Hints about new processors or device specs keep popping up from AnTuTu benchmarks these days. The latest important product to be exposed this time is Qualcomm’s upcoming ARMv8-based (64-bit) Snapdragon 810 SoC.
The chip appears to power a device that is 6.2” and has a resolution of 2560x1600 (typically a tablet resolution, as smartphones tend to have 2560x1440). The device also has 4GB of RAM, which is something we should expect on all 64-bit high-end devices later this year and next year, too. The new ARMv8 ISA brings many performance improvements along with 64-bit support, which makes it easy for devices to support 4GB of RAM or more.
When Apple announced its A7 chip last year, it appeared that Qualcomm wasn't expecting an ARMv8-based chip from Cupertino. Qualcomm buys ARM’s architecture licenses in order to build its own custom cores for the high-end, but it didn't this time around, and it still doesn’t look like Qualcomm is going to announce any ARMv8 proprietary core any time soon even a year after Apple’s announcement.
It also appears that Qualcomm intends to use Cortex A53 at the low end (such as in the Snapdragon 410) and Cortex A57 at the high-end (such as in Snapdragon 810) as a stopgap solution until it releases its own ARMv8 successor to the Krait core.
It’s likely we won’t see such a successor until late 2015 at the very earliest. It’s also possible Qualcomm wasn’t building a next-gen core that’s as large and wide as Apple’s A7 (6-way wide) and Nvidia’s Denver (7-way wide), but more in line with ARM’s Cortex A57, which is only 3-way wide.
If that’s the case, then Qualcomm must’ve gone back to the drawing board, and we won’t be seeing a custom core from it until sometime in 2016, as it usually takes at least 2 years to design a new core. Until then Qualcomm would keep using Cortex A57 in its high-end CPUs, which is unlikely to be competitive enough against Nvidia’s Denver and Apple’s A8.
Cortex A57 at 20nm brings about a 45 percent improvement over Cortex A15 at 28nm in part because of the new process and in part because of the new ARMv8 instruction set, as you can see in the image below. However, Nvidia's Denver should be about 25 percent faster than that (80 percent faster than Cortex A15), even at 28nm.
It doesn’t seem that Qualcomm’s GPUs have increased in performance that much either, since the latest Adreno 330. Adreno 420 is only supposed to get a 40 percent increase in performance, which isn’t nearly enough to catch up to Nvidia’s Kepler GPU, and Adreno 430, which will be in this Snapdragon 810 chip, is supposed to be only 30 percent faster than Adreno 420.
Perhaps its reign at the top of the mobile chip market over the past few years has made Qualcomm slower and less responsive to the competition. However, something will need to change, or it’s only a matter of time before most consumers notice, too. Then they will start demanding that their devices don’t come with Snapdragon processors anymore. At that point device makers will have to listen those demands, despite the great relationships with Qualcomm that they’ve fostered over the past few years, and switch to the competition’s chips.