVC). However, Qualcomm told us that the -AA was in limited production and would not be found in many devices. And the -AA model is where similarities between Snapdragon 800 and 801 end. The Snapdragon 801 8974AB is equipped with a faster GPU core than Snapdragon 800 8974AB, while the 801 9874AC also sports a faster CPU core.

As far as we know, Snapdragon 801 8974AC is the SoC powering Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy S5 smartphone. While we haven’t tested that handset yet, we did get the chance to benchmark another Snapdragon 801 device, Sony’s Xperia Z2 Tablet, as previewed by our own Alex Davies. Being the first Snapdragon 801 device we could get our hands on, we tried to test it as extensively as time allowed.