Snapdragon 8 Gen1 Review

Snapdragon 8 Gen1 Review


Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, it’s the new name of Qualcomm’s latest mobile platform. The successor of Snapdragon 888. And we’ll definitely see it very often powering next year’s Android flagship smart phones.

Personally I think it’s pretty weird to change your product naming scheme every generation or so But other than name we care more about the performance and power efficiency.

You might know that Snapdragon 888 this year has suffered some serious thermal issues. which leads to those flagship phones not performing very well.

The actual gaming performance is not anywhere better than 865 platforms. So will qualcomm fix all the problems this year? Or it will be another burner heating up your smartphone. That what I’m going to tell you in this post.

Architecture

The new 8 gen 1 is the first mobile SOC that supports ARMv9 instruction set.

If you remember in 2013 when the industry moves from ARMv7 toward v8 the new architecture brings mobile processing to 64 bits, which is a big deal.

Apple made this crazy A7 chip based on ARMv8, which was way ahead of Snapdragon at the time.

However in terms of raw performance ARMv9 isn’t that exciting. Most of the improvements of v9 are focus on security and scalability. One of the important features of ARMv9 is Scalable Vector Extension 2, known as SVE2.

Essentially speaking ARM chips running on your phone on desktop PCs and in data center although they are all ARM-based processors have very different size of vector registers. Which means software that was design for data center will not be able to run on your phone easily or vice versa.

But with SVE2 it’s a different story Without the limitation of vector length developers only need to compile once to make their software working on all ARM platforms.

But anyway we can see the ambition of ARM is to build an ecosystem to compete with x86 on desktop and data center market.

So it’s all about future And for the current gen smartphone it doesn’t really matters. What does improve your performance though is the new CPU core design.

They’ve been upgraded to Cortex-X2, Cortex-A710 and Cortex-A510, finally ditching the old A55.

The new bigger X2 core is not whole lot different than the old X1. They reduced pipeline length got a bigger out of order window improved the branch prediction and stopped supporting 32-bits apps.

But X2 is not a completely new design though It is still originated from A76 of 2018 design by ARM’s Austin Texas team.

So it won’t be a big leap forward anyway. The same story happens in the middle core A710. It is very likely that in next year. we’ll receive a huge improvement from the brand-new core architecture designed by ARM’s French team.

But before that we don’t really have any choice. The efficient core A510 however is a whole new IP design in Arm’s headquarter in Cambridge. On paper the IPC has improved by 35% to 50%.

most of the improvement might be achieved by increasing the scale, For example they increased decoder increased the ALUs, all of which will contribute to a higher power consumption.

That means the performance per watt won’t be so pretty, Another interesting design is that A510 core does not works by itself. You need to put 2 core side by side and let them share L2 cache and floating-point units.

This actually reminds me of the AMD Bulldozer and that is not a glorious memory, But for efficient core this may not be a bad idea.

It’s a small core anyway powering the background activities for the most time. which doesn’t requires floating point a lot. Aside from the new architecture 8 gen 1 also increase the L3 cache from 4M to 6M.

This is still not really a huge number because Mediatek managed to put 8M L3 cache in their chip.

Cache usually have some quite significant impact on CPU performance, We will see it in a minute.

What also matter to gaming experience is the GPU inside. They put a newly designed Adreno 730 GPU in there. The 600 series GPU on pervious Snapdragon SOCs has put Android phone way behind iPhone on graphic performance.

But the 8 gen 1 might be a turnover, Almost forget to mention the 8 gen 1 is still fabricated by Samsung with an improved 4nm node.

About the CPU performance

Here is the result of Geekbench 5, For the multi-core Snapdragon 8 Gen1 got a 3810, which is only 60 higher than 888.

ARMv9 new core design 4nm fabrication and you got only 1.5% better than the old one?  The single core performance is also not a lot better It’s 5.7% better than 888.

That is still worse than Apple’s A13 which has released 3 years ago, Consider that Cortex-X2 core is running at 3 GHz which is already higher than 888.

We can basically says that the IPC hasn’t improved too much. Well it’s a bad news for Qualcomm, the performance hasn’t changed that much.

The power consumption is lower right?

you might think maybe the power consumption is lower right? No,This is even worse During Geekbench 5 on average we recorded 4.2 watts power consumption on single core and 11.1 watts on multi-core.

If we look at the peak value we got as high as 14 watts! It’s on a phone! It doesn’t even have a fan on it!

I suppose these new CPU architecture really didn’t improved that much and the Samsung 4nm is still not getting it’s job done really well. The CPU is a bit disappointing.

About the GPU

We are running GFXBench 5.0 benchmark and that is not bad.  The GPU of Snapdragon 8 Gen1 is already better than Apple A14, when running on OpenGL And if we running it on Vulkan It could be even comparable with A15.

This is almost 60% better than the 888 nice job Qualcomm, But how about the power numbers? We got 11.2 watts on average I mean this GPU has the same power consumption as Apple M1.

Based on the number’s that we got there is no way you could run this thing without throttling on any phone. So how about a stress test? We are using the game Nimian Legends: Bright Ridge as a tool to stress test the phone  this is a game that can suck up every single drop of juice out of your smartphone GPU, while providing a comparable graphic setting among different platforms.

We run the test 10 minutes to see how the framerate drops And the Snapdragon 8 Gen1 is really not bad this time. The peak performance is even on par with A15 and although it does throttle pretty heavily the curve is still fine since Apple chips also drops a lot.

If we put an even bigger load on it like 3DMark Wild Life Extreme Stress Test. We got a 66.8% of stability ranking. That means the performance drops to 66.8% after 20 cycle.

Conclusion

Anyway the Snapdragon 8 Gen1 is Well it’s hard to say It’s not completely a waste of sand. It got a GPU that almost as good as Apple’s A15 and the gaming performance is kinda ok, However I couldn’t say 8 gen 1 is great.

The CPU hasn’t really change that much despite a brand new ARMv9 architecture And the power consumption is still sucks. I am expecting flagship phone this year will getting heavier and thicker just to fit a larger battery and thermal solution inside, So this is our conclusion on Snapdragon 8 Gen1

Read more: MediaTek Dimensity 9000 Review

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