Today Qualcomm is disclosing a set of benchmark results for their new Snapdragon 888 SoC that’s set to power next year’s flagship Android devices. Usually, as in 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 instead sharing with the press a set of benchmark results from 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 comprised of custom internal benchmarks, that means that those will be missing from today’s rather brief 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 really only run a subset of those benchmarks are part of our regular coverage, so I’ll just be focusing on the very basics with GeekBench, GFXBench and Procyon.

GeekBench 5

Starting off we have GeekBench 5, which in my opinion is generally a good overall performance benchmark for CPUs, and generally scales in line with SPEC. Here 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 points on the Snapdragon 865 to 1135 on the new SoC, a 23.5% performance uplift versus its direct predecessor. This is relatively in line with Qualcomm’s promoted performance boost of 25%, and generally is 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 2.84GHz – the same frequency as the A77 cores on the S865, but lower than the 3.09GHz A77 cores of the Snapdragon 865+. As a result, against the 865+ the 888's performance advantage is only 15.4%, which doesn’t sound quite as exciting.

Multi-threaded performance of the new chip comes in at 16.9% better than its predecessors. This actually was a bit odder to see as I was expecting larger improvements. Thinking more about it, I guess it makes sense – the new Cortex-A78 core, which is being used as the 3x middle cores of the new SoC, is only advertised as offering a 7% IPC advantage over its predecessor.

Meanwhile, Qualcomm did increase their L2 cache size on the middle cores from 256KB to 512KB, but otherwise left their clock frequencies unchanged at 2.42GHz. Together with the unchanged 4x Cortex-A55 cores at 1.8GHz I guess the overall performance for the complete cluster hasn't really changed all that much, with the X1 prime core being the hero of the show for this generation.

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

In this benchmark, Qualcomm’s listed score of 86fps is over 55% faster than previous generation Snapdragon 865 devices. This might be an outlier score, or it could be sign of the benefits of the additional memory bandwidth afforded by the SoC's faster LPDDR5-6400 support – 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 SoCs used in Apple's iPhones, sustained performance will depend quite a bit on the power consumption of the chip. If this lands in at between 4 and 4.5W, then the majority of flagship Android phones in 2021 will likely be able to sustain this peak performance figure and allow Qualcomm to regain the mobile performance crown from Apple. Otherwise if the chip has to significantly throttle, then 888 will probably fall short of retaking the crown. But even if that's the case, for Android users it shouldn't matter too much: the generational leap over 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 didn’t really present anything in the same manner that we do, so this is a good opportunity to add UL’s new Procyon AI Inference benchmark to our suite.

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

Here the new Snapdragon 888 is posting outstandingly good performance, delivering almost 3x the score of the Snapdragon 865+ and outright exceeding the theoretical 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 advancements in performance and power efficiency – not only against previous generation Snapdragons but also against competitor designs which don’t yet have such a flexible DSP/ML hardware block in 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 version of MLCommons' benchmark suite is fresh out the oven, and among other things, gives us a new standardized test that’s more aligned across the industry.

The new Snapdragon 888 is showcasing tremendous performance leaps compared to its predecessor, with gains of up to 4x 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

Following up on its announcement just a few weeks ago, today’s benchmark score release helps to further validate our first impressions of (and expectations for) Qualcomm's new Snapdragon 888 SoC.

On the CPU side we’re seeing good improvements, even with Qualcomm's conservative claims. And meanwhile the new Adreno GPU seems to perform as well as Qualcomm has promised – if not a bit better. So as things stand, the missing piece of the puzzle is power consumption; if it ends up being competitive there, then Qualcomm has a shot at regaining the performance crown in mobile.

Finally, the new Hexagon DSP really stood out as being the most exciting piece of new hardware in the Snapdragon 888. These performance figures underscore just how far Qualcomm has come in a single generation, as evidenced by the new SoC's tremendous performance leaps over earlier chips.

Ultimately, while this isn't really one of our traditional performance previews – seeing as how we have to place trust in Qualcomm that their figures will be reproducible on commercial devices – it's at least a starting point for talking about performance. And, with that taken at face value, it’s looking like the new Snapdragon 888 won’t disappoint, setting up Qualcomm for another solid year of execution on the SoC front.

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  • iphonebestgamephone - Saturday, December 19, 2020 - link

    So you're telling me samsung was involved in the x1's development, but still used 2+2+4 config and was also working on thier custom m cores? All the while knowing that x1 was about to be usable soon?
  • Fulljack - Wednesday, December 23, 2020 - link

    yes, because until X1 came out then Samsung need to use their own prime, big cores. that is the M-series.
  • iphonebestgamephone - Thursday, December 24, 2020 - link

    And is there any article mentioning the 'joint development' of x1 by samsung and arm?
  • iphonebestgamephone - Thursday, December 24, 2020 - link

    So arm used samsung to beta test or something?
  • Vitor - Friday, December 18, 2020 - link

    Impressive gains, feel like it could make a decent desktop cpu.
  • fishingbait - Friday, December 18, 2020 - link

    Well, the current SQ2 used in the Surface Pro X has 4 Cortex A76 performance cores - not the latest but the A78 isn't that much faster anyway - and 4 Cortex A55 efficiency cores. What needs to happen is for the SQ3 to have 2 Cortex X1 performance cores and 2 Cortex A78 performance cores to go with the 4 Cortex A55s. That would be an absolute minimum.

    I would love to see someone get bold and just go with 4 Cortex X1 chips. Even if it has to go in a Chromebox (ChromeOS but in a desktop form factor) or something with a fan.

    Also, the reason for the lack of good desktop Qualcomm and MediaTEK CPUs until now is their just being stupid. No one is willing to go beyond the 8 core barrier. (Except Apple, and when they come out with their 12 and 16 core Mx chips next year it is going to make them all look like fools.) Intel and AMD use 6 and even 8 performance cores in their Intel Core -7 and AMD 4800U chips right? What on earth keeps Samsung or MediaTek from doing the same? Keep the 4 efficiency cores but add performance cores until you reach diminishing returns or the laptop gets hot enough to fry an egg. If it works for ARM servers ... oh never mind. Again, they're just being stupid, lazy and risk averse.
  • michael2k - Friday, December 18, 2020 - link

    If they are using ARM's DynamIQ, they are forced to use a cluster of 8 CPUs:

    If they wanted more then they would need to use a pair of DynamIQ clusters, which unlocks 16 CPUs.

    You're asking why they haven't done so? It's because it costs money and if no one is paying Qualcomm to develop the product, they won't do so.
  • iphonebestgamephone - Saturday, December 19, 2020 - link

    Yeah a78 is just what, 35% faster than a76. Yeah, not much. Next.
  • Zoolook - Monday, December 21, 2020 - link

    Most of Mediateks Helios X series had 10 cores, although only two performance cores.
  • AdrianBc - Tuesday, December 22, 2020 - link

    The ARM cores are designed to reach their maximum performance at around 2 W (Cortex-A78) or at around 3 W (Cortex-X1).

    A smartphone might provide up to 10 W for short bursts, but it would not be able to sustain such a high power.

    Therefore a quadruple Cortex-X1 would need about 12 W. This power level might be acceptable for a large tablet, but certainly not for a smartphone.

    The largest configuration that would make sense for a smartphone is 2 Cortex-X1 + 2 Cortex-A78 cores.

    An 8-core Cortex-X1 would be great for a 15 W or 20 W laptop, but that could never be used in a smartphone or small tablet.

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