All-Inclusive Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Benchmarks Show Improved Integer, Disappointing Floating Point & Mixed GPU Performance

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Mar 24, 2017
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In just a couple of days, a second smartphone lineup featuring Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 will be with us. Sony took the title of the first manufacturer to launch a smartphone with the processor. Now, before Samsung gets to show off the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ at its event, Qualcomm invited a couple of folks over to its headquarters for testing purposes. Anandtech was one of them and they’re back with a lot of details and benchmarks. Take a look below to find out more.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Benchmarks Show Consistent Performance In Majority Of Results

We’ve got a lot of details for the Snapdragon 835 today. Following custom, Qualcomm has finally allowed the media to test its processor. And boy are there a lot of benchmarks for us today. But before we get to that, let’s take a look at what’s under the hood of this 10nm processor. A lot of hopes are tied around the 835. Qualcomm’s promised us that the processor will deliver more in both performance and power efficiency over its predecessor. There’s a lot more to the 835 then you’d be able to discern at a first glance.

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For starters, the processor’s Kryo cores don’t share a single feature with their predecessors. The Kryo design is the company’s first true custom solution for 64 bit compute. We’ve got a lot of ire in the comments section over this bit. So to clear things up once and for all, here’s a brief overview of what’s Kryo and what’s not. The Snapdragon 820’s Kryo cores are the first of their kind which are truly different from ARM’s solutions for its partners. They’re not the same as ARM’s other 64 bit capable cores, and resemble Qualcomm’s custom approach present on Scorpion and Krait pre-2012.

Basic Performance + Memory:

Now, since the Snapdragon 835 features cores dubbed as ‘Kryo 280’, you’d expect them to be improved iterations of the originals found on the 821 and 820. Wrong. Kryo 280 is the first of ARM’s new ‘Built on ARM Cortex’ license. Through this, manufacturers start with an ARM design and add changes of their own. Current speculation suggests that Kryo 280 follows ARM’s Cortex A73 chips. In short, Qualcomm’s chosen the A73 and added changes as it sees fit.

This makes comparisons a lot more easier. For the rest of this piece, you’ll see that the Snapdragon 835 is compared to Huawei’s Kirin 960, which uses Cortex A73 cores. In fact, as we proceed, you’ll notice that both the 960 and the 835 follow similar patterns for benchmark and performance scores. Both show decreased JPEG, Camera, PDF rendering and Canny scores. But while integer performance is still bettwer when compared to the 820, in floating point the 835 simply doesn’t look like a 10nm, 2017 processor.

Moving towards memory latency, the architectural shifts in Kryo 280 show their impact clearly. To start off, we’re going to have to explain what an Address Generation Unit, or an AGU is. Your CPU, is the component that performs various calculations throughout the day. The data, or meat for these calculations is stored in your device’s memory. An AGU generates addresses for the various data points for the CPU. This, simplifies the process for the main processor as it doesn’t have to concern itself to do all this ‘locating’ itself.

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Now, the Kryo 280, similar to the A72, A73 and A57 has two AGUs. Where it differs from the A57 and A52 is that each AGU is capable of performing both load and store operations. The gains in Memory latency and bandwidth when compared to the 820 and 821 are massive. Latency here refers to the time between a command to retrieve a data is given and the moment this command is actually received. Take a look at the results below.

Advanced Performance + Browser:

Now, it’s time to move towards some real-time performance tests. We’ve got system level tests, which you can see in the images above. They range from overall performance to browsing, writing and data manipulation. In PC Mark 2.0 overall scores, the Snapdragon 835 scores 6,676 points and leads the pack. But its lead over the Huawei Mate 9 isn’t that significant. We see similar trends for Web Browsing.

In Data writing and manipulation, the S835 loses its lead. It comes second place for both the tests, but the difference here isn’t that significant either. Keep in mind that these scores are on a reference device. Manufacturers will tweak the Snapdragon according to their own needs, so practical results will differ from these scores. The Write/Manipulation tests produce varied results due to short bursts of activity. At the end, final performance depends on OEM processor manipulation.

Browser benchmarks present the most interesting results. Take a look at the images above and you’ll see that Apple’s iPhone 7/6s Plus lead consistently. This isn’t due to the A10 Fusion, for all you Apple fans out there. Rather, Cupertino’s JavaScript for Safari works well with its processors. Apple’s known for its tightly knit hardware/software integration and the results show. The Snapdragon 835 is a strong performer in Web XPRT. The processor scores 154, a 30 point led over the Huawei Mate 9.

To sum it up, for CPU, the Snapdragon 835 shows consistent results. Since these tests are based on a reference device, final conclusions are unwarranted at this point. It’s very weak in floating point, which is strange since the original Kryo cores were strong performers in the category. For integer scores, Qualcomm has made a lot of improvements on the processor. Finally, ARM’s upgraded AGU design for Cortex A73 also shows its strengths in memory results.

The Adreno 540 – Graphics:

Now it’s time to take a look at Qualcomm’s brand new Adreno 540 GPU for the Snapdragon 835. The company promises a lot of upgrades for it. According to Qualcomm, the Adreno 540 will feature a 25% increase in 3D rendering over its predecessor. 10nm will also increase operating frequencies for the processor. We’ll start off by taking a look at the Snapdragon 835’s T-Rex and Car Chase scores. The former test OpenGL ES 2.0 while the latter tests ES 3.0.

For OpenGL ES 2.0, the Snapdragon 835 renders 118 fps, marking for a strong lead over the iPhone 7 Plus. Apple uses customized versions of Imagination Technologies’ GPUs in its smartphones. The iPhone 7 Plus uses a 1080 onscreen resolution, and the Snapdragon 835 performs at 1440p, making its results even more strong. The Mate 9’s also running a 1080p resolution so you’ll see the processor lead in T-Rex Onscreen. The Adreno 540 shows its full strength when it’s not constrained by resolutions. In T-Rex Offscreen, the GPU leads consistently over the A10, the Mali G71MP8 and the Adreno 530.

Car chase is more relevant for a latest comparison. Testing ES 3.1, the benchmark shows similar results in Onscreen scores. The Snapdragon 835 is the highest 1440p smartphone. It scores a strong lead over the Pixel XL, with the device scoring 11.6 fps. It’s in Offscreen results that the Adreno 540’s true strength shows. It’s lead over the Snapdragon 820 based Le Pro3 is massive and shows how much Qualcomm’s improved the GPU over its direct predecessor.

In all three variants of 3D Mark’s Sling Shot, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 is a constant winner. Its lead over the Snapdragon 820 is very strong and is the only major difference that you get to see for next six levels, overall. Considering that both the Mate 9 and the S835 use similar CPU cores, the difference between their GPUs is clearly visible in the Physics test. This test measures overall memory scores for the processor in relation to graphics and the Snapdragon’s lead is self-explanatory if you’ve paid attention so far. The Adreno 540’s strong shader performance is visible in Graphics version of the test as well. Qualcomm’s paid special attention to ALUs this year, a fact that’s also reflected in Basemark scores.

But this ALU improvements fades when we talk API support. Apple’s support for Metal on the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus results in much more efficient graphics performance. In Basemark – Metal, the iPhone 7 Plus has a strong lead over the Snapdragon 835 and second place Huawei Mate 9. Qualcomm’s lead decrease in Offscreen ELS 3.1 and the GPU comes second place to its direct predecessor in Onscreen testing. A GFXBench Offscreen ALU test puts the iPhone 7 Plus and the Snapdragon 835 neck in neck. Apple’s got its GPU game strong, particularly as Cupertino’s solutions are specifically customized to its needs.

Conclusions:

Conclusions? Qualcomm’s progress with the Snapdragon 835 paints a mixed picture. The US chipmaker has improved a couple of areas for both processing and graphics. At rest, it’s left things woefully inadequate. The strongest feature for the Snapdragon 835’s Kryo 280 cores is their memory performance. This is purely due to ARM’s architectural improvements with the Cortex A73. In integer scores, the 835 marks for strong performance, but leaves much to be desired. For floating point, performance is simply abysmal.

The graphics department sees the Adreno 540 dominate the competition in all but a handful of tests. The processor’s key ALU upgrades fail to beat Apple’s iPhone lineup. In shader performance, the 540 doesn’t perform as well as we’d expect it to. Keep in mind, as mentioned above, that these are preliminary results only. OEMs tinker a lot with processors to make them device-specific. So unless the S835 becomes widely available, we’ll reserve concrete judgements for the processor. Thoughts? Let us know what you think in the comments section below and stay tuned. We’ll keep you updated on the latest.

Thanks a lot, Anandtech! We owe you.

 

 

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