From the first benchmarking test results, the successor to the Snapdragon 821 (the Google Pixel processor) has already proven itself to be a graphics powerhouse and leaps ahead of its competition. Its new features look promising for those smartphones that will include the chip, particularly in terms of VR gaming.
After a long wait, we got the chance to play with the new chip. Last week, Qualcomm invited a few journalists to its headquarters in San Diego to have a go with its latest processor. The Snapdragon 835 turns Snapdragon 821 into a thing of the past, and in its place introduces some very distinctive improvements that will be particularly appealing to fans of VR gaming.
Travis Lanier, Qualcomm Senior Product Manager, is in charge of the Snapdragon 835 and he provided some of his insights on the new processor. Qualcomm once again proposes an eight-core configuration. Four of these cores are clock up to 2.45 GHz and all together have a 2 MB cache. The four other cores, which are smaller, clock up to 1.9 GHz and have a 1 MB cache, unlike previous 2 x 4 cores. Thanks to the cache, the four additional cores will rarely use the working memory. This allows the device to save power and thus extend the battery life.
We asked Lanier why the Snapdragon 810 had eight cores but the Snapdragon 820 only had four, only for the Snapdragon 835 to have eight cores again. He explained that the quad-core configuration on the Snapdragon 820 was good but could not be optimized any further. It was made of four high-performance cores, two of which could be activated to work at high performance while the remaining two worked at a slower pace. The efficiency-optimized cores, known to ARM as LITTLE Cluster, reappeared in Qualcomm's program in the Snapdragon 835.
Qualcomm's Head of benchmarking, David Kipping, explained that the amount of activity from background apps has risen. This allows us to hope that smartphones with the Snapdragon 835 chip will have a longer battery life despite having a larger number of cores. This also depends on how manufacturers optimize Android because the kernel and the driver control the activity of the processor and the memory. General experience has shown that the performance and efficiency of a device changes after the device receives software updates.
Snapdragon 835 benchmarks
In San Diego, we were given the opportunity to test the processor. Future devices that are expected to have the Snapdragon 835 chip are the Samsung Galaxy S8 and the Sony Xperia XZ Premium so the test device we were allowed to play with was intended to allude to these. It was a 6 inch device with a large plastic housing and the screen had a definition of 1,440 x 2,560 pixels. Under the hood were 6 GB LPDDR4 RAM and 64 GB of internal memory (UFS 2.0). The system software was Android NMF27V running on Kernel 4.4.21. The performance of the test device was seriously impressive.
Across nearly all the benchmarks, the Snapdragon 835 is 50% faster than its predecessor. Comparing the measured values to those of the Snapdragon 821 in the Pixel XL, the increase in performance in synthetic benchmarks is quite something. For VR apps, Snapdragon 835 should no longer fall below the 30 fps rate, thus ensuring a fluid gaming experience.
|Benchmark||Snapdragon 821||Snapdragon 835||Change (growth)|
|3DMark Slingshot ES 3.1||2381||3543||49 %|
|3DMark Slingshot ES 3.0||3018||3540||50 %|
|3DMark Ice Storm ES 2.0||26 009||37 096||43 %|
|Geekbench Single Core||1604||2061||29 %|
|Geekbench Multi Core||3969||6440||62 %|
|PCMark Work||4786||7887||65 %|
|Octane||7911||11 974||51 %|
How did this jump in GPU performance occur? Which one will be the GPU chip - Adreno 630 or 540? Here's the answer:
|Processor||Snapdragon 810||Snapdragon 820||Snapdragon 835|
|GPU||Adreno 430||Adreno 530||Adreno 540|
Qualcomm only changes the hundred digit if the architecture changes. "This time, however, we only changed the micro-architecture," explained Travis Lanier. "So while the command set and the architectural potential were not changed, we have now found ways to make better use of them".
The change to the 10 nm process helps a lot
In terms of improvements to both the CPU and the GPU values, Qualcomm is using the new 10 nm process in the chip. This offers electrical advantages, which allow higher clock rates compared to the previously used 14 nm process. Unfortunately, Qualcomm's staff have all taken a vow of silence when it comes to the GPU frequency.
Despite that, our host told us that looking at benchmarks alone is really not enough to get a credible idea of the chip's "performance." At the end of the event, we followed the team of engineers on a tour through their offices, where we were able to see what Qualcomm has on offer in terms of developments in gaming, photography, connectivity, security, machine learning and audio.
What are your thoughts on the Snapdragon 835? Are you looking forward to seeing how well it performs? Let us know in the comments below!