Today, Qualcomm unveils a set of benchmark results for their new Snapdragon 888 SoC, which will be available for next year’s flagship Android devices. Usually, as in previous years, we would have had the opportunity to refer to Qualcomm’s reference projects during the chipset launch event or a few weeks later during CES. However, due to obvious circumstances, this was not possible this year.
Alternatively, Qualcomm shares with the press a set of benchmark results from their new Snapdragon 888 reference phone. Typically, the point of referencing the device itself is that it adds independent checking of benchmarks. This time, we will have to make a small leap of confidence in the accuracy of Qualcomm numbers – of course, we expect quite a bit that the figures are correct and reproduced in commercial devices.
Unfortunately, since most of our most interesting mobile test suite around SoCs is made up of custom internal benchmarks, that means they’ll be missing from today’s fairly short coverage.
Among the benchmarks that Qualcomm has run are AnTuTu, GeekBench, GFXBench Aztec Normal and Manhattan 3.0, Ludashi AiMark, AITuTu, MLPerf and UL Procyon. We only make a subset of these benchmarks that are part of our regular coverage, so I’ll just focus on the basics with GeekBench, GFXBench and Procyon.
At the beginning we have GeekBench 5, which, in my opinion, is generally a good level of overall performance for processors and is generally in accordance with SPEC. Here we see the new Snapdragon 888 which uses Cortex-X1 cores for the first time in action.
The single-threaded performance score increased from 919 points on the Snapdragon 865 to 1135 on the new SoC, a 23.5% increase in performance over its direct predecessor. This is relatively consistent with the 25% increase in performance promoted by Qualcomm and is generally what we expected, given Qualcomm’s implementation of the Cortex-X1 in the new chipset. As a reminder, the new X1 cores are clocked at 2.84 GHz – the same frequency as the A77 cores on the S865, but lower than the 3.09 GHz A77 cores of the Snapdragon 865+. As a result, compared to the 865+, the 888’s performance advantage is only 15.4%, which doesn’t sound as interesting.
The multi-threaded performance of the new chip is 16.9% better than its predecessors. In fact, it was a little weirder to see, because I was expecting bigger improvements. Come to think of it, I think it makes sense – the new Cortex-A78 core, which is used as the middle 3x cores of the new SoC, is only promoted as offering a 7% CPI advantage over its predecessor.
Meanwhile, Qualcomm increased its L2 cache size on average cores from 256 KB to 512 KB, but otherwise left its clock frequencies unchanged at 2.42 GHz. Together with 4x unmodified Cortex-A55 cores at 1.8 GHz, I think the overall performance for the full cluster hasn’t changed that much, with the X1 core being the show’s hero for this generation.
Turning to GPU performance, the new Snapdragon 888 introduces the new Adreno 660 GPU, where Qualcomm promises a 35% increase in performance. Qualcomm has released the GFXBench Aztec Normal and Manhattan 3.0 scores. We switched from Manhattan 3.0 to Manhattan 3.1 a long time ago, so we don’t have comparison scores with Qualcomm’s 169 fps, but we’re running Aztec Normal.
At this benchmark, Qualcomm’s listed score of 86 fps is over 55% faster than previous generation Snapdragon 865 devices. This could be an abnormal score, or it could be a sign of the benefits of the additional memory bandwidth offered by the faster LCDDR5-6400 support of the SoC – Qualcomm said that this generation GPU will be able to emphasize that part of the chip much harder . .
Although the Snapdragon 888 does not seem to match the top performance scores of the A13 or A14 SoCs used on Apple iPhones, the sustained performance will depend quite a bit on the power consumption of the chip. If this is between 4 and 4.5 W, then most of the flagship Android phones of 2021 will be able to support this peak performance figure and will allow Qualcomm to regain the crown of mobile performance from Apple. Otherwise, if the chip needs to accelerate significantly, then 888 will probably fail to resume the crown. But even if that’s the case, Android users shouldn’t care too much: the generational leap over 2020 phones would still be huge and by far one of the biggest GPU performance leaps Qualcomm has made. successful so far.
In terms of AI Benchmarks, Qualcomm didn’t really present anything in the same way as us, so this is a good opportunity to add the new UL Procyon AI Inference benchmark to our suite.
The benchmark is able to run on different accelerator blocks in an SoC and can also take advantage of customized TensorFlow delegations, such as Samsung’s EDEN framework.
Here, the new Snapdragon 888 displays remarkably good performance, offering almost 3 times the Snapdragon 865+ score and totally exceeding the increase in the theoretical production rate of the new Hexagon 780. The new Hexagon is a completely new IP and about the biggest improvement. of the entire Snapdragon 888, as it promises great strides in performance and energy efficiency – not only against previous-generation Snapdragons, but also against competing projects that do not yet have such a flexible DSP / ML hardware block in their SoCs.
Surprisingly, Qualcomm released the MLPerf results on the new chip. The Android version of the MLCommons reference suite is fresh in the oven and, among other things, gives us a new standardized test, which is more aligned across the industry.
The new Snapdragon 888 features extraordinary leaps of performance compared to its predecessor, with gains of up to 4x in some of the tests. Again, this only goes beyond the theoretical improvements in the computational throughput of IP blockchain units and is most likely related to the new memory architecture of the new Hexagon block as a whole.
In general, good first impressions – Waiting for the first devices
Following the announcement just a few weeks ago, today’s launch of the benchmark helps further validate our first impressions (and expectations for) Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 888 SoC.
In terms of CPU, we see good improvements, even with Qualcomm’s conservative claims. And in the meantime, the new Adreno GPU seems to work just as well as Qualcomm promised – if not better. So, as things stand, the missing piece of the puzzle is energy consumption; if it gets competitive there, then Qualcomm has a chance to regain the crown of performance on mobile.
Finally, the new Hexagon DSP really stood out as the most exciting piece of new hardware in Snapdragon 888. These performance figures underscore how far Qualcomm has come in a single generation, as evidenced by the extraordinary performance of the new SoC compared to previous chips. .
Lastly, while this isn’t really one of our traditional performance predictions – seeing how we have to trust Qualcomm that their numbers will be reproducible on commercial devices – it’s at least a starting point for talking about performance. And considering the face value, it looks like the new Snapdragon 888 won’t disappoint, setting up Qualcomm for another solid year of running on the SoC front.