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Does Qualcomm Inc.'s Snapdragon 845 Deliver?

By Ashraf Eassa - Dec 27, 2017 at 9:00AM

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A performance test of Qualcomm's Snapdragon 845 seems to indicate so.

In December, Qualcomm (QCOM 0.98%) announced its latest mobile processor targeted at premium smartphones, known as the Snapdragon 845. 

The chip includes improvements across the board compared with the prior-generation Snapdragon 835, such as faster CPU performance, a more powerful graphics processor, more robust image capture and video capture capabilities, and quite a lot more. 

A rendering of a Qualcomm Snapdragon chip.

Image source: Qualcomm.

The Snapdragon 845 is expected to power many of the Android-based flagship smartphones that launch next year. One of the claims Qualcomm made about the Snapdragon 845 was that it delivers between 25% and 30% better performance in CPU tasks compared with the Snapdragon 835. Thanks to a recently published performance test of a smartphone powered by the Snapdragon 845, which seems to be the upcoming Galaxy S9, we can now fact-check Qualcomm's claim. 

Snapdragon 845 Geekbench 4 results

A performance test that's often used to compare the performance of mobile processors in CPU tasks is Geekbench 4, and a Snapdragon 845 result can be found in the Geekbench 4 results database. 

Geekbench 4 gives scores that indicate both the single-core performance of a processor and the performance of a processor when all of its cores are fully loaded. These are called the single-core and multi-core scores, respectively. 

Each of those scores is made up of sub-scores that measure integer performance, floating point performance, cryptography performance, and memory performance. In the following table, I include the aggregate single-core scores of the Snapdragon 835 and the Snapdragon 845 as well as the various sub-scores: 

Score Category Snapdragon 845 Snapdragon 835  Generational Increase
Overall  2,422 1,915 26.5%
Integer 2,717 2,073 31.1%
Floating point 2,041 1,403 45.4%
Cryptography 1,544 1,227 25.84%
Memory 2,550 2,498 2.1%

Data source: Geekbench 4 database. 

In terms of single-core performance, the Snapdragon 845 delivers a solid generational jump in the two areas that arguably matter most: integer performance and floating point performance. In these areas, Qualcomm seems to have exceeded its stated targets. Cryptography performance is up in line with Qualcomm's stated performance improvement.

Memory performance is largely unchanged, which isn't much of a surprise as the memory subsystems between the two chips seem pretty similar. 

Now, let's look at the multi-core scores: 

Score Category Snapdragon 845 Snapdragon 835 Generational Increase
Overall 8351 6671 25.2
Integer 11021 8856 24.4
Floating point 8038 6168 30.3
Cryptography 7002 5890 18.9
Memory 3152 2704 16.6

Data source: Geekbench 4 database. 

The generational increases in the multi-core score are less impressive than the single-core increases -- save, of course, for the memory score. I suspect that when all cores are loaded in these chips, thermal limitations stop the cores from running at their fullest potential for the duration of the test, leading to a smaller generational increase. 

But again, Qualcomm appears to have been telling the truth: Integer performance is up nearly 25%, and floating point performance is up slightly over 30%. Cryptography and memory aren't up as much, though these sub-tests aren't really pure CPU performance tests. 

Qualcomm delivers on its claims

In terms of a generational increase in CPU performance, the Snapdragon 845 seems to meet or exceed Qualcomm's stated claims, which is nice to see. 

One thing you need to keep in mind, though, is that while improved CPU performance has the potential to make some applications run more quickly, the reality is that the average smartphone user isn't likely to notice such an increase in day-to-day usage. 

A lot of the other stuff that Qualcomm has improved inside the Snapdragon 845 -- things like the image signal processor, the audio engine, the graphics processor, and even the cellular modem -- could arguably be viewed as more important to the user experience. 

So people should be careful about judging a mobile chip solely by its performance in a synthetic test that only touches one subsystem inside a highly complex, multi-faceted chip that integrates many sub-processors. 

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