GPU Performance

Snapdragon 835’s updated Adreno 540 GPU shares the same basic architecture as Snapdragon 820’s Adreno 530, but receives some optimizations to remove bottlenecks along with some tweaks to its ALUs and register file. The Adreno 540 also reduces the amount of work done per pixel by using improved depth rejection, which could further improve performance and reduce power consumption.

Qualcomm is claiming a general 25% increase in 3D rendering performance relative to the Adreno 530 in S820. While not officially confirmed, it appears that Qualcomm is using the move to 10nm to increase peak GPU frequency to 710MHz, a roughly 14% increase over S820’s peak operating point, which would account for a significant chunk of the claimed performance boost.

GFXBench T-Rex HD (Onscreen)

GFXBench T-Rex HD (Offscreen)

GFXBench T-Rex is an older OpenGL ES 2.0-based game simulation that’s not strictly limited by shader performance like the newer tests, which is one reason why flagship phones have been hitting the 60fps V-Sync limit for awhile now in the onscreen portion of the test. More recently, we’ve seen the iPhone 7 Plus and Mate 9, which both have 1080p displays, average 60fps over the duration of the test. Now the Snapdragon 835 MDP/S becomes the first 1440p device to reach this milestone.

The Snapdragon 835 MDP/S outperforms the iPhone 7 Plus and Mate 9 when running offscreen at a fixed 1080p resolution. It’s also 25% faster than the Pixel XL, the highest performing Snapdragon 820 phone, exactly matching Qualcomm’s performance claim. Sliding a little further back along Adreno’s roadmap shows the Adreno 540 with almost a 2x advantage over the Nexus 6P’s Adreno 430 and a 4.5x advantage over the ZUK Z1’s Adreno 330.

GFXBench Car Chase ES 3.1 / Metal (On Screen)

GFXBench Car Chase ES 3.1 / Metal (Off Screen 1080p)

The GFXBench Car Chase game simulation uses a modern rendering pipeline with the latest features found in OpenGL ES 3.1 plus Android Extension Pack (AEP), including tessellation. Like many current games, it stresses ALU performance to deliver advanced effects.

Lower resolution 1080p displays paired with modern GPUs elevate the LeEco Le Pro3 (S821), OnePlus 3T (S820), and Huawei Mate 9 (Kirin 960) to the top of the chart in the onscreen portion of the test. The Snapdragon 835 MDP/S is the fastest 1440p device, besting the second-place Pixel XL by 29%.

Moving to the offscreen test shows the Adreno 540 GPU with a 25% lead over the Adreno 530 in S820. I do not usually put too much stock in performance claims on marketing slides, but so far Qualcomm’s claim is surprisingly accurate. Even more impressive is its 55% lead over the Mate 9’s Mali-G71MP8 GPU, which is based on ARM’s latest Bifrost microarchitecture and is running at 960MHz to 1037MHz during this test.

3DMark Sling Shot 3.1 Extreme Unlimited - Overall

3DMark Sling Shot 3.1 Extreme Unlimited - Graphics

3DMark Sling Shot 3.1 Extreme Unlimited - Physics

3DMark Sling Shot Extreme uses either OpenGL ES 3.1 on Android or Metal on iOS and stresses the GPU and memory system by rendering offscreen at 1440p (instead of 1080p like our other tests).

The Snapdragon 835’s 30% better overall score is pretty significant, considering that there’s only an 8% difference between all the phones using the Apple A10, Exynos 8890, Kirin 960, and S820/S821 SoCs. Diving into the graphics segment shows the Snapdragon 835 MDP/S outperforming the iPhone 7 Plus by 10% and both the S820 and Exynos 8890 versions of the Galaxy S7 by 24%.

Unlike the Adreno 530, which saw a significant uplift in geometry processing from changes to its microarchitecture, it does not appear that any additional changes were made to Adreno 540 based on its similar performance in 3DMark Sling Shot’s first graphics test. ARM’s Mali GPUs have done comparatively well in geometry processing tasks in the past, and in the first graphics test the Adreno 540 is only 11% faster than the Mate 9’s Mali-G71 GPU.

It’s in the second graphics test, which emphasizes shader performance, where we see the biggest gains from Adreno 540, with a 34% lead over the Galaxy S7’s Adreno 530 and a 50% lead over the Mate 9’s Mali-G71. Qualcomm’s changes to its ALUs and register file seem to pay dividends here.

The Physics test runs on the CPU and is heavily influenced by how well an SoC’s memory controllers handle random access patterns. The Snapdragon 835 MDP/S finishes ahead of the Mate 9 by 14% despite their similar CPU performance. The S835’s memory controllers deliver lower latency and higher bandwidth than Kirin 960’s, which could explain its better result in this test.

Basemark ES 3.1 / Metal

Basemark ES 3.1 / Metal Onscreen Test

Basemark ES 3.1 / Metal Offscreen Test

The Basemark ES 3.1 game simulation uses either OpenGL ES 3.1 on Android or Metal on iOS. It includes a number of post-processing, particle, and lighting effects, but does not include tessellation like GFXBench 4.0 Car Chase.

Until Vulkan support is added to benchmarks later this year, Android devices will continue to rely on OpenGL, putting them at a huge disadvantage to iPhones running Apple’s Metal graphics API, which dramatically reduces driver overhead when issuing draw calls. In this particular test, Metal helps push the iPhone 7 Plus in front of the Snapdragon 835 MDP/S by 73%.

ARM’s Mali GPUs perform better than their Adreno counterparts when running Basemark ES 3.1’s workloads; the Exynos 8890’s Mali-T880MP12 is 15% faster than S820’s Adreno 530 and Kirin 960’s Mali-G71MP8 is 25% faster than S835’s Adreno 540 in the offscreen test. The Snapdragon 835 MDP/S does perform 40% faster than the S820 in the Pixel XL, which is quite a bit more than the 25% gain it sees in our other tests.

GFXBench ALU 2 (Offscreen)

The common theme in all of the game simulation tests is the Adreno 540’s better ALU performance, so I thought it would be interesting to see how well it performs in GFXBench’s synthetic ALU test. Surprisingly, its microarchitecture improvements are of no help here. The S835’s 14% advantage over the S820 and 8% advantage over the S821 exactly mirror their differences GPU frequency, assuming 710MHz for S835, suggesting this workload is bottlenecked elsewhere. It still manages to outperform the Mate 9’s Kirin 960 by 32%, however.

CPU and System Performance Qualcomm on Benchmarks versus End-User Experiences
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  • niva - Thursday, March 23, 2017 - link

    You keep saying that it's not "real world" when earlier there were links provided that should be showing you that in the real world, today, multithread already matters, and having more real/virtual cores helps. This is all for the simplest and most used task for cell phones, web browsing, multi threading is quite useful. I'm fairly confident that if an Android manufacturer ran on hardware identical to the iPhone and outscored it across the board, you'll buy the iPhone anyways. Good for you but you're not helping in this discussion, just admit your apple fanboyism and bow out. Why do you even care about the SD 835?
  • yankeeDDL - Thursday, March 23, 2017 - link

    Let me be more specific then.
    Web browsing is a key part of mobile experience. In the Kraken, WebXPRT and JetStream the performance difference is stunning: Kraken: 2.4X faster; WebXPRT: 1.35X faster, JetStream: 2.4X faster.
    Yes, the difference is not only due to HW, but also to code optimization. Still: damn!

    In the GPU department: in GFXBench, the performance is on-par (when reported).
    There's a noticeable advantage of the S835 in 3DMark (1.4X Overall), but in Basemark we loose again by nearly 2X.

    Yes, the comparison is (a bit) apples to oranges, but one has to admit that for a brand new SoC it would make sense to expect an hands-down victory over a noticeably older phone.
  • BurntMyBacon - Thursday, March 23, 2017 - link

    @yankeeDDL: "Still: damn!"
    Agreed, Apple has a massive advantage in javascript benchmarks. It is impossible to say how much (if any) of that is due to the SoC vs the software stack, but the advantage is undeniable.

    It is not unexpected that the A10 would win in Basemark. The A10 is making use of a low level API (Metal) where the SD835 is using a high level API (OpenGL ES). Again, Apple's better software cohesion and better use of APIs benefits them here. Still, the difference is quite formidable and the SD835 actually looses to the Kirin 960 as well. It would seem that the Adreno 540 is not well suited to this workflow. Therefore, it is unlikely that use of Vulkan will suddenly propel them ahead, but the gap would be a lot smaller. By the time use of Vulkan becomes common place, A11(?) will be out, so it's really a moot point.

    The GFXBench Car Chase ES 3.1 / Metal chart title suggests it should have an Apple data point (only user of "Metal"). It'll likely show the same thing as the basemark test given the disparate APIs, but I'm still curious (though not critical without further considerations) as to why it wasn't included.

    The fact that you can't get an A10 without iOS and you can't get iOS on another companies SoC makes considerations about whether it is better than the android SoCs or not a tertiary concern and academic when compared to the overall platform experience. There are plenty of reasons not to like an iProduct. Performance isn't generally one of them.
  • tuxRoller - Friday, March 24, 2017 - link

    If you take into account Qualcomm's optimized browser, the differences relative to the iPhone 7 change to:
    (% better than the sd835)
    Kraken: 140 -> 106 webxprt: 35 -> -26 jetstream: 140 -> 92

    I'm sure they could do more, but I'd be amazed if the remaining differences in kraken & jetsteam were mostly due to software.
  • Despoiler - Wednesday, March 22, 2017 - link

    It's mostly the OS that Apple has superiority in. That's why they can use a dual core while Android phones are quad or octacore.
  • grayson_carr - Saturday, March 25, 2017 - link

    Isn't the A10 a quad core, or more correctly, a dual dual core big.LITTLE chip? Same as Snapdragon 820?
  • akdj - Friday, March 31, 2017 - link

    Yes, A10 is a quad-core big.LITTLE SoC, w/a 12-core GPU, I believe... as well, Apple on the 7+ added another GB of RAM = 3GB on an iOS phone, iPad 12.9" has 4GB -- but the iOS integration with the A10... as well, the last several generations of 'home brewed' ARM chips - and Apple's investments in silicon engineering from nVidia, Intel, AMD, Qualcomm, TI and others has paid dividends.

    That said, off Apple/AX chipsets for a second.... excellent 'first look' and factory/testing insight. That is very cool stuff!

    I think, as geeks, and 'passionate' groups of faithful mobile phone OS folks amongst our population, folks who take this stuff more seriously than the Sunday sermon... we should all take a breath and remember that it's a 'chip preview'
    Not an Android phone!

    The issues with using the same chip on every device running Android --and every OEM 'skinning' their handset is a huge contributor to the varying performances; real world or objective bench tests. Like Windows as an OS on the desk and lap over the years, we've ALL had our 'Vista' moments. I'm an OS X/macOS user specifically because of 'vista and a curiosity about OS X in 2006 --- but again, I digress...

    Qualcomm has built a chip able to be put in to every flagship other than iOS this year and 'compete' just fine. In the performance metrics all above are bickering about. But as an iPhone 7+ owner/lover (it's an excellent phone) -- my appreciation for the 835 goes well beyond its parity or near ...or exceeding metrics of CPU and GPU, they've built a gigabit LTE modem (who cares if you won't 'get that' - it's still gonna haul ass!) - incredible image processing and 'encryption/protection' with its iris scanning and biometric uses well as the smaller node, the AIO model with all,parts of the 'brain' build in house --- IMHO, it's a 50-50 tie between chip engineering but I'm bias as an ambidextrous user since '07/'08 (iOS/Android) - I have always had one of each, the family is iOS and since switching everyone over, my workload has decreased 95%. It's vertical and horizontal integration and aggregation with macOS is, still to me, science fiction and for the family business... a God Send.

    That said --- my S6 has an Exynos (sp?) processor, Note 4 was Qualcomm and, as I skip Android gens, my next will be a Qualcomm. I know as an iPhone 7+ owner I was delighted to learn that the model I bought has a Qualcomm modem, not the Intel;)

    Special trip for you guys. Great write up and truly amazing to me ...I'm 45, born with the 8086 processor and the progress mankind has made in such a tiny package, which is high speed connected with exponentially more power than just a decade ago... in our pocket. We all need to remember between our friendly iOS/Android 'disputes' -- the special world we enjoy today specifically BECAUSE Apple and Google/Qualcomm/SnapDragons and their host of OEMs building what just a decade ago meant 110v, plugged in No mobility, significantly slower - even wired connectivity. None of the 'Millions' of free, $1, $5 & ten buck 'programs/software' then, apps, now - available on demand! Over 30 million song libraries, endless knowledge and tools, true magic is what I think the SD835 A10 Fusion and their predecessors are/were.
    I'm old now, but not compared with the mountains I live in -- lucky enough to have spent the second ½ of my life quite literally watching these chips come to fruition ...I think it's the A10 when announced... it had/has over 3 billion transistors... and the SoC's the size of our fingernail!

    Screw arguing. It's a competitive world and WE are the beneficiaries!
  • edlee - Wednesday, March 22, 2017 - link

    the 835 has a 10% stronger gpu than a10, its just nuts that apple, not being a cpu designer at heart, can design a better cpu/soc that is years ahead of of what arm and qualcomm can produce
  • BedfordTim - Wednesday, March 22, 2017 - link

    There is a price/performance trade off with processors. Apple has chosen to make a much bigger processor which is why it is faster. Think Atom vs Core. One is slow but cheap and one is expensive and fast.
    Apple are not "years ahead". They have chosen to spend more on the processor.
  • Lord-Bryan - Wednesday, March 22, 2017 - link

    "They have chosen to spend more on the processor"
    They also had 64bit arm cores 2 years before Qualcomm released theirs, And that's is why they are year's ahead in performance and power efficiency

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