Could Qualcomm's Snapdragon 810 be behind the poor battery life of high-end Android phones?


For a very long time, if phone manufacturers wanted the very best for their new devices in terms of processing power, they usually went knocking on Qualcomm's door. And while the San Diego-based company's chips don't always find themselves on the inside of the best devices available, few would contend that it's the most successful mobile chipsets maker in recent history.

As time went by, however, Taiwanese MediaTek's more affordable solutions grew more and more popular, and their portfolio expanded to include high-end chips as well. Close by, Samsung was working hard on its own Exynos division, which now powers its flagship devices. Qualcomm's empire is starting to crumble, it seems, and while the reasons for this are varied and mostly have to do with increased competition, the problematic 64-bit Snapdragon 810 chip — the company's flagship silicon — is definitely not helping.

Many of you will be familiar with the bumpy journey of the 20nm Snapdragon 810 so far, and know that it's running pretty hot — hot enough to apparently push makers like LG towards the slightly less impressive, hexa-core Snapdragon 808 with the LG G4. And because it runs hot, thermal throttling kicks in, lowering the operating frequency of the chip and thus performance. Of course, some manufacturers have had more time to tinker with the silicon, and have proposed more efficient designs that don't constrain the chip as much, but judging by the battery life scores posted by all Snapdragon 810-based devices we've tested so far, speed might not be the only problem with the processor.


Battery matters


With Samsung going with its own Exynos chips, Huawei for its Kirin, and many other adopting MediaTek, the number of Snapdragon 810 devices, even today, is surprisingly small. And from those that we've tested, we can't help but notice a common characteristic: they all post disappointing battery life.

Battery life (hours) Higher is better
OnePlus 2 6h 38 min (Average)
ZTE Axon Pro 6h 15 min (Average)
nubia Z9 5h 14 min (Poor)
Xiaomi Mi Note Pro 5h 22 min (Poor)
Sony Xperia Z3+ 7h 15 min (Good)
HTC One M9 6h 25 min (Average)

As you can see, compared to our entire database, these Snapdragon 810 devices had an average showing, the Sony Xperia Z3+ being the only exception. But even though Sony's result is towards the upper half overall, it's still pretty disappointing considering the score that its predecessor, the Z3, managed: 9 hours and 29 minutes. That's curious, as the only real difference between the two devices is the fact that the Z3+ has a slightly smaller battery along with a Snapdragon 810 processor instead of a Snapdragon 801. The same goes for the OnePlus One and the OnePlus 2 and the HTC One M8 and HTC One M9: the predecessors managed better scores than their successors, despite having smaller capacity batteries.

Of course, one could always argue that Android Lollipop could have something to do with these results (all of tested devices are based on it), but we find that unlikely given how smartphones from Samsung are continuing to improve in this regard and offer better longevity than their predecessors.

So is this the Snapdragon 810's fault?

Conclusion


Being Qualcomm's first big.LITTLE design, the Snapdragon 810 could be responsible for less than ideal power management. A while back, Qualcomm also noted that the Adreno 430 GPU within isn't just an extension of its predecessor, the Adreno 420, which suggests at least a degree of architectural changes. Combined, it's not impossible that the chip is simply not as power efficient as previous models built on more mature nodes (like 28nm). Of course, ultimately, this is also on phone makers for sticking with Qualcomm if these suspicions are true.

Do you have a Snapdragon 810 device? If yes, do you consider its battery life underwhelming?

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84 Comments

1. theguy2345

Posts: 1216; Member since: Jun 24, 2014

No, it's the processor. It heats up like an oven, and in turn destroys the battery life. Qualcomm screwed the phones over this year. That's it. And if you want to blame lollipop, just wait for the two Lumia flagships; one with an 808 and one with an 810. The 810 will have worse battery life and performance.

8. marorun

Posts: 5029; Member since: Mar 30, 2015

This is why S5 to S6 you also see a good battery life drop. Must be the Qualcomm SD810 in the S6 right? idiot!

10. SremmLife

Posts: 30; Member since: Mar 01, 2015

Sure, just ignore the higher resolution screen and significantly smaller battery! Thats totally what it is!

31. marorun

Posts: 5029; Member since: Mar 30, 2015

the reason for my post was to show thats its much more than only the Soc thats is to be taken into account for battery life. Also test proven thats the S6 screen take less energy than the one on the S5 its a new gen of amoled thats are much more eficients. 2800 mah to 2550 mah is nothing significant.. its about 10% only.

73. Macready

Posts: 1817; Member since: Dec 08, 2014

The SD810 shows significant endurance drops for all phones, even when the rest of the hardware is similar. The S6 shows a mere 5% drop with a 9% smaller battery compared to the S5. Also, the screen is only less power hungry by itself but that doesn't account for the more than 70% extra pixels that the GPU has to render. The Note 4 with 20nm 5433 octacore also shows great endurance despite the high resolution. In other words, everything does point towards the SD810 being a battery hog.

84. alex3run

Posts: 715; Member since: May 18, 2014

The SoC is loaded heavily on WQHD than on FHD. But you can wright here your delusional bulls**t foever you want defending faildragon 810 and HTC M9.

41. tagont

Posts: 4; Member since: May 22, 2014

I have the Samsung S5 LTE-A with the 2k display and 805 snapdragon and my battery life is awesome compared with my mates S6.

12. trickster_qc

Posts: 107; Member since: Jun 18, 2013

No, it's because the battery is smaller in the S6! I wanted to finish my comment with "idiot", but it's just too easy.

16. Nathan_ingx

Posts: 4769; Member since: Mar 07, 2012

For an answer to this, maybe I'll wait for the Z5 series review. I'm downright eager to see how Sony has managed it with the S810.

25. Finalflash

Posts: 4063; Member since: Jul 23, 2013

It should be different, seeing as how Sony is the only one with passive cooling (heat pipes) for their phones this time. Should be interesting at least.

36. Nathan_ingx

Posts: 4769; Member since: Mar 07, 2012

Which also means Sony improvised it and maybe the processors fault can be altered to perform better. And if the processor and Sony's own software optimisation works better together... It's a win win.

18. roldefol

Posts: 4744; Member since: Jan 28, 2011

It's both. Smaller battery and higher resolution. But hey, if battery life were what sells phones, Sony would have outsold Samsung the last 2 years.

24. Finalflash

Posts: 4063; Member since: Jul 23, 2013

They would have if they released their phones on time in markets other than Estonia. Honestly, North America got the Z3 half a year after Europe and didn't get the compact at all I think (at least not for several months). Plus they have retarded exclusives with one carrier.

34. marorun

Posts: 5029; Member since: Mar 30, 2015

the power drain from the new Exynos is lower than last year model also the screen as some said is in fact more power friendly too. Its should had same or higher battery life wich is not the case. Battery life is much more than the soc alone its also the screen , ram and load of other stuff. the guy i called idiot was putting all the fault on the soc wich is just wrong.

29. Shocky unregistered

Nope, overall the Galaxy S6 has better battery life which is good considering it's using a smaller battery. I can link to comparisons showing this if you want, not that you would pay any attention even if the proof was right in front of you. You also have to consider that some tests were done on the Galaxy S5 using Android Kitkat.

61. medicci37

Posts: 1361; Member since: Nov 19, 2011

No the battery in the s6 is slightly smaller than the one in the s5 & the resolution is higher. The 810 is a piece of sh*t

67. iushnt

Posts: 3086; Member since: Feb 06, 2013

What? My brother says otherwise. He is much more satisfied with his s6 edge's battery life than that of his previous S5.

77. Zack_2014

Posts: 677; Member since: Mar 25, 2014

Haha maybe you haven't seen the Galaxy Note 5 which inspite of smaller battery and double the resolution outperforms the Note 4 in battery. :D

82. james2841

Posts: 167; Member since: Dec 10, 2014

double the resolution? the note 4 and 5 have the same resolution.

83. alex3run

Posts: 715; Member since: May 18, 2014

Still S6 is a good performer compared to tested ones but it has much smaller battery.

50. DoggyDangerous

Posts: 1028; Member since: Aug 28, 2015

sd810 and 808 are the reasons I didnt purchase any phone this year. Otherwise I usually purchase phone every six months.

63. barondebxl

Posts: 180; Member since: Nov 04, 2011

Qualcomm owes an apology to all the OEMs who used the S810. Theybscrewed up devices like the G Flex 2 and the M9.

2. manojmcn

Posts: 633; Member since: Jul 16, 2015

Snapdragon 810 & iPhone 6/Plus have damaged the balance sheet of most major Android players for year 2015.

4. roldefol

Posts: 4744; Member since: Jan 28, 2011

I wouldn't place the blame on the 810 for HTC failing to redesign or significantly improve on the One M8. And Sony didn't do much to improve on the Z3. Even LG only made incremental improvements from the G3 to the G4. This has just been a lazy year for Android OEMs other than Samsung, and even with their complete shift in design and software with the GS6, they've struggled in sales. The SD810 makes for a nice scapegoat, but 2015 is just a down year for everyone.

6. rubyonrails3

Posts: 374; Member since: Oct 01, 2014

But I think HTC failed also cuz of 810, heat, poor battery than M8 are most controversial things about M9.. if M9 had great battery ( which I was expecting thinking of 20nm chip and bigger battery it broke my expectations) more over Samsung differentiated itself cuz of Exynos more powerful and SD810 not come close. If SD810 have performed better then I'm sure HTC would be not in that much Red as it is now.

9. marorun

Posts: 5029; Member since: Mar 30, 2015

Big little architecture is a faillure. Its take too much power and lots of voltages issues end up in overheating ( 40% throttling on the S6 btw its a bit lower than the 50% on SD810 but this is thanks to 16 nm build vs 20 nm build) As for performance they are quite comparable no slow down in any app or intensive game and in fact the UI is smoother and faster on the HTC phone. Sure if the SD810 would not had been so badly hit by propaganda its would have sold better. SD820 will show everyone including Samsung how a soc should be build.

15. roldefol

Posts: 4744; Member since: Jan 28, 2011

I don't think Qualcomm really believed in the 810. They practically admitted they were blindsided by Apple's 64-bit push and they weren't ready with their own 64-bit architecture. So the 810 was nothing more than a stopgap. They weren't committed to big.LITTLE like Samsung is, and that's why the SD820 is reverting to quad-core like the 800/801/805 beasts.

19. manojmcn

Posts: 633; Member since: Jul 16, 2015

SD820 will also have good competition from the next upgrade of exynos. If Mongose cores for the new exynos get ready by feb then there may be no hope for SD 820 in S7.

30. Shocky unregistered

Works fine in the Note 4, Note 5 and Galaxy S6 so you're wrong. If you reply then post proof or don't bother.

35. marorun

Posts: 5029; Member since: Mar 30, 2015

directly copied from Anantech website : the Exynos 7420 as even with the new manufacturing process and its large efficiency gains it’s not able to maintain more than the 350-420MHz states. Joshua had written about his experience with the thermal throttling mechanism in our initial review of the Galaxy S6, and it showed a very sinusoidal performance curve as the thermal management couldn’t decide which frequency state to maintain for prolonged periods of time. I investigated this a bit and discovered that the throttling levels on the default driver were very steep and also weren’t gradual as one would expect. The stock driver has 4 throttling temperature levels and frequency caps configured at 544, 350, 266 and again 266MHz. This was odd to have two temperature thresholds at the same frequency as it doesn’t really makes for any practical use. I changed the throttling levels to 544, 420, 350 and 266MHz to allow for a more gradual degradation and also increased the power coefficient values on the IPA thermal management driver to values that seem more representative of the real-world measurements. So its throttle a lots and in very big step. its can go up to nearly 40 fps in the T-rext test but after 15 min its down to a bit less than 25 fps then after 30 min down to 20 fps. so you should start to open your eye about your beloved Exynos thats also throttle like a crazy bitch. here the link.http://www.anandtech.com/show/9330/exynos-7420-deep-dive/7

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