Snapdragon 820 Performance Preview

Final Thoughts

The past year has been challenging for Qualcomm. Putting four Cortex-A57 CPUs onto TSMC's 20nm HKMG planar process was not a winning combination for its stopgap Snapdragon 810 product. It was plagued by overheating issues early, likely costing Qualcomm design wins, and while improvements came in a later revision, the 810 never lived up to its performance expectations. Fortunately for Qualcomm and its OEM partners, salvation appears to be at hand courtesy of Kryo and FinFET.

Snapdragon 820 brings tangible gains to all functional blocks: CPU, GPU, ISP, DSP, and modem. We’ve been waiting awhile for the first piece of this puzzle, but Kryo, Qualcomm’s first custom-designed 64-bit CPU, is finally here. It’s architecture is clearly unique: It simultaneously resembles both ARM’s Cortex-A57 and Apple’s Typhoon CPUs. Single-core integer performance is slightly better than A57/A72, while Kryo’s floating-point performance offers bigger gains over the A57. After factoring in the A72’s floating-point enhancements, Kryo should still see an IPC advantage, ensuring it will be competitive within the Android market. Apple’s Twister CPU in the A9 retains the single-core performance crown, however, beating Kryo in both integer and floating-point workloads.

Qualcomm’s Adreno GPUs have always had strong ALU performance, giving them the edge in games that make liberal use of pixel shaders. The Adreno 530 GPU in Snapdragon 820 continues this trend, improving ALU performance even further. The 530 is no one-trick pony, though. Improvements have been made throughout the rendering pipeline, especially to vertex processing, making the Adreno 530 a more balanced GPU.

Snapdragon 820’s memory controller is also vastly improved, offering the highest memory bandwidth we’ve seen for sequential access patterns. Like the Snapdragon 808 and 810 before it, the 820’s memory system is optimized for moving around large, contiguous chunks of data, perfect for feeding high-resolution textures to the GPU or streaming pictures and video to the enhanced ISP and DSP blocks.

This preliminary look at the Snapdragon 820 did not find any weak points in its performance. While thermal and battery life assessments will have to wait until we get shipping products into our lab, the use of Samsung’s proven 14nm FinFET process helps allay fears of a Snapdragon 810 redux. Architecturally, the 820 seems to be set up well for Qualcomm’s heterogeneous computing vision.

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Matt Humrick is a Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware, covering Smartphones and Tablets. Follow him on Twitter.

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  • blackmagnum
    ...so, Apple's the Intel of the mobile cpu world, while Qualcomm's the AMD. One brings the performance while the other offers better value.
  • donjay
    No, Apple is not Intel of the CPU world.

    Apple is not actively sabotaging Android devices by offering subsidies to Android Tablet and Phone manufacturers.
  • megamanxtreme
    I really hope that the 820 is not as hot as the 810 gets, if not, I'll have to wait for the 830. I found the 950XL having to need a liquid cooler an insult.
    Until then, I'll survive with the 800 on my Lumia 1520.

    Actually, to blackmagnum, Qualcomm is being rumored to pay companies to include their processors, not sure if they are paying to exclude the competition, but it sounds similar to what Intel did to cut-off AMD on a lot.

    Found an article: http://www.zdnet.com/article/eu-to-qualcomm-youve-been-paying-to-shut-out-rival-chip-makers/
  • LordConrad
    Quote:
    No, Apple is not Intel of the CPU world. Apple is not actively sabotaging Android devices by offering subsidies to Android Tablet and Phone manufacturers.

    I believe he meant it in terms of performance.
  • nitrium
    Quote:
    No, Apple is not Intel of the CPU world. Apple is not actively sabotaging Android devices by offering subsidies to Android Tablet and Phone manufacturers.

    Apple also doesn't allow anyone other than Apple to use their CPU... exactly UNLIKE Intel, who lets anyone use their chips in any device you can dream up.
  • monsta
    look forward to seeing the 820 in the next flagship phones , if the numbers are correct on paper it's going to be a great chip
  • jasonelmore
    Apple's CPU Cores are clocked quite a bit higher than the 820 in these test.. Also the Adreno GPU is kicking apple's a9 butt.
  • ZolaIII
    Looks like S620 will be lovely.
    Actual splitting the Kryo cores in two clusters whose a dumb move.
    They will certainly get a performance edge in real usage where 2 cores are mostly sufficient enough (Web, apps) but in cases where you need more it will even be under the S620 so that's shooting in their own feat.
    I am not impressed with Spectra or QDSP but I am impressed with GPU performance.
    So in summary if they don't blow with GPU on S620 along with pricing they culd stay in the game as S620 could be a wonderful mainstream SoC all well balanced otherwise it will be a game over for them.
    I won't be crying for them as I didn't for Texas Instruments or Broadcom that they pushed out (that they will finally pay for) but truth is if they go down we are all without any open stock (I don't count Exunos as one more OEM ever used them).
  • wh3resmycar
    all those processing power for what? sending a d*ck pic in snapchat? smartphone performance has been so much saturated since the snapdragon s4. i'd take this 820 @ half the clocks plus 5000mah of battery in a smart phone because running your phone longer in the day makes more sense than any other gimmicks out there.
  • daniel_103
    147653 said:
    all those processing power for what? sending a d*ck pic in snapchat? smartphone performance has been so much saturated since the snapdragon s4. i'd take this 820 @ half the clocks plus 5000mah of battery in a smart phone because running your phone longer in the day makes more sense than any other gimmicks out there.


    So true! Is the first time when i read a good comment and a very real. This is a question that many people should think about... Are we use our smartphones for playing video games or for the real communications and network connection? What do people want from a smartphone? You expecting to run AutoCAD on your smartphone, or 2 days without recharge and full network?
  • Tahlula
    I am more excited about possibly being able to run apps such Cortana or Siri locally. Still dreaming of my own Jarvis (Iron Man reference). I refuse to knowingly allow Apple or Microsoft to listen to my conversations recorded on their servers as the apps are currently handled (the cloud). I'm fully aware there is no digital privacy but I'm going down kicking and screaming! LOL
  • Badelhas
    Battery life is much more important to me than those benchmarks.
  • bit_user
    I was initially disappointed, until I examined the single-core benchmarks. Still kinda sad they didn't dethrone Apple. Otherwise, looks promising.

    The core config strikes me as odd. big.LITTLE config makes more sense when the little cores are actually *little*. If the cores are going to be the same, then I think they should have just run all 4 cores at variable clock speed w/ the same ceiling (and globally limited by a power/thermal management scheme like Intel's Turbo Boost). Each core should have its own L2 cache and flush it when the core idles. Then, you could turn off that core's L2 and it burns virtually no power. The benefit would be better performance on tasks using > 2 cores. With those power savings in hand, they could afford more total L2 cache, to offset the reduction in available cache for the 1-2 core case.

    But I assume Qualcomm simulated many use cases and chose this one to balance performance, battery life, and cost.
  • bit_user
    Thanks for all the benchmarks, BTW. I've beeen waiting for this.
  • SBMfromLA
    Quote:
    Quote:
    No, Apple is not Intel of the CPU world. Apple is not actively sabotaging Android devices by offering subsidies to Android Tablet and Phone manufacturers.
    Apple also doesn't allow anyone other than Apple to use their CPU... exactly UNLIKE Intel, who lets anyone use their chips in any device you can dream up.


    No, but Intel does have a history of pressuring companies to only use their chips instead of including AMD's
  • bit_user
    2140403 said:
    I'm fully aware there is no digital privacy but I'm going down kicking and screaming! LOL
    Check out Silent Circle's BlackPhone series. Not quite the cheapest hardware, but you either pay with your privacy or your wallet. At least with the latter, you know the cost up front.
  • bit_user
    147653 said:
    all those processing power for what?
    They clearly have their eye on the growing AR & VR markets, as you can see from some of the marketing material on their website.

    Anyway, if you don't need the performance, nobody is forcing you to buy such a high-end SoC.
  • kvragec
    It seems to me that Qualcomm is aiming at sustained performance with little to almost no throthling. 4 cores on 14nm LPP process could end up really cool. Also, heterogenous computing can help at that. To me SD820 looks like a winner. Also, nothing stops them to launch SOC with 8 Kryo cores in the future.