Snapdragon 835 press event previews potent performance

Qualcomm's new Snapdragon 835 SoC is the company's next major revision of its flagship chip. The 835 is also the first high-performance SoC built on Samsung's 10nm process. Qualcomm recently invited a sprinkling of the tech press to its San Diego headquarters to take a look at a reference device built around its new design. The folks at AnandTech and PC Perspective both got some quality time with the new hardware.

The design of the Snapdragon 835 is a considerable departure from the 820 before it. While the Snapdragon 820 had four custom-designed Kryo CPU cores, the 835 has eight CPU cores arranged as a pair of four-core clusters—one for high performance and another with an eye towards power efficiency. According to AnandTech, the CPU in the Snapdragon 835 is the first design created under ARM's "Built on ARM Cortex Technology" license. The license lets vendors customize an existing ARM design rather than creating one from scratch. Qualcomm is tight-lipped about exactly which ARM cores it customized or what changes it made, but AnandTech's testing seems to indicate that the high-performance cores are based on the Cortex-A73.

Despite the fact that Qualcomm's latest CPU cores are only semi-custom affairs, the company is using its Kryo moniker for in-house designs. The Kryo 280 CPU in the Snapdragon 835 runs its high-performance cores at up to 2.45 GHz and its high-efficiency cores at up to 1.9 GHz, though only one of the clusters can be active at any given time. Qualcomm says that applications should spend as much as 80% of CPU time on the SoC's high-efficiency cores, making the 835 the company's most power-efficient design to date. However, the press didn't have enough time with the reference platform to quantify battery life or power efficiency.

There's plenty of hard performance numbers to go over, though. Here's the short version: the Snapdragon 835 is the fastest commodity SoC out there today. In PC Perspective's testing, Qualcomm's reference phone posted the highest single-threaded Geekbench score to date (outside of an Apple device), along with the highest multi-threaded score, period. In both metrics, the 835 is a fair bit ahead of the Kirin 960 processor in Huawei's Mate 9, so it seems that whatever customizations Qualcomm made have paid off. When we throw Apple's chips into the mix, even the relatively-aged A9 steps on the Android chips in single-threaded and browser tests, though that won't be a surprise to anyone familiar with this market.

Of course, a SoC is more than just a few CPU cores. Qualcomm says the Snapdragon 835's Adreno 540 GPU is 25% faster than the Adreno 530 in the SD821. That's a huge performance uplift given that the company admits the GPUs are fundamentally similar. Qualcomm says its engineers targeted specific bottlenecks in the Adreno 530's design to improve performance and efficiency. AnandTech writes that Qualcomm also raised the peak GPU clock speed to 710Mhz, a 14% boost over the SD820's 624 MHz. Whatever the source of the speedup, the Adreno 540 appears to be around 30% faster than the 530, by PC Perspective's reckoning. Given that the Snapdragon 821's GPU was already faster than everyone else's (including Apple's A10 Fusion), that means that the Snapdragon 835 is currently the ARM SoC with the fastest GPU. That's great news for folks who are into mobile gaming and VR.

If you believe the rumors, Samsung's Galaxy S8 phone is due for release in about a month and should be the first handset to use Qualcomm's new SoC. Looking at the performance data gleaned from the preview event, the prospects for the S8's performance are enticing. Still, it's important to keep in mind that we know nothing about the new SoC's efficiency, and also that the final implementations of the Snapdragon 835 chip may deviate from the reference platform in performance. Head on over to AnandTech or PC Perspective if you want to see all the pretty charts and numbers.

Comments closed
    • Anonymous Coward
    • 3 years ago

    So… are phones are fond of big-little designs because power usage is more critical than on desktop machines? Seems like either Intel or AMD could easily have combined their “little” cores with their “big” cores and fabbed the sucker. The fact they have not suggests that there are tradeoffs. The caches would need to be shared with a latency penalty, or duplicated and refilled when the cores switched. The OS might want to steer core switching.

    Also, desktop CPUs are closely related to server CPUs, and on the server sitting idle isn’t so much a power concern as a wasting your budget concern.

    But in a brave new world where Intel actually tries to do something clever, maybe they could do a big-little design specifically for laptops and low-lower machines.

    Smarter people than I have doubtless picked over this question many times…

    • ronch
    • 3 years ago

    I totally understand the need for performance but I suppose past a certain point more performance is only good for the reviewers and epeen. I’m using a phone with a Mediatek 6735 SoC that has 4 x Cortex A53 cores at 1.3GHz, decidedly pale in comparison to the 820’s, 835’s and Apples of the world. But really, I can’t say that it’s slow by any means. Games run great, web pages scroll fluidly, the device is snappy. AnTutu gives it around 31,000 and Vellamo single thread is around 920. Phone bought for just $160.

    OTOH both my parents have an iPhone6/7 but they never play games or run benchmarks. They probably just bought them because it’s nice to have an iPhone.

      • DancinJack
      • 3 years ago

      Not everyone uses their phone the exact same way you do.

        • ronch
        • 3 years ago

        Of course, but how many things can people really do on their phones anyway? Check email, place calls, send text messages, take photos, surf the web, play games… what else? Not many other things. And for most of those things you don’t need an A73 to get a great user experience. Games are most likely the most demanding but if you can afford a $800 phone you’re probably not just sitting around playing games. And pop probably won’t buy junior an $800 iPhone to take to school and play games with during recess. Not generalizing, just talking about typical scenarios.

          • DancinJack
          • 3 years ago

          VR is the biggest one these days.

            • ronch
            • 3 years ago

            Google cardboard? LOL!

            • f0d
            • 3 years ago

            samsung VR?
            [url<]http://www.samsung.com/global/galaxy/gear-vr/[/url<] there are many VR headsets you can get for phones [url<]http://www.gearbest.com/vr-headset-c_12105/[/url<]

            • ronch
            • 3 years ago

            VR is kinda like a niche thing. Sure it’s all the rage these days but I predict it’ll go the way of 3D TV. It’s nice for the first week or month but eventually folks get tired of turning their heads around when just moving a mouse does the job without all the neck twisting.

            • f0d
            • 3 years ago

            3dtv was always crap but VR is different and is not really meant to replace experiences with a mouse or in the case of your phone a touchscreen but its meant to add more options in the way you can play games or the way you interact with things in ways that other input devices cant do

            VR isnt something i use everyday but it is something im happy i can experience when im in the mood and with the headsets for the phone (around $20) they are cheap enough to buy into them so why not?

            VR wont replace anything, it will only add to your options of what you CAN do and more options is always a good thing

            • ozzuneoj
            • 3 years ago

            I know zero people who use VR on their phone. I work at a place that sells phones and I’ve never (ever) had anyone explicitly ask anything about VR on phones. We carry tons of phone based VR headsets and no one buys them.

            It’s neat but it simply exists as an attempt to sell phones that people don’t otherwise need. This isn’t a high end VR setup connected to a PC we’re talking about. It’s a smart phone stuck to your face.

            When you take away the primary input method of a device (touchscreen) by sticking it in a box and giving the user one button to mash the screen with, the​ usefulness obviously drops off quickly.

      • tipoo
      • 3 years ago

      I felt similarly about the Moto G I had, with a light/nonexistent skin over stock Android it can be pretty fast on low end CPUs. But the 1GB RAM became the real killer, the 2GB models would be ok still I assume.

      On the flip side, I also didn’t know the kind of added smoothness and instantaneousness I was missing until I got a 6S.

        • f0d
        • 3 years ago

        i found the same thing – 1gb ram slows down android a lot
        i now have a phone with 3gb ram and the difference is massive

        i went back to try and play pokemon go on my old phone with 1gb ram but it was just too “jerky” and after a few hours the game crashed from not having enough ram…

        • ronch
        • 3 years ago

        That’s akin to not realizing how sluggish a Camry is until you try driving a Ferrari. But really, for daily use, the Camry is fine.

        • NTMBK
        • 3 years ago

        Yup, the constant killing and reloading of apps/tabs the moment you switch away gets really annoying on a 1GB phone. I wish that Android would just page.

    • confusedpenguin
    • 3 years ago

    But can it play Crysis?

      • ronch
      • 3 years ago

      YES!!!!

    • synthtel2
    • 3 years ago

    So they spent a lot of time and money designing a custom core, then threw it away in favor of tweaking an A73 as soon as they got the chance? Interesting.

      • Eversor
      • 3 years ago

      Gotta know when to admit you’re wrong. If A73 is better, why not? Clearly, it was a good decision. They may be using that research time to work on something to fight Apple.

        • synthtel2
        • 3 years ago

        Clearly the change was worthwhile, but they used to be really on top of things with their in-house designs. I’m most curious why their in-house designs have been weaker lately (or is A73 just that good?).

      • ronch
      • 3 years ago

      If the A73 really proves to be better than the custom core they designed and they know lots of competitors will use it and make their SoC with the custom core fall behind, they’ll certainly need to ditch the custom core and go with an off-the-shelf core and at least keep up with the competition. Forget about being custom or different. Like, if Bulldozer is crap and Intel is open to licensing their big cores, AMD would surely just have licensed them instead of insisting on sticking with Bulldozer because they worked hard and spent good money on it. Business is business.

        • synthtel2
        • 3 years ago

        The business stuff all seems pretty simple. Really I’m more interested in technical angles, but details of that don’t get around so much for mobile CPUs.

      • NTMBK
      • 3 years ago

      They’re also designing a server-grade CPU intended to take on Skylake; I suspect their CPU design teams are a bit busy lately.

    • Kretschmer
    • 3 years ago

    I’m more interested in power efficiency than pure performance, as I’m rarely processor constrained on my phone but certainly can run the battery out.

    ‘course, my phone has a user-accessible battery, so I’m always one swap away from 100%.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 3 years ago

      From everything I’ve read, if you’re comfortable stepping down to a Snapdragon 625, the devices with that SoC seem to be real battery champs. The Moto Z Play, G5 Plus, and some Asus Zenfone 3 models all have it. The one with the most press exposure is of course the Moto Z Play. Everyone from [url=http://www.droid-life.com/2016/09/23/moto-z-play-review/<]Droid Life[/url<] to [url=https://www.engadget.com/2016/11/14/moto-z-play-review/<]Engadget[/url<] raves about the battery life on that phone. It also did manage to get Nougat before Samsung's flagships, too. It's not a Pixel so it's not getting day-one updates from Google, but so far so good.

      • ronch
      • 3 years ago

      My Acer has 4 x A53 cores and a huge 5,000mAh battery. Usually lasts 2 days with HEAVY use. 3 if I lay off a bit. My record was 5 days when I was on vacation.

    • BobbinThreadbare
    • 3 years ago

    8 cores for a mobile devices is pure marketing claptrap. Even if you can only use some at once. Even 4+2 would make more sense.

      • frogg
      • 3 years ago

      And what a waste of silicon !!!! only 4 out of 8 can run at the same time; i want a refund.

      • tipoo
      • 3 years ago

      At least it’s not one of these little.little units with infinite clusters of A53s.

    • Voldenuit
    • 3 years ago

    [quote<]Given that the Snapdragon 821's GPU was already faster than everyone else's (including Apple's A10 Fusion), that means that the Snapdragon 835 is currently the ARM SoC with the fastest GPU. [/quote<] How would it compare to Tegra X1 and X2 GPU? Granted the X2 is mostly on developer boards right now, but the X1 is seen in the Switch, so it is *kinda* a mobile SoC.

    • UberGerbil
    • 3 years ago

    [quote<]The Kryo 280 CPU in the Snapdragon 835 runs its high-performance cores at up to 2.45 GHz and its high-efficiency cores at up to 1.9 GHz, though only one of the clusters can be active at any given time. [/quote<]That seems... suboptimal. And more than a bit of a nightmare for the scheduler. You've got a bunch of background tasks that would ideally run on the low-performance cores, but they have to run on the high-performance ones because the low-performance ones are turned off because there happens to be a demanding task running in the foreground?

      • chuckula
      • 3 years ago

      And we thought that RyZen presented issues for the scheduler!

        • Voldenuit
        • 3 years ago

        If anything, this would simplify things for the scheduler. If load is heavy, everything moves to Big. If load is light (idling is 80-90% of a phone’s use-case), everything moves to little. No cluster juggling or core/cluster parking required.

      • BobbinThreadbare
      • 3 years ago

      This is how most (if not all) little.BIG chips work.

        • designerfx
        • 3 years ago

        I thought I read before that Samsung chips had the same type of high efficiency/high performance core combo (more like high frequency/low frequency) but was capable of running both types at the same time?

    • LocalCitizen
    • 3 years ago

    yet 835’s single thread performance is 40% less than apple’s A10 and 20% less than A9 in geekbench, 50% less than A10 in google octane or mozilla kraken. these processors are still years behind in terms of providing best user experience.

      • sreams
      • 3 years ago

      Please define “best user experience” and describe exactly how this won’t provide that as compared to other systems.

      Also… doesn’t single thread performance matter less and less as hardware and software becomes more and more about multi-thread?

        • derFunkenstein
        • 3 years ago

        [quote<]Also... doesn't single thread performance matter less and less as hardware and software becomes more and more about multi-thread?[/quote<] Not for web-based stuff. That also means not for apps that have HTML/CSS/JavaScript front-ends.

          • sreams
          • 3 years ago

          Fair enough… so the next question would be: Are any of these top end mobile SOCs slow for web-based stuff in any kind of practical sense?

            • LocalCitizen
            • 3 years ago

            is 60hz monitor too slow?

            to answer your question, yes, you can feel the difference on many websites that are clumsily programmed, including many large news sites.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 3 years ago

            I have a Galaxy S7 and an iPhone 6S Plus. I’ve used them both as daily drivers, but I keep going back to the iPhone because the experience of browsing the web in Safari is so much better than Chrome, and it’s entirely down to performance.

            • nico1982
            • 3 years ago

            Bringing up browser benchmarks (let alone experience) of different browsers to prove anything about a CPU should be a bannable offense πŸ˜›

            • derFunkenstein
            • 3 years ago

            Where did I mention benchmarks?

            It’s not like there’s a real version of Chrome on iOS. All iOS browsers use the Safari UIWebView engine. And there sure isn’t Safari on Android. So it’s a real-world comparison and it’s the best we have.

            • nico1982
            • 3 years ago

            You mentioned “browser experience”. I wrote that even benchmarks – that are better than “user experience” – are a poor choice.

            Asking the pilot if he was faster on a Focus RS or on an Audi RS3 is not a meaningful metric to compare the car engines just because it is the only metric we have.
            Actual laptimes (Octane/Kraken scores) are better, but still not meaningful enough.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 3 years ago

            I just know that there are little lock-ups and freezes and stalls on Android hardware that there isn’t on the iPhone. Maybe Apple just hides stalling better. Maybe it’s not there. Either way, I find the Apple experience, where the device is always responsive, to be preferable. I’d like to spend less on an Android phone.

            And, oh yeah, Safari on iOS crushes Android (even the Galaxy S7) on basically every benchmark. So they seem to line up.

            • nico1982
            • 3 years ago

            Again, nobody here is debating that browsing with Safari on iOS from an iPhone 6 is a better experience than browsing on Chrome on Android from an S7, or that the benchmarks are better on the former setup. The point is how much of the difference is up to the CPU itself, the OS, the browser, the javascript engine, the memory subsystem, wathever πŸ™‚

            Streams asked how many N m the Focus is down on peak torque from the Audi. You and LocalCitizen replied that the Audi feels faster (and laps better).

            • BabelHuber
            • 3 years ago

            I think I need to fix this for you:

            I just know that there are little lock-ups and freezes and stalls on Samsung’s version of Android that there isn’t on the iPhone.

            Seriously, Samsung is one of the worst offenders regarding a fluid Android experience. On XDA, they did some UI-comparisons between different phones with the Snapdragon 820 SoC last year. Only Samsung had this micron stuttering.

            I have the LG G5 (albeit running Lineage OS instead of stock), and nothing stutters. Well, except of web sites which are overloaded with advertisements. And we all know the fix for this πŸ™‚

            Also, the SD820 has a really fast GPU, so forcing GPU rendering in the developer settings also helps. I don’t understand why this feature is switched off by default by some vendors, I never had any issues after enabling it.

          • raddude9
          • 3 years ago

          Web-based stuff is also moving towards multi-threading BTW:

          [url<]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_worker[/url<]

      • CuttinHobo
      • 3 years ago

      I have no doubt Apple designed the highest performing phone CPUs… But I do wonder how much of this performance delta is due to Apple’s tight integration of first-party hardware and software.

      • designerfx
      • 3 years ago

      At the same time, iphone’s gpu performance is not up to par with the 835.

      I am surprised that they seemed to take a step back on CPU performance (logically it sounds like a bad idea), but overall this just seems like a small progression.

      I’m guessing they’re going to push hard on improved battery life instead.

        • NeelyCam
        • 3 years ago

        [quote<]I'm guessing they're going to push hard on improved battery life instead.[/quote<] I would argue that this is probably the right choice. Great performance is good, but great battery life with good performance is great.

    • chuckula
    • 3 years ago

    Almost!

    Here’s another version:
    [quote<]Snapdragon 835 press presentation previews potent performance[/quote<]

      • DPete27
      • 3 years ago

      [quote<]Snapdragon 835 press presentation previews [b<]puroportedly[/b<] potent performance[/quote<] FTFY. Wouldn't be a TR article without "purportedly".

        • Neutronbeam
        • 3 years ago

        Or the requisite typo. . . ;->

        • Kretschmer
        • 3 years ago

        You win.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 3 years ago

      Pleasantly perfect.

      • ronch
      • 3 years ago

      Yes, the 5 P’s of marketing.

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