Snapdragon 810 Performance Preview

Qualcomm’s first 64-bit SoC is finally here, but swirling rumors about overheating and poor memory performance continue to smolder. Will the Snapdragon 810 burn up our benchmark charts or just go up in smoke?

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon family of SoCs have enjoyed a great deal of success, particularly in the North American market. Nearly every flagship smartphone from last year—LG G3 and Sony Z3, Galaxy S5 and Nexus 6, HTC One and OnePlus One—shipped with a Snapdragon 800 series SoC. With this kind of momentum, Qualcomm’s latest addition to the family, Snapdragon 810, should be a hot commodity amongst smartphone OEMs.

If rumors are to be believed, then the 810 is indeed heating things up, just not in the way Qualcomm expected. The first rumor surfaced in early December from an unnamed Korean industry source stating that the 810 “overheats when it reaches a specific voltage,” has performance issues with its memory controller, and has an error in the GPU driver. Anonymous rumors like this usually fade into the background noise; however, this one garnered enough attention that LG, who is using the 810 in the recently announced G Flex 2, specifically addressed the overheating concern. Woo Ram-chan, LG vice president for mobile product planning, stated "I am very much aware of the various concerns in the market about the 810, but the chip's performance is quite satisfactory," adding, “I don't understand why there is a issue over heat.”

LG might not be feeling the heat, but Samsung apparently got so hot and bothered while testing the SoC that it dropped the 810 from the upcoming Galaxy S6. This design change was all but confirmed by Qualcomm in its Q1 fiscal 2015 earnings statement, where “Expectations that our Snapdragon 810 processor will not be in the upcoming design cycle of a large customer’s flagship device” were partly to blame for lowering its revenue outlook for the semiconductor business in the second half of this year. The Wall Street Journal even reported that Qualcomm is creating an updated version of the 810 for Samsung that should be ready in March.

Even if the Samsung rumors are true, it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s anything wrong with the 810. Samsung traditionally uses Snapdragon SoCs for the North American version of its handsets and its own Exynos SoCs for the international version. The Exynos 7420, which should appear in at least some, if not all, Galaxy S6 handsets, uses the same big.LITTLE octa-core combination of ARM Cortex-A57 and -A53 CPUs as the Snapdragon 810 and is supposed to be manufactured on a similar 20nm process. However, the president of Samsung's semiconductor business, Kim Ki-nam, has stated that Samsung’s foundry is already producing chips on its new 14nm FinFET process for unspecified clients. If Samsung can move the Exynos 7420 to this new process, it would be able to achieve a much higher clock speed than the otherwise similar 810. In order for Samsung to maintain performance parity between the two different versions of the S6 (assuming these are the two SoCs it wanted to use), it would either need to underclock its 7420 or push the 810 beyond what its 20nm process allowed, causing it to overheat.

So, the overheating rumors could just be a bunch of smoke. But what about the issue with memory performance? We recently ran several benchmarks on a device using the 810 SoC and observed rather low memory performance values. Digging a little deeper we discovered that the device was actually a pre-production unit, and then confirmed with Qualcomm that pre-production samples were running the memory bus at half-speed. While this sounds alarming, it’s actually quite common when working with a new type of memory—LPDDR4 in the case of the 810.

It’s safe to say that the newest Snapdragon has encountered some engineering challenges, but has Qualcomm solved these issues or is the 810 flawed? Just recently, Qualcomm posted a press release stating that there are “over 60 premium tier mobile devices based on the Snapdragon 810 coming to market.” Two such devices have officially been announced: the LG G Flex 2 and Xiaomi’s Mi Note Pro. Other OEMs have also expressed their confidence in the new SoC, including Microsoft, Oppo, Sony, and Motorola Mobility, whose president Rick Osterloh, stated “The Snapdragon 810 processor will enable us to push the boundaries even further.” If the 810 had serious performance issues, it’s unlikely it would elicit such praise.

Data speaks louder than words however. After examining the 810’s architecture and exploring its feature set, we’ll subject it to a series of benchmarks, compare its numbers to those of other premium tablet SoCs, and see if these rumors flare up or flame out.

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15 comments
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  • realjjj
    In Geekbench your result is by far the highest in the database , something is off there, it's overclocked or you are testing in a fridge or you got some new revision.What's certain is that something is way off.
  • MobileEditor
    Quote:
    In Geekbench your result is by far the highest in the database , something is off there, it's overclocked or you are testing in a fridge or you got some new revision.What's certain is that something is way off.


    The 810 scores lower than both the Tegra K1 (Denver) and A8X in Geekbench single-core and 8% better than the A8X in multi-core. Looking at the table for the individual Integer test results shows that most of the 810's advantage is in the AES and SHA1 encryption tests, which AArch64 targets with new instructions, as I noted in the article.

    I used Geekbench 3 Pro v3.3.1 (as noted on the "Testing" page) and I definitely didn't test it in a fridge :) It was standing on a conference room table like shown in the picture on the "Testing" page.

    - Matt
  • MrCommunistGen
    "With only half as many cores, both A8X and Tegra K1 (Denver) see their IPC advantage diminish in the multi-core tests"

    A8X is a tri-core CPU.
  • airborn824
    This does not seem very promising at all. At this rate i am stuck with my S4 this year. I wont upgrade with such a small performance increase.
  • MobileEditor
    Quote:
    "With only half as many cores, both A8X and Tegra K1 (Denver) see their IPC advantage diminish in the multi-core tests" A8X is a tri-core CPU.


    Doh! I was still thinking A8. That's what happens when writing at 4am with no sleep. I'll fix that.

    - Matt
  • nebun
    tegra is a monster of a processor....nice numbers
  • nebun
    battery life?????
  • nebun
    how efficient is it?
  • MobileEditor
    Quote:
    how efficient is it?


    If you're referring to Tegra X1, Nvidia claims between 5W-10W depending on application (tablet or car). We can't verify these claims since there aren't any shipping products yet and nobody outside of Nvidia has even been able to touch it.

    For the 810, we weren't given enough time to test battery life. We need to wait until products ship. With the 810 moving to 20nm and the fact that the Krait CPUs were pushed to their max frequency, I wouldn't be surprised to see the 810 use less power than the 805 for average tablet workloads. The Adreno 430 might use a little more power than 420 though.

    - Matt
  • JeanLuc
    Are you checking to see if any of the devices are deliberately 'turboing/boosting' clockrates when certain benchmarks are run?
  • MobileEditor
    Quote:
    Are you checking to see if any of the devices are deliberately 'turboing/boosting' clockrates when certain benchmarks are run?


    The short answer is yes; there are several different ways we check for "cheating" or anomalous behavior. In addition to over and under clocking, with multi-processor SoCs we also look at how many cores are active.

    It usually takes us 3-4 days to benchmark a device, so with only one hour to work, and no other 810 devices for comparison, we weren't able to use all of our detection methods.

    - Matt
  • chaz9999
    The Galaxy S6 should be carrying a 14nm chip compared to the 810's 20nm which from a paper design standpoint should make it a worthy upgrade.
  • somebodyspecial
    NV needs to put out a few different tablet sizes with denver (or x1 since it's so close). Gaming oriented like before but a 13in, 10in, 7in, and also update shield handheld to x1. As long as they break even on them overall it gets their name more recognition as the "GAMING" devices to have on android. Then port like mad, since they've proven already they can do halflife 2, portal etc in 2 weeks and most of the time was spent on mapping the gamepad. With most games not selling more then 10mil (the biggest hits only get 20 and most are under 10mil by far) and mobile audience being so huge they need to port PC/console games that are the most popular from the last decade. By the time the get a modem in there they'll have a huge catalog to draw phones (guessing that will come from some kind of settlement in the suit with samsung for their cat10+cheap fabbing for years or something).

    Since porting takes so little time, it seems like a no brainer to port great stuff todays audience might never have even seen. At $5-10, just a few 100K of sales per game makes you a decent sum of cash (for devs) and users get a great deal on some of the greatest games (full, not microtransaction crap like usual on mobile) of recent times. Clearly NV's chips are good for gaming, but they are not taking full advantage of this yet. They should be making their OWN games in house too. Again, not to make profit just in the beginning (just breaking even is fine), but rather to push their hardware more and more as users realize you can get a great tablet that replaces your console too and when in a pinch for power links to your PC gpu if you have one (and 70% of us have NV now). At 600mil per year, surely dedicating 50mil for say 10-20x 2mil-5mil games would put out some decent stuff from a few small teams. Sell them direct through tegrazone and you can make your money back easily at $10 x 200K-400K copies. Worst case, allow others to use them after sales drop for tegra devices (make them available for PC, or worst case ALL android and profit for real then selling a million+). Just make them exclusive for a year or something then port to PC (how hard is that, punch a button in unreal engine 4 for PC?).

    I get that auto is huge, but great gaming will sell mobile devices from here on as we now have higher end tools (more versatile like unreal 4 etc) and powerful enough socs to push xbox360 etc quality stuff. Gaming is what sells discrete, it is the same for mobile high end stuff (and even low end at 14nm as gpus amp up for all to above K1 levels). Get with the game NV! The scores here show they have great gaming (well duh, it's discrete from desktop now along with drivers). Putting out a tablet and a few valve ports isn't enough. They need MORE devices and FAR MORE PORTS.

    Not impressed with S810 but I didn't expect to be with off the shelf IP. X1 will be no different on the cpu side but obviously will work for all I'm talking about above in great gaming models (NV just has to put out more sizes and a X1 handheld update). Checking tegrazone they are adding stuff, just not fast enough (KOTOR on there now etc). Snail Obox coming with K1 and will go x1 also they say so hopefully more gaming devices are coming with these socs, a bunch of Gameloft games are being optimized for it (and hopefully all tegra K1+ devices, not just obox).
  • daredevil01
    Well all I know is if the Galaxy S6 comes in an Exynos version, I'm most likely going to get that, based on numbers...
  • MarcCouture
    I wish the review had included Samsung's Exynos, I'm currently shopping for a new tablet to replace my Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 (SM-T320) and I'm not sure what I want to buy this time around. I guess I'll have to wait a bit longer to see actual product reviews with new CPUs.