Review Index:

Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 Performance Preview

Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Qualcomm

Introduction and CPU Performance

We had a chance this week to go hands-on with the Snapdragon 820, the latest flagship SoC from Qualcomm, in a hardware session featuring prototype handsets powered by this new silicon. How did it perform? Read on to find out!

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As you would expect from an all-new flagship part, the Snapdragon 820 offers improvements in virtually every category compared to their previous products. And with the 820 Qualcomm is emphasizing not only performance, but lower power consumption with claims of anywhere from 20% to 10x better efficiency across the components that make up this new SoC. And part of these power savings will undoubtedly come as the result of Qualcomm’s decision to move to a quad-core design with the 820, rather than the 8-core design of the 810.

So what exactly does comprise a high-end SoC like the Snapdragon 820? Ryan covered the launch in detail back in November (and we introduced aspects of the new SoC in a series of articles leading up to the launch). In brief, the Snapdragon 820 includes a custom quad-core CPU (Kryo), the Andreno 530 GPU, a new DSP (Hexagon 680), new ISP (Spectra), and a new LTE modem (X12). The previous flagship Snapdragon 810 used stock ARM cores (Cortex-A57, Cortex-A53) in a big.LITTLE configuration, but for various reasons Qualcomm has chosen not to introduce another 8-core SoC with this new product.

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The four Kryo CPU cores found in the Snapdragon 820 can operate at speeds of up to 2.2 GHz, and since is half the number of the octo-core Snapdragon 810, the IPC (instructions per clock) of this new part will help determine how competitive the SD820's performance will be; but there’s a lot more to the story. This SoC design placed equal emphasis on all components therein, and the strategy with the SD820 seems to be leveraging the capability of the advanced signal processing (Hexagon 680) which should help offload the work to allow the CPU to work with greater efficiency, and at lower power.

Continue reading our performance preview of the new Snapdragon 820 SoC!!

Of course we can’t adequately measure the impact that these potential power savings will have on battery life (and thermals) until we have shipping hardware in hand, so this preview will simply focus on a few benchmarks to at least provide an idea of where the new SoC sits in relation to the market (and its predecessors). Speaking of its predecessors, below is a table of the tested devices using Qualcomm Snapdragon SoCs.

  Snapdragon 820 Reference Platform Snapdragon 810 Reference Platform Google Nexus 6 OnePlus One
SoC Snapdragon 820 Snapdragon 810 Snapdragon 805 Snapdragon 801
CPU Cores Custom 2.2 GHz Quad-Core Kryo Quad-core 2.0 GHz Cortex-A57
Quad-core 1.5 GHz Cortex-A53
Quad-core 2.7 GHz Krait 450 Quad-core 2.5 GHz Krait 400
GPU Cores Adreno 530 Adreno 430 Adreno 420 Adreno 330
RAM 4GB LPDDR4-1866 4GB LPDDR4-1600 3GB LPDDR3-1600 3GB LPDDR3-1600
Network Snapdragon X12 LTE Cat 12/13 Qulalcomm Cat 9 LTE Qualcomm MDM9x25 UE Category 4 LTE Qualcomm MDM9x25 UE Category 4 LTE
Connectivity Qualcomm VIVE 802.11ac
2x2 MU-MIMO, tri-band Wi-Fi
Bluetooth 4.1
USB 3.0
802.11a/b/g/n/ac (Wave 2) (2.4/5 GHz)
Bluetooth 4.1
USB 3.0
802.11a/b/g/n/ac (2.4/5 GHz)
Bluetooth 4.1
USB 2.0
802.11a/b/g/n/ac (2.4/5 GHz)
Bluetooth 4.1
USB 2.0
OS Android 6.0 Android 5.0.2 Android 5.0.1 Android 4.4.4

For a look at the complete specs for the other platforms tested you can reference the expanded table in our Snapdragon 810 performance preview.

The Snapdragon 820 Reference Platform

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This new reference platform hardware was considerably different than the thick, boxy hardware Ryan tested at the beginning of this year. For the Snapdragon 820 the tech press in the room were provided with the 6.2-inch smartphone device you see here, and it actually looked like shipping hardware this time around.

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The Snapdragon 820 reference hardware is the thickness of a standard phone

This is an important distinction as the far slimmer profile of these smartphone prototypes will much more accurately simulate the thermal conditions of a real smartphone, whereas the ultra-thick reference platform from the Snapdragon 810 launch probably did not.

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The earlier Snapdragon 810 mobile reference platform

The SD820 reference platform is a large "phablet" design at just over 6 inches, and felt similar in hand to the Google Nexus 6, which is among the largest of the previous generation's smartphones. While the design was not particulary notable (other than the extra USB ports around the device), it's worth pointing out that the screen resolution on Qualcomm's reference hardware - a dense 2560 x 1600 - might affect graphics performance in benchmarks utilizing native resolution.

Now lets move on to some benchmark results to see how this new SoC performed!

CPU Benchmarks

Geekbench 3

Geekbench 3 is Primate Labs' cross-platform processor benchmark, with a new scoring system that separates single-core and multi-core performance, and new workloads that simulate real-world scenarios. Geekbench 3 makes it easier than ever to find out if your computer is up to speed. Every test in Geekbench 3 is multi-core aware. This allows Geekbench to show you the true potential of your system. Whether you're running Geekbench on a dual-core phone or a 32-core server, Geekbench is able to measure the performance of all the cores in your system.

Geekbench is a multi-platform benchmark that measures both single-threaded and multi-threaded CPU performance, using both integer and floating point math.

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The custom Kryo cores more than hold their own in this first test, as the 820 bests all previous Snapdragon SoCs for single-threaded integer performance, and interestingly comes close to the multi-threaded performance of the previous 810, despite having half as many cores.

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Floating point performance is more of the same for the 820, which had a very impressive showing in this first benchmark. This time the Snapdragon 820 managed the top score for both single and multi-threaded performance.

Google Octane

Octane 2.0 is a modern benchmark that measures a JavaScript engine’s performance by running a suite of tests representative of today’s complex and demanding web applications. Octane‘s goal is to measure the performance of JavaScript code found in large, real-world web applications, running on modern mobile and desktop browsers.

The updated Octane 2.0 benchmark includes four new tests to measure new aspects of JavaScript performance, among which: garbage collection / compiler latency and asm.js-style JavaScript performance.

Our testing with Google Octane was done exclusively on the latest version of the Chrome browser on Android, and Safari on iOS.

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Here the Snapdragon 820 drops to the middle of the pack, and it remained there through multiple test runs. This may have been partly the function of immature system software with the development platform hardware, but regardless the SD820 doesn't have a good showing here.

Mozilla Kraken

Kraken is a JavaScript performance benchmark created by Mozilla that measures the speed of several different test cases extracted from real-world applications and libraries. The test cases include:

  • An implementation of the A* search algorithm
  • Audio processing using Corban Brook's DSP.js library
  • Image filtering routines, including code from Jacob Seidelin's Pixastic library.
  • JSON parsing, including data from Tinderboxpushlog
  • Cryptographic routines from the Stanford JavaScript Crypto Library

Our testing with Mozilla Kraken was done exclusively on the latest version of the Chrome browser on Android. and Safari on iOS.

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Moving on to Mozilla's browser benchmark we have the lowest result among the devices tested. At this point I concluded that the Chrome browser on the Snapdragon 820 dev hardware was underperforming pretty significantly. It will be interesting to see where shipping hardware with the 820 ranks compared to these early results.

Next we'll look at some GPU benchmarks to see how the Adreno 530 graphics stack up.

Video News

December 10, 2015 | 10:07 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Why are you comparing the 820 to Apple's CPU from last year?

December 10, 2015 | 11:29 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Spin, to make the 820 more appealing by leaving out a more proper up to date CPU comparison! This happens when review sites have conflicting interests. The hands that feed!

December 12, 2015 | 02:22 AM - Posted by Sebastian Peak

Comparison is against the Snapdragon 810, with the other results provided for context. Didn't have access to an iPhone 6S in time to add results from Apple's newest SoC, certainly can update with those numbers.

December 10, 2015 | 10:50 AM - Posted by A Reader (not verified)

Is this a paid Ad?

December 10, 2015 | 11:43 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

How about letting the readers Know If Intel is using any licensed GPU IP in their SOC's, the Atom Z3580 is using a PowerVR G6430 GPU. All the SOC SKUs listed in the tables should have their CPU core counts listed, and the make and model number of the GPU IP if any. This smacks of an advertisement if the proper SOC hardware specifications are not listed in tabular form for all the SOCs listed in the benchmarks and that includes the CPU core counts, and GPU FP/INT unit counts. It would not be too hard for PCPer to compile a master list of CPU/SOC/GPU specifications in tabular from and link to the master list so readers could at least look at the actual CPU core counts on these SOCs listed in benchmarking charts, and the GPU core/EU/SP/other counts and identifying information, and once the master list is done it's simply a matter of linking to it with every article, and maintaining a master list would help the reader, and PCPer writers to know what CPU/core resources these devices bring to the market.

Simply listing benchmarks with no CPU/GPU/other hardware information in the tables is not enough to qualify as a thorough review of a SOC and its comparison and contrast with its competing products. Mobile SOC compute is more than just simply the the CPU cores and their processing ability, it also includes the GPU cores and their HSA processing ability, so hopefully there will be benchmarks in the future to test the mobile market's SOCs for their levels of HSA compliance, a lot of those SOC makers are members of the HSA foundation, and even on the products that are using the Imagination Technologies(PowerVR) IP, ARM IP(CPU, GPU), Qualcomm IP, Samsung IP, etc. Even the users of the licensed IP technology who are not direct members of the HSA foundation will be getting the HSA ability included as part of the licensed IP.

December 11, 2015 | 04:35 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

This is a performance preview. We can't really come to any conclusions until we have shipping devices since mobile parts are so thermally constrained. Also, the CPU core counts and number of internal units, and such are interesting for tech enthusiast, they are mostly irrelevant. The performance of the shipping device is what counts, regardless of the underlying hardware.

December 12, 2015 | 06:40 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

No it helps let the readers Know what the hardware is capable of doing without the need for benchmarks, Instruction decoder numbers, Etc. lets the reader see IPC potential, execution unit numbers also help. Benchmarks for the 820 are not even there yet to figure out just what the Hexagon(1) DSP on the 820 is capable of bringing to the SOCs performance and power usage equation relative to SOC SKUs that do not have dedicated DSP like the Hexagon.

Let's take instruction decoders(ID), the Apple A7(Cyclone) has 6(ID) in the Cyclone's core, the Arm Holding's reference design(A53, A57, A72) only have 3(ID) in their respective cores, and the newest Arm holdings reference design A72 has a little bit more execution resources than Arm Holdings' A53/A57 cores but still that same nomber of IDs. Now what number of instruction decoders does the 820's core have, it is less that the Apple A7, but more than the Arm Holdings' reference cores. It's obvious that the Apple A7 has twice as many instructions decoders than the Arm Holdings Reference cores(A53, A57, A72) so your argument is not valid.

Why is it that Intel, and AMD, are so forthcoming when it comes to supplying the CPU core specifications of their x86 based cores, while the makers of the custom ARMv8A ISA running custom cores are not at all forthcoming with their Custom CPU core's micro-architectures that are engineered to execute the ARMv8A ISA. That IPC metric is very important even for the custom ARMv8A ISA running custom cores, and if it was not for Anand lal Shimpi the core specs on the A7 Cyclone cores would have never been known, that actual A8/A8X, and A9/A9X core specifications are still not revealed!

Hopefully when AMD gets its Custom K12 ARMv8A ISA running cores to market, AMD will also be more forthcoming with the K12 CPU core specifics, for sure if AMD want to use the K12 cores in server variants the server industry will not accept any lack of proper CPU core specification data-sheets! When the K12 cores get to market the custom ARM based makers will be forced to become more forthcoming, and the professional Server SKU review websites will have more information about AMD's K12 server core variants.

The numbers of Custom micro-architectures that are engineered to run the ARMv8A ISA has gone up, post Apple introducing the Apple A7 cyclone, and the benchmarking software lacks the ability to stay on top of all the innovating that is happening where the Custom ARMv8A running micro-architectures are concerned. Those CPU core specification down to the smallest detail are needed now more than ever! The Snapdragon 820 is a very HSA aware SOC, being that Qualcomm is a founding member of the HSA foundation along with ARM and others. So that HSA 1.0/close to HSA 1.0 compliance is going to become important going forward.

Vulkan benchmarks will have to be done on a lot of Phone/Tablet platforms when the Vulkan graphics API is released.


December 10, 2015 | 01:25 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

This article is poorly done, it keeps mentioning this cpu has half the cores of others. That is not relevant to its top performance at all. The 810 and samsungs 8 core do not use all 8 cores at once, they only use 4 at most at a time, 4 are high power cores, 4 are low power cores.

December 10, 2015 | 01:42 PM - Posted by Jeremy Hellstrom

So you are saying that it doesn't have half the cores?  Or is the comment just so poorly written I am not understanding why you are complaining about it being mentioned a mere 2 times in the article?

December 10, 2015 | 04:28 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Functionally it does not have half the cores. If you have 8 cores but only 4 cores can function at any given time then you functionally have 4 cores. Not hard to understand.

December 10, 2015 | 05:21 PM - Posted by remc86007

All 8 cores of the 810 in the Lumia 950xl operate at once. Or at least I think they do. I read that numerous places.

December 10, 2015 | 05:25 PM - Posted by remc86007

810 - all 8 cores can be active at once.

December 10, 2015 | 09:43 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

So this preview is a later date than that article:

To me it seems to state that a task cannot actually run across all 8 cores, that if a task requires tons of processing power, it will only be scheduled on the big 4 cores.

December 10, 2015 | 09:24 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Read and learn time!

Superscalar processor:

December 10, 2015 | 09:38 PM - Posted by daffy (not verified)

Wow hardly impressive and my god how will it fare against the Apple A10 Soc, given it was only tested against the A8 not the A9. Unless battery life is really improved over 810 seems that in real world use other than some gpu bound apps you'll see very little difference between 810 and 820. Samsung's new Exnyos might pown this one too.

December 10, 2015 | 09:44 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I wish smartphones were actually as thick as that Snapdragon 810 reference device - imagine week-long battery life, full-size SD cards, durability, easier to hold, physical keyboards/trackpoints/other inputs, and all the other things they could fit in there if they weren't crippled by shaving irrelevant sub-millimeters off.

December 11, 2015 | 10:11 AM - Posted by fvbounty

Here Anandtech test with the Iphone 6S Plus compared to the contest, and I'm a android guy.

December 11, 2015 | 01:32 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Why doesn't this include the A9? Ignoring the A9 on the graphs is extremely misleading and not something I would expect from Pcper. I'm not sure if you're being paid to deliberately bias this in favor of the 820 or what's up, but this is not consistent with your past quality. For anyone who cares to see real comparisons, I guess there's still anandtech - .

December 12, 2015 | 02:39 AM - Posted by Sebastian Peak

How are the graphs misleading, exactly? The results are what they are. Primarily this is to compare the 810 to the 820, to see how the custom quad-core design compares to the 810's 8-core big.LITTLE configuration.

Naturally I would have added A9 results if I had a 6S on hand. Why didn't I? Here's a peek behind the curtain: I didn't have access to an iPhone 6S, only a 6. Wasn't going to buy a 6S out of pocket to have those results before the article went up. That's it.

For those curious, myself included, I planned to add Apple A9 results when available.

Finally, the accusation of being "paid to deliberately bias this in favor of the 820" is a fine piece of slander from the brave 'anonymous' commenter. It's amusing that this tactic is used whenever possible, and only by those who have never done this job themselves.

December 12, 2015 | 05:40 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I am not the guy that posted that comment but I hope you can see why that sort of omission raises some suspicion. Your readers are here for information and don't want to see poor analysis. Being anonymous doesn't have much to do with this, I imagine most people don't want to take the second to sign up if they don't have to.

I believe your explanation but we're not mind readers. You should have just written the fact that you didn't have an A9 to test *in the article* and saved yourself some accusations.

December 12, 2015 | 07:12 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Poor research is no excuse, get a subscription the the Microprocessor Report, and the other professional trade journals. The Publication(PCPER) is the one responsible for getting the reporters the review units. PCPER needs to get it's reporters and freelance reporters a company subscription to the Professional Trade journals especially Microprocessor Report, and If the money is not there the local College Library is, for the Microprocessor report, and a lot of other professional journals.

Tech reporters should maintain a master list of Microprocessor specification tables, and a lot of the technical/enthusiasts websites need to get together and pool their resources and get someone to do what Anand Lal Shimpi used to do, the companies are hiring all the good tech reporters to shut them up, so that the online press has no one able to do anything other than benchmarking without doing any actual research!

No articles should be posted without the most up to date CPU/SOC based SKUs to run the benchmarks on for comparsion, it's that or simply taking the time to get some results from other tech websites, with journalistic permission of course. There is an explosion of new Custom ARMv8A ISA running cores coming to market, some of them that are way more powerful than the refrence Core designs that ARM holdings licenses, and Apple(with the A7 Cyclone) beat ARM Holdings to the market with a custom core that was able to run the ARMv8A 32/64 bit ISA, and ARM holdings was the one that created the ARMv8A ISA.

December 15, 2015 | 01:04 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Trust me when I say this: it's something we are working on. We don't have active relationships with some of the big guys in the field (Samsung, Apple) but we are working to get those started to do exactly what you are stating: fill a void in this market of tech reporting and journalism. As of the few standing, independent tech websites left, this is my primary goal for 2016.

Hope that helps.

December 17, 2015 | 01:39 PM - Posted by drbaltazar (not verified)

So 14 nm soc market is gona be crowded in 2016! And i suspect intel will probably be at the top of benchmark lather

December 29, 2015 | 11:00 AM - Posted by nobodyspecial (not verified)

Would like to see a review of google's PIXEL C (X1 tegra), since old K1 does pretty well here.

Is a review coming soon, or do you have benchmarks you can add to the charts?

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