While playing with the LG G Flex 2 at CES, we had a chance to run some benchmarks of the first Snapdragon 810 to be launched. Snapdragon 810 is a 64-bit SoC (system on a chip) which has 8 CPU cores (4 big A57, 4 small A53) setup in a big.LITTLE configuration running at 1.56 GHz. In this implementation of big.LITTLE, all cores can be active any once, so the operating system has to be smart about dispatching the work. Read more about my previous big.LITTLE overview if you are curious, this is quite fascinating.
Performance Update Feb 18 2015
Note: this is an update to an article initially written at CES with early hardware. I’m leaving the original article below to provide a complete context. There is also additional information about the hardware. This paragraph will update the performance analysis.
Since we have gotten our hands on a near-final G Flex 2 unit (LG says that it is representative of the final product look and feel), we decided to revise the performance numbers, since pre-release hardware is fun to discuss, but doesn’t the complete picture. The bottom-line is: great improvements since CES. Here are the new numbers below.
Both the CES G Flex 2 and the current one are represented, so you can see how much faster the phone has gotten in just a few weeks.
As you can see, the G Flex 2 is naturally taking the lead when compared to other high-end Android phones currently shipping on the market. It’s normal since it is the first to use Qualcomm’s next-gen chip. "LG G FLEX IS EXTREMELY FAST"
If you are wondering what the Snapdragon 810 MDP is, it’s a development device, which is used to test networks and phone features (and not really performance). It is quite big, so I consider its thermal management to be comparable to a tablet and not a handset. This partly explains the higher performance, but LG has told me that it intends to squeeze even more performance in the short future.
As it stand, and before a new host of Snapdragon 810 phones come out, along with the Galaxy S6 and its own Samsung chip, one should consider the LG G Flex to be extremely fast. Read our full review of the G Flex 2.
Archive – CES 2015 performance (Jan 2015)
The Snapdragon 810 CPU cores are based on ARM designs: A57 (big cores) and A53 (small cores). Qualcomm has pointed out to Ubergizmo that it has made optimizations to the original ARM design to have better power/performance characteristics. In the past, Qualcomm has designed its own cores from scratch, the “Krait” Series of cores being the most popular and performant to date. This is not the case here.
The 810 chip also has a Adreno 430 graphics processor (GPU) unit that will handle the polygonal graphics for video games. It is one of the more feature complete on the market and provides support for the latest mobile graphics application programming interfaces (API).
Keep in mind that this is not a retail unit, nor it is running the final version of the firmware. Most likely, benchmarks were not updated/optimized for Snapdragon 810. I’ve had time to run a few, but more will come in the near future, I hope.
As you can see, the multi-core numbers are higher than current high-end phones on the market, which is expected. Actually, it’s interestingly high given that the frequency is at 1.56 GHz while the Note 4’s Snapdragon 805 runs at a maximum of 2.7 GHz.
The single-core performance in Geekbench 3 is however surprising. I would venture to say that something isn’t behaving normally on this unit because in single-core mode, the SoC should be able to run the core at full speed, and in theory yield slightly superior performance when compared to the previous generation.
I am wondering if the single-thread test is being dispatched to one of the A53 cores, instead of one of the A57 cores. If that’s the case, the scheduler (thread dispatcher) could be tweaked in a future software update. A Snapdragon 650 with A53 cores, gets about 600 to 650 on that test. There’s currently no way to know for sure without some low-level debugging tools.
It may also be that the thermal management has been set to a very conservative mode, so we’ll be sure when the retail units start arriving.
In terms of graphics performance, the G Flex2 is within range of the iPhone 6, but the older G3 had been already not very far from that. In theory, the 810 chip should easily outperform the Snapdragon 800 as implemented in the LG G3 and the Snapdragon 801 used in the Galaxy S5.
The good news is that Basemark OS 2 shows the LG G Flex 2 taking the lead, and although not perfect, this is a benchmark that is probably more representative of a real-world usage than GeekBench 3.
These early results will unfortunately not answer all your performance questions about the LG G Flex2 or Snapdragon 810. Also, since this is the first product using the Snapdragon 810, it is reasonable to think that both LG and Qualcomm have ample opportunities to optimize for performance in the weeks leading to Mobile World Congress (MWC) where even more Snapdragon 810 products will be launched.
Historically, there have been a performance disparity between products using the same chips. Most of it is due to the various industrial designs and their implications for thermal management.
This will probably fuel further speculation related to Snapdragon 810 and its ability to cope with heat, as JP Morgan analysts suggested that Qualcomm’s implementation of the A57 instruction set may have some issues. We’ve reached out to Qualcomm to see if we could get some clarification or a comment from the source.
Impact on the G Flex 2 product
Again, I want to stress that this is not a retail unit, and that LG is probably working on finalizing this. But in a scenario where performance would remain in the current state, what would happen? Not much.
For sure, LG may lose some customers who are really bent on high-score benchmarks, such is life. However, the overall feel of the device isn’t particularly affected by this and most regular customers won’t ever notice. As I was using the device, it felt like many other high-end devices we’ve had so far.
Buyers will probably pick the device for its curved design and scratch-resistant back plate. This excellent design is well beyond the original G Flex smartphone from last year.
Unless you run benchmarks or heavy games, a synthetic performance difference of even 20% is typically not “felt” by the user, and doesn’t affect the overall user experience that much because synthetic benchmarks simply don’t translate into real-world perceived performance,except for very specific cases. Unfortunately, there is no real metric to measure user experience.
Nevertheless, it’s always good to make an informed decision, and we will keep you posted when we have more news and data on this topic.
Potential impact on other product releases?
Would this performance glitch involving the Snapdragon 810 significantly impact other product release cycles? That is the million-dollar question. There are two schools of thoughts for this.
The first one says that phone-makers could turn to Qualcomm competitors like Mediatek, Samsung Semiconductors or NVIDIA. In my opinion, this is very unlikely. Even if a potential “fix” takes weeks, or even a whole quarter, phone makers have already invested too much engineering resources to go back. On simply doesn’t change the brains of a phone at the last minute. Some analysts share this point of view, but not all.
The “worst-case scenario” is that phone production will move on with a first batch of products that either come with slightly better performance, or run at current frequencies just to stay on the safe side. Although Benchmarks are sought-after by a number of people, it’s unlikely that it will dent a next-Gen smartphone launch which is not pitched as a high-performance or gaming phone.
It would be very surprising that a chip that has been announced and sampled almost a year ago would have a major issue that went unseen until now.