We’ve been hearing about the Snapdragon 800 mobile SoC from Qualcomm since it was initially shown off at CES in January. In January, we got some extremely limited details, but it was clear that this SoC would be a fairly powerful SoC. This came during the same week that Nvidia launched their Tegra 4, which remains to be seen in benchmarks and products. Admittedly, neither the Snapdragon 800 nor the Tegra 4 are shipping any devices right now, however, I do believe that both companies announced too early and some consumers have grown weary of the constant BS being slung around.
With Qualcomm putting the Snapdragon 800 in our hands, we are finally able to validate their own claims while simultaneously verifying or denying the claims of their competitors. Qualcomm is doing something very similar to what they did last year when they put the APQ 8064 in our hands and let us play with the MDP8064. We will once again be playing with Qualcomm’s MDP (mobile developer platform), but this time the device has even more impressive specifications ignoring the upgraded SoC. One notable feature is 4K video capture and the addition of a USB 3.0 port, which makes this tablet the first tablet with USB 3.0.
Both Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 MDPs (Phone and Tablet) recording in 4K
The Snapdragon 800 is Qualcomm’s latest and greatest offering and will be their flagship SoC for applications. You could also call this thing an APU, which would be accurate as well, however, AMD seems to own that phrase even though they like calling competitor products APUs as well. The Snapdragon 800, like the Snapdragon 600, is an applications processor AND modem solution, which means you get a lot of features in a single piece of silicon. The Snapdragon 800 feature’s Qualcomm’s latest Krait 400 CPU cores as well as their latest Adreno 330 GPU, which Qualcomm claims is 50% faster than it’s predecessor the Adreno 320. The Snapdragon 800 is still a quadcore design, unlike some of their competitors whom have adopted 4+1 and 4+4 core designs in order to reduce the power consumption. In terms of wireless, the Snapdragon is also on the forefront with global 4G LTE with speeds up to 150 Mbps utilizing Carrier Aggregation. The Snapdragon 800 also has 802.11ac Wi-Fi connectivity, which some of their competitors have decided to give the monniker of 5G Wi-Fi.
Another really interesting aspect of the Snapdragon 800 is buried within the new camera architecture of the SoC. With the Snapdragon 800 Qualcomm is able to, for one, do 4K video encode, which is no small task even for a desktop or laptop computer, let alone a mobile SoC.
The Snapdragon has a dual ISP, which means it has two image signal processors which work independently of eachother and can enable some amazing experiences for a multitude of purposes. The first ISP is capable of 21 Megapixel photos while the second only 13 Megapixels. What this enables is the ability to flawlessly and simultaneously capture video and photos. It also introduces the use of a computational camera which enables some impressive usage scenarios for users looking to make cameras smarter using the SoCs available to them in these phones.
Qualcomm also talked about how their processors are not only faster and have more features than the previous generation, but they also are improving the power consumption and performance per watt. This was made most evident in their presentation talking about how they are getting higher performance with longer battery life.
As you can see from the graph above, with the Krait 400 cores, the Snapdragon 800 is able to deliver an impressive amount of performance with the lowest power consumption of their own chips and competitors’.
Benchmarks – What You Have All Been Waiting For
Antutu - This is an obligatory benchmark, just doing it because it is so prevalent. I don’t particularly care for it, but it tries to be a system benchmark. In AnTuTu, the Snapdragon 800 pulls in a score of 35,000 which is about 60% faster than the fastest implementation of the APQ8064 and more than 50% faster than the Snapdragon 600.
Vellamo - In Vellamo’s HTML5 test, we haven’t necessarily seem much deviation across devices or even application processors, but somehow Qualcomm managed to almost double their score over all of the previous SoCs that we tested in Chrome. The Snapdragon 800 managed a score of over 3,000 while all the rest of the SoCs managed to just barely break 1,500 with the Snpadragon 600 being a much closer 2,400. Based on this, it looks like the Snapdragon 600 brought about the majority of the improvments and the Snapdragon 800’s faster hardware made better use of those improvments.
In the Metal test, we weren’t surprised to see the Snapdragon repeating a similar performance improvement, although, this time the Snapdragon 600 only managed a score of 762 versus the Snapdragon 800’s nearly 1,200 point score at 1,191. This means that much of the performance improvement’s on Vellamo for the Snapdragon 800 are hardware performance improvments as we suspected.
Basemark GUI – In this benchmark, we simply test to see how the device is performing and whether or not it’s delivering the best possible user experience. Since the on-screen test is vsync limited, most GPUs should score around 60 FPS, anything below that should affect the perception of system responsiveness. The off-screen test is the one where we really test the variable speed of the different GPUs, where the Snapdragon 800 scored 364 FPS while the Snapdragon 600 managed a score of 202 FPS, the rest of the GPUs were much slower, meaning that the Snapdragon 800 is 100% better in Basemark GUI over the APQ8064 and about 80% faster than a Snapdragon 600.
Basemark ES2 Taji Free – This benchmark is designed to help evaluate the GPU once again, but in this case mostly for high-end 3D gaming applications. Here we see a much narrower gap between the Snapdragon 800’s 59.74 FPS and the Snapdragon 600’s score of 41.36 FPS. This still represents an improvement of roughly 50%, however, less than what we saw in Basemark GUI.
Browsermark 2.0 – In this benchmark, we encountered severe issues getting the test to work properly. It took multiple tries to find a condition where the wireless network tests on the benchmark did not cause the results to be erratic. As a result, many reviewers had issues with getting this benchmark to perform correctly. Even though the Wi-Fi at the W hotel was not stellar, and Qualcomm likely didn’t have much choice, we’re a little disappointed that Rightware made the benchmark so variably dependent. As such, we spoke with Qualcomm and they told us that from their tests on Browsermark they were getting about 3,200 to 3,300 points in the latest Chrome release. We are still waiting to confirm this with Rightware.
3DMark Ice Storm – In this benchmark, we’re once again testing 3D application performance, but cross-platform and with what can be considered a very reliable and stressful series of tests on the GPU. Here we saw something very interesting, the Snapdragon 800 was almost 100% faster than the Snapdragon 600 and APQ8064. In addition to that, we also testd AMD’s latest mobile APU, the Kabini, and found that the Snapdragon 800’s score of 19,326 with the Adreno 300 nearly beat the Radeon 8330’s score of 20,397 points. This means that there’s a good chance that an Adreno GPU could soon beat a Radeon GPU (Adreno is an anagram for Radeon since many of Qualcomm’s mobile GPU team came originally from AMD).
We also spoke to Qualcomm after the event to figure out what kind of power consumption we should expect from the Snapdragon 800 considering the relatively drastic performance improvements. Do keep in mind that the battery capacity of the Snapdragon 800 MDP tablet was 8270 mAh,which is pretty big for an Android tablet, although we weren’t given any battery life figures. When asked about the TDP, Qualcomm stated, "While QCOM doesn?t quote or use TDP values in describing mobile device thermal characteristics; we believe that typical operation in a smartphone form factor needs to stay below 2.5W while typical operation in a tablet form factor needs to say below 5W. Operations in this context would include power consumption from the entire AP along with any other connectivity subsystem including cellular modem, Wi-Fi, etc. The specific power requirement can vary from device to device based on form factor, material properties, and any passive cooling solutions that can impact peak processor power consumption, but the above averages are generally accepted for smartphones and tablets and all Qualcomm processors are designed to perform within these power limits so they are able to achieve peak performance while minimizing any thermal impact. Designing for optimal mobile thermal efficiency is one of the many reasons Snapdragon processors are able to fit comfortably within a wide variety of highly innovative customer form factors and design."
Looking at these results, it is no shock to think that their competitors are scared. Qualcomm’s custom designed CPUs and GPUs are beginning to enter the realm of x86 and desktop graphics IP. If the Snapdragon 800 is the beginning of the line, there’s likely much more to come by ways of performance and wireless connectivity. We’ve already gotten word from LG that they’ll be putting the Snapdragon 800 in their flagship phones for the end of this year, much like they did last year with the APQ8064 (Snapdragon S4 Pro).