Today Qualcomm is disclosing a set of benchmark results for the new Snapdragon 888 SoC that’s set to power next year’s flagship Android devices. Usually, as years past, we would have had opportunities to benchmark Qualcomm’s reference designs ourselves during the chipset launch event, or a few weeks later during CES – however due to obvious circumstances this wasn’t possible this year.

As an alternative, Qualcomm is therefor sharing with the press a set of benchmark results on their new Snapdragon 888 reference design phone. Usually, the point of having the press benchmark the devices themselves is that it adds independent verification of the benchmark scores. This time around we’ll have to make a little leap of faith in the accuracy of Qualcomm’s numbers – of course we still pretty much expect the figures to be accurate and be reproduced in commercial devices.

Unfortunately, because the majority of our more interesting mobile test suite around SoCs is actually comprised of custom internal benchmarks, that means that those will be missing from today’s rather brief coverage.

Amongst the benchmarks that Qualcomm has listed are AnTuTu, GeekBench, GFXBench Aztec Normal and Manhattan 3.0, Ludashi AiMark, AITuTu, MLPerf and UL Procyon. We really only run a subset of those benchmarks in our coverage, so I’ll just be focusing on the very basics with GeekBench, GFXBench and Procyon.

GeekBench 5

Starting off with GeekBench 5, which generally is in my opinion a good overall performance benchmark for CPUs and generally scales in line with SPEC, we see the new Snapdragon 888’s first-time use of Cortex-X1 cores in action.

The single-threaded performance score has gone up from 919 on the Snapdragon 865 to 1135 on the new chipset, indicating 23.5% performance uplift against its direct predecessor. This is somewhat in line with Qualcomm’s promised performance boost of 25%, and 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 in at 2.84GHz – the same frequency as the A77 on the S865, but lower frequency than the 3.09GHz A77 cores of the Snapdragon 865+. Here of course the new chip’s performance advantage is only 15.4%, which doesn’t sound quite as exciting.

Multi-threaded performance of the new chip lands in at 16.9% better than its predecessors. This actually was a bit odder to see as I expected larger improvements. Thinking more about it, I guess it makes sense – the new Cortex-A78 cores which are we find being used as the 3x middle cores of the new SoC had only promised a 7% IPC advantage over the predecessors. Qualcomm did increase their L2 size from 256KB to 512KB, but otherwise left the clock frequencies unchanged at 2.42GHz. Together with the unchanged 4x Cortex-A55 cores at 1.8GHz I guess the overall clusters performance really hasn’t changed all that much, with the X1 prime core being the hero of the show this generation.

Moving onto the GPU, the new Snapdragon 888 features the new Adreno 660 which promises a 35% performance uplift. Qualcomm divulged GFXBench Aztec Normal and Manhattan 3.0 scores. I had moved on to Manhattan 3.1 long time ago and don’t even run 3.0 anymore so I don’t have comparison scores against Qualcomm’s 169fps figure, but we do run Aztec Normal.

In this benchmark, Qualcomm’s advertised score of 86fps is actually almost over 55% better than previous generation Snapdragon 865 devices. This might be an outlier score or it could also be sign of good usage of the new chipset’s increase LPDDR5-6400 bandwidth – Qualcomm did say that this generation the GPU will be able to stress that part of the chip much harder.

While the Snapdragon 888 doesn’t look like it’ll match the peak performance scores of the A13 or A14 iPhones – the end result will actually depend on the power consumption of the chip. If this lands in at between 4 and 4.5W, then the majority of flagship phones in 2021 will likely be able to sustain this peak performance figure and allow Qualcomm to regain the mobile performance crown from Apple. If the chip throttles by any more significant amount it might not achieve that feat – but honestly that doesn’t matter too much: the generational leap against 2020 phones would still be immense, and by far one of the largest GPU performance leaps Qualcomm has been able to achieve to date.

UL Procyon

In terms of AI Benchmarks, Qualcomm really didn’t present anything in the same matter that we do, so this might just as well be a good opportunity to add UL’s new Procyon benchmark to the suite.

The benchmark is able to run on various accelerators of the SoC and also is able to take advantage of custom TensorFlow Delegates, such as Samsung’s EDEN framework.

The new Snapdragon 888 here is posting outstandingly good performance, showcasing almost 3x the score of the Snapdragon 865+, which is actually beyond the actual throughput rate increases of the new Hexagon 780. The new Hexagon is a completely new IP and pretty much the single biggest improvement of the whole Snapdragon 888 as it promises great achievements in performance and power efficiency – not only against previous generation Snapdragons but also against competitor designs which don’t yet have such as flexible DSP/ML hardware block on their SoCs.

MLPerf 0.7.1 - Image Classification MLPerf 0.7.1 - Image Classification (Offline) MLPerf 0.7.1 - Object Detection MLPerf 0.7.1 - Image Segmentation MLPerf 0.7.1 - Language Processing

Qualcomm surprisingly also published MLPerf results on the new chip, the Android app is fresh out the oven and also gives us a new standardised test that’s more aligned across the industry:

The new Snapdragon 888 is showcasing tremendous performance leaps compared to its predecessor, with up to 4x increases in some of the tests. Again, this is well beyond just the theoretical computational throughput improvements of the execution units of the IP blocks, and very likely is tied to the new memory architecture of the new Hexagon block as a whole.

Overall good first impressions – Waiting for first devices

Today’s disclosures of these benchmark scores strengthen our initial first impressions of the Snapdragon 888 during the release a few weeks ago.

On the CPU side, we’re seeing good improvements, although Qualcomm is keeping things comparatively conservative in relation to improvements on the other aspects of the SoC. The new GPU seems to be performance as advertised – maybe even better. The missing piece of the puzzle is power consumption, and if it ends up competitive, Qualcomm has a shot at regaining the performance crown in mobile.

Finally, the new Hexagon really stood out as being the most exciting piece of new hardware in the Snapdragon 888, and these new performance figures really validate that initial impression with really tremendous performance leaps.

Whilst this really wasn’t a performance preview per se how we did it in previous years, and we do have to trust Qualcomm that the figures will end up being reproducible on commercial devices without any bad surprises, it’s looking like 2021 will be another solid execution year for Qualcomm, and it looks like the Snapdragon 888 won’t disappoint.

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