The first smartphones powered by Qualcomm’s latest generation Snapdragon 888 mobile application processor are not expected to arrive until the new year, but now we have a better picture of the performance of these phones. Instead of getting hold of the Qualcomm reference design receiver (of course thanks to COVID-19), the company issued us a set of its own Snapdragon 888 parts.
Since these numbers come directly from Qualcomm, we should treat them with a little skepticism. Although we have no reason to believe that Qualcomm is artificially inflating its scores (there is a video showing the running benchmarks), obviously we can’t check the test conditions. It is wise to treat these results as an optimal scenario. Retail phones will definitely have a slightly different performance.
To top it off, Qualcomm has provided some specifications for its flagship smartphone. Snapdragon 888 is clocked as follows: 1x Cortex-X1 @ 2.84GHz, 3x Cortex-A78 @ 2.42GHz and 4x Cortex-A55 @ 1.8GHz. So there is no overclocking here. The SoC is paired with 12 GB LPDDR5 RAM and 512 GB UFS storage. The display is a 6.65-inch 120Hz panel with a resolution of 2,340 x 1,080, so very high-end specifications around.
Read more: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 Deep Diving: Everything You Need to Know
With that out of the way, let’s dive into the Snapdragon 888 landmarks.
Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 parts
Qualcomm ran the Snapdragon 888 reference phone through several familiar general performance benchmarks, such as AnTuTu, as well as specific AI benchmarks to showcase the machine learning capabilities of chipsets. What we can say right away is that Snapdragon 888 is fast – very fast – at least in this reference form factor device.
The processor results from GeekBench 5 reveal a noticeable improvement over last year’s Snapdragon 865, and some subsequent tests show that this score reaches the processor improvement by 25%, previously supported by Qualcomm. The core of the Cortex-X1 processor is certainly capable of collecting some serious numbers and represents the bulk of the gains. The multi-core score is also impressive. GFX Bench’s graphical results show that the chip easily meets Qualcomm’s 35% improvement estimate. Although the results for real games may vary and we still don’t know how well Snapdragon 888 supports its top performance.
If you’re interested, Qualcomm has sent us accelerated images of all the benchmarks running on your phone. Feel free to check out the results yourself via the video below.
The Snapdragon 888 reference phone compared to the competition
The chip is fast, but how does this compare to the benchmark results from other phones on the market right now? To verify, we ran as many of the same benchmarks as possible on the devices we have at hand.
We’ve included iPhone 12 Pro Max results for reference, but keep in mind that these results are not directly comparable to Android devices, as Apple uses its own graphical API for 3D reference parameters. GPU and system scores are not directly comparable, but frame rates still tell us something about the hypothetical performance of games in optimized titles. Unfortunately, the Huawei Mate 40 Pro will not install these benchmarks to test the capabilities of the Kirin 9000.
Here are the results.
Starting with the processor, GeekBench 5 reveals an 18% multi-core and 26% single-core gain for Snapdragon 888 compared to 865 in the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE. This is a solid win for a single generation that will help you with everything from application load times to game performance. However, you’ll need CPU-intensive workloads to meet Qualcomm’s 25% claim at launch.
In terms of graphics, the Snapdragon 888 reference design is 59% faster in the off-screen Aztec test and 31% faster in the off-screen Manhattan test than in the 865. These are some impressive results that suggest Qualcomm will often achieves 35% promise lifting. The results are clearly quite variable based on the API and workload. Of course, the results on the screen are a different issue, which will depend on the display resolution of the device.
Snapdragon 888 fails to beat Apple’s A14 Bionic chipset in these tests. It performs similar frame rates in the Manhattan GPU benchmark, despite different APIs, but does not work as well in the Aztec test. Apple’s processor gains only 7% in multi-core processor scenarios, but expands its lead to a whopping 41% in single-core tests. As powerful as the Cortex-X1 CPU is, the Apple Firestorm core offers even more murmurs.
Qualcomm’s octa-core versus hexa-core configuration makes the difference in multi-threaded environments. Also, these standards do not sink into sustainable performance or battery consumption when depleted for long sessions, so we do not yet know how well these numbers withstand successive tests.
See also: Qualcomm explains how Snapdragon 888 changes the camera game
Initial thoughts and impressions
Based on Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 benchmarks, the new chip looks like a notable upgrade over the already stunning Snapdragon 865. Of course, we want to check the company’s testing before drawing definitive conclusions, but Qualcomm’s benchmark design seems to achieve December announcement time. As long as the results are transferred to retail devices, this is great news for future flagship smartphones.
As we expected, the move to the Arm Cortex-X1 core from power offers most of the gains in the CPU department. However, the Cortex-A78 also offers some benefits for multi-core. Unfortunately, the core does not fully reach Apple’s custom silicon, but it does reduce the distance and provide a significant boost over previous chipsets found in Android phones.
However, the graphic elevation looks the most impressive. While the exact performance gains for game titles remain to be seen, Qualcomm’s results range from a 31% to 59% benefit in the two benchmarks tested so far. The 35% liftable ball park may end up being quite conservative for some games, but we’ll have to see a wider range of results for confirmation.
The biggest unknown is energy efficiency and sustainable performance. Qualcomm is talking about a great game here too, thanks to the transition to 5nm production. It won’t be long before the first Snapdragon 888 smartphones arrive early in 2021, so we can test this ourselves.
It follows: All Snapdragon 888 phones and brands confirmed so far