First public Snapdragon 820 performance benchmarks appear: no overheating, blazing graphics


Qualcomm finally lifted the veil over its much-rumored next generation flagship processor, the Snapdragon 820, and said that there are no less than 60 phone and tablet designs with it that will pop up next year. One of these devices is said to be Samsung's upcoming Galaxy S7, so when Qualcomm released its reference platform with Snapdragon 820 for testing yesterday, our ears perked up like those of a fennec on a desert morning.

Snapdragon 820 is giant leap ahead for the chip maker, both as its first 64-bit processor with custom core architecture, and its first big bet after the barely legal Snapdragon 810 that carried this year on its overheating shoulders. The 810 was meant to be a bridge between the time Apple introduced a 64-bit A7 with its own custom core, and the time Qualcomm readied one, too, so it took generic ARM Cortex-A57 cores, and slapped them on a last-gen 20nm process, which produced a thermal challenge. Thus, handsets with Snapdragon 810 often had to throttle their performance to avoid overheating, making them perform on par with weaker Qualcomm chipsets, like the 805 or even the 801, which might explain why we had so many handsets released this year that were powered by Snapdragon 801, which is not even 64-bit.

In any case, the Snapdragon 820 is finally here, and it is no stopgap measure. The new chipset has a custom Kryo core, powerful new graphics subsystem, and is built on the cutting edge second generation 14nm process, so any overheating issues or thermal throttling are a thing of the past. In fact, those who ran tests on the 820 reference platform yesterday without a pause between consecutive runs, mentioned that the thing barely heated, and performance barely budged. With Snapdragon 810, for instance, the performance was down significantly between the first and tenth pass, due to the aggressive thermal throttling the phones employed to avoid overheating. Qualcomm later issued a second revision of the 810, which improved on heat management, but Snapdragon 820 is where it really starts from scratch.

Without further ado, we are presenting you with the first public tests on the Snapdragon 820 reference platform below, and a few takeaways are immediately obvious, so we'll summarize them for you, if you don't have time to go through the raw slides:

  • Despite being much faster, Snapdragon 820 draws 30% less power than 810, as can be expected from the move to 14nm LPP process;

  • Performance-wise, the custom Kryo core is a big improvement over the stock Cortex-A57 cores in Snapdragon 810, yet not to the extent that it can dethrone Apple's A9 Twister cores, except in heavy multi-core scenarios;

  • We are witnessing a huge jump in graphics performance with Snapdragon 820 - so much so, that the new Adreno 530 GPU will likely be the graphics subsystem to beat next year, which bodes well for mobile gamers on 820-equipped gear;

  • The 820's memory controller allows for almost double the throughput of its predecessor, so huge amounts of data can flow at once to the graphics rendering subsystem and image signal processor, potentially making those high-res games and 4K streaming or recording perform like a breeze.

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