Qualcomm doesn't want you to take its Snapdragon 835 benchmarks too seriously

Qualcomm is in a bit of a bind. The company is readying its first Snapdragon 835 chips for the world's best phones, and though Samsung — the world's biggest Android manufacturer — will be co-opting much of the releases's spotlight with the Galaxy S8, Qualcomm wants to make it clear that there are still many advantages, both for other companies and consumers, in going with its products.

It pointed out that no other company fulfils the promise of a platform architecture like Qualcomm.

So it's trying to play two hands at the same time. Last week, it offers journalists a glimpse at what makes the Snapdragon 835 tick, including the opportunity to benchmark a MDP unit (Mobile Device Platform) that runs the latest hardware and a stock version of Android Nougat. Judging from the thorough set of benchmarks by Anandtech, the Snapdragon 835 is an evolutionary upgrade from the 820/821 in terms of CPU and GPU performance, and in a couple of benchmarks actually falls behind its predecessor.

Nominally, though, users can expect a 10-25% gain in CPU performance, and around a 20-30% gain in graphics abilities, switching from the Snapdragon 820/821 to the 835, which is significant but not groundbreaking. And then there's other more comparable SoCs like Huawei's Kirin 960, which despite being released in November is neck-and-neck with the Snapdragon 835 in many performance benchmarks.

That's why Qualcomm doesn't want the story to end there, and rightfully so. It went out of its way to show that CPU and GPU benchmarks are no longer indicative of the company's strengths as a whole, which is why it went on a media blitz this month to push the message that its processors are actually "platforms".

To that end, it made an effort to point out that no other company fulfils the promise of a platform architecture like Qualcomm: in addition to the CPU, GPU and memory, there's camera performance, video encoding and decoding, audio excellence, charging improvements, biometrics integration cellular advancements, and readiness for VR standards. But while these are all essential parts to a SoC platform, the computing and memory speeds are the most easily quantifiable, and to a subset of the population have a very heavy impact on buying decisions. This is true more so in the desktop space, but as Qualcomm butts up against Moore's Law the same way Intel and AMD have in the desktop world, it will continue having to find new ways to market its product (and platform) advantages.

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Much of that advantage, at the end of the day, will come down to how much more efficient the Snapdragon 835's 10nm manufacturing process is, and how much that will benefit the battery life of the average phone user. Early benchmarks on a non-commercial piece of hardware won't be able to tell that story, so we'll have to wait until the first phones ship with the part — the Galaxy S8, the Sony Xperia XZ Premium, and many others — to learn that particular part of the tale.

In the meantime, Anandtech sums it up nicely:

Based on these preliminary numbers and feature additions, the Snapdragon 835 looks like a solid evolutionary upgrade over the S820.

What do you think of the Snapdragon 835 so far based on what you've seen and read? Let us know in the comments!

Daniel Bader

Daniel Bader was a former Android Central Editor-in-Chief and Executive Editor for iMore and Windows Central. 

  • I say this many times, benchmarks don't mean crap if the phone itself is crappy. Those benchmarks they use on the SoCs are numbers, which can be easily manipulated for reasons of competition. The finished phone product and usage ultimately determines what make a phone a great phone.
  • Yeah. I don't get why this **** is even a thing still.
  • Moving the goalpost again. Those benchmark scores were great in the past as long as they were showing 20-25% gains. Now that we can no longer achieved those scores, they don't tell the whole story. Basically what Intel have been doing the past few years, we are all too smart to see what's going on and the reasons behind those comments. Those tests were good until they are no good, ok got it.
  • Yep. You got it. However, feel free to take that crap over to Phone Arena.
  • You make no sense.
    Nexus 5 STILL is buttery smooth. What it's lacking is the latest camera processing and VR related stuff. So yes, benchmarks have been useless for a while now. It's all about implementation.
  • but you can benchmark camera processing and VR performance.
  • Yet Apple keeps showing 50-75% single-core performance improvements every single year. Their chip design team must be Mensa level geniuses.
  • I completely agree, it's real world experience that matters. I just want a phone that's still snappy after all my apps are installed, and not just some reviews with a virgin phone.
  • @blueboy_2014: that's a piss-poor excuse for preventing their competitors/customer like Samsung from selling their phones with their own AP -- at least in the US. If Qualcomm can't keep up with competitors, I'd say Qualcomm needs to GTFO.
  • Qualcomm should man up and make its own smartphone like Apple. Show the world that the Snapdragon is the best processor by owning the entire vertical.
  • A great phone is more than a SOC's benchmark scores. If the device isn't running pure Android it's skin can make it lag which is a bigger factor to me when purchasing. As we know benchmarks have been fudged before to help the marketing dept and therefore increase sales.
  • As an Android enthusiast and not a smartphone expert or engineer, I can't comment on what processor is better or what manufacturers should use. However, I can say that I want whatever is in my phone to perform as advertised and be effective at doing what people normally do for at least 2 years. I know it's a vague statement, but I just want the darn thing to work and not be the cause of shortcomings 6 months, or a year into owning the device. (Ie overheating)
  • So benchmarks don't mean anything to the company now that their processor isn't significantly better than the competition. Sounds good. Personally I don't care about benchmarks as long as my phone runs everything well. I don't trust anything these companies say at all.
  • Benchmarks only mean something to geeks, they make no difference in day to day usage, haven't in years, unless you go crazy when your app opens .5 seconds faster than before.
  • From what I've read, I got the impression that connectivity advances were the key selling point for the 835 not processing speed. LTE-U and 5G or whatever in hell carriers are calling them will require phones with 835-calibre SoCs (or better). So there's a specific kind of future-proofing involved in getting a phone with an 835 inside.
  • Synthetic benchmarks haven't meant anything practical for quite some time now anyway. Only the Apple lot crow about it because they think they're winning - and in practice their definition of winning is sending a Snapchat 0.003 seconds faster than I can. It's all a bit ridiculous isn't it?
  • Thank you!
  • So, is that coming from those folks who cries wolf about lack of tons of RAMs or 4k screens but when those same folks can't show how great certain parts are then it does not matter, ok I get it.
  • Exactly
  • Bruh, I hate to break it to you, but iPhones aren't winning by milliseconds. They're winning by 10 seconds PLUS in apps that involve editing/heavy processing. And every year it gets worst. But hey, 4k screens and VR matter more than processing power, right? God forbid Android flagships don't get their asses handed to them by a year old phone.../s
  • And if we REALLY cared that much, we'd have an iPhone. And... Since we don't, what does that do to your point? Once again, there is still a place for "my phone is faster than your phone" bullish!t. Phone Arena.
  • How can you simply accept mediocrity like that? Not even three years ago, weren't many of you harping on how the iPhone never benchmarked well? And don't give me the "Android has evolved to a point where performance increases are minimal" rhetoric. You think iOS hasn't done the same? Computing power and efficiency will ALWAYS be important in determining what these phones are capable of. And let's face it, of the five major players in smartphone processing (Apple, Samsung, Huawei, Qualcomm, Mediatek) QC is easily fourth. They have the biggest market share on flagship phones, and can only manage 4th? Unacceptable.
  • "How can you simply accept mediocrity like that"? The same way iPhone fans continually except 3 and 4 year old Apple designs as something new and innovative. The same way you except features that Android has been already doing for years. The same way Apple is able to rape it's customers out of$1000 every year, because there simply is no other iOS alternative. Android users value choice and flexibility, as well as performance. Just as and Samsung, Google, One Plus, LG, Huawei or Motorola owner. :)
  • This isn't about the iPhone, it's about the premise that performance has reached a plateau. Apple has clearly shown that they put in the R&D to create a custom ARM chip worthy of praise. Yet Qualcomm sits ideally by, getting complacent with their Android flagship monopoly, whilst being humiliated by it's primary competitor. I want to turn on my S8 and know I have the most powerful phone on Earth. Why else would I pay $800 for a phone...for icon packs?
  • And I want to turn on my S8 or Pixel or Mate 9 and know that I have the best camera on the market, a screen that is customizable and not stoned faced to look like a million other phones. I want to turn on my phone and get advanced features and powerful screen quality. That's what I'm paying $800 for, not for an app opener that can bore me to tears faster than any other phone. You're mistaken, this IS about the iPhone, because you made it about the iPhone. And just for the record, I haven't heard one person complain about the performance of their Pixel or One Plus which both have a Snapdragon chip. So it's also about software and how it's implemented. That's my opinion, and like I said, I've grown up and decided it's okay for me to abandon spec wars and appreciate a fuller smartphone experience. These phones are faster an more efficient than ever before. I'm not going to freak out over a app opening. 0.5 seconds faster. Lmao
  • 👏👏👏✊...Kiko is 100 percent spot on...
  • Reading the Trusted Reviews article comparing various SoCs and the A10 fusion is ahead on a couple of benchmarks but is beaten by the SD835 in more. Oh, and who says they are fourth? Where did you see that ranking?
  • Quite the opposite, it's usually Android enthusiasts that always clamor for the benchmarks scores, Apple users don't really care.
  • Does it really matter Qualcomm practically has a Monopoly on the mobile SOC anyways. I wish Samsung would push the Exynos chip more to other manufacturers
  • People use benchmarks to try to justify junk Android phones like BLU
  • 👎... At this point, esp with watching all the speed test of iterations against each other (S6 vs S7, Nexus 6p vs Pixel, etc...) I think it's all babble. Let's face it, we're not here for nuance gains, we're here for the next big leap. Something is not working. We need a chip manufacturer who can represent for the Android platform. The only reason why we're stuck with Qualcomm is because they've been around for an awful long time in the mobile space and have proven to be reliable (and a lot of politics that go on behind the scenes, I might add). Reliable doesn't equal innovation, in fact, reliability often impedes innovation. I think Qualcomm got esp scared when it tried to keep up with new tech and produced the 810. Sense, they've been releasing timid performance gains when comparing iterations. Personally I'm tired of seeing the iPhone one up Android devices when it comes to gaming and overall performance. I know a lot of you guys are going to say it's about optimization to one specific device but I say look at the reference device that Qualcomm uses to perfect it's chip. That should be ultra optimized and yet it still can't get pass the iPhone's single core score, so...👎
  • No one cares about Benchmarks, only geeks do, seriously, do you think that 95%of the population cares, LMAO.
  • Most of the population don't even know what a benchmark is. They go to a store, and buy the phone they're friends have or what they like the "look" of, or what company they like. Benchmarks only mean anything to people who know about technology and read about it (or write about it). I am surprised Samsung hasn't put their SoC in their phones. I'm not sure if its because they can't make enough or for another reason. Actually its probably because of a contract they have with Qualcomm and maybe when that runs out they'll start making all their devices with their SoC.
  • Wow. There is so much wrong with everything you said that I don't have the time to even list them all. Your "understanding" of all of this shows how much you don't "understand". Qualcomm is pretty darn terrific at what they do. To a lay person, that may go unnoticed. But if Samsung, an actual manufacturer of SoC's themselves, uses Qualcomm SoC's in many of their phones, that should tell even a lay person something.
  • And add to that they (Samsung) are manufacturing chips for Qualcomm.
  • Samsung uses them because Qualcomm has tied up the Us market with patents preventing Samsung from using it's own SoC's there.
    Why do you think they sell their flagships in the rest of the world with the better Exxynos, maybe because Qualcomm can't pull there bull off in other countries.
  • Benchmarks are like a beauty filter on selfie, it can show u a pretty result, but it can hide an ugly truth.
  • Haven't we outgrown Geekbench? It's a good measure of theoretical performance, but nowadays, doesn't really reflect real-world performance much.
  • I thought the SD835 performed well in an earlier benchmarking article? Has something happened in the meantime?
  • You should never take benchmarks too seriously.
  • Exynos>>>Snapdragon Even though the performance is close enough to not matter, why is it that the Exynos typically kicks ass compared to the Snapdragon? I'm mainly talking about battery life. Longevity is of huge importance. Now, that's real world, worthwhile optimization. Aaaand, yes, I'm fully aware they are co manufactured, all the more's the pity.
  • You answered your own question.
  • Perfectly happy with the performance and battery life of the Snapdragon 625 on my Moto Z Play.... Specs mean squat today more than ever.
  • I stopped looking at benchmarks when I got the Moto X 2013. I loved that phone (except for the camera) and it was much more snappier than the more "powerful" S4 I had at the time.
  • Hardware is good enough as it is. In fact, it's the software that have a tremendous room 4 improvement. I mean, we have apps like subway surfers, angry birds which would run fine on the very basic processors of today. If software catches up, maybe the case 4 more horsepower would mean something.
  • Benchmarks have become pointless to me outside of curiosity, we've hit the point where even low end phones operate smoothly. Mobile just isn't demanding, and from what I can tell the web actually got less CPU demanding now that we've moved away from flash. App and game wise, I've still got my old Note 3 with a Snapdragon 800, still runs everything. However you can tell it doesn't have the UFS storage, not as snappy overall.
  • Car analogy: We can't make the car any faster, but the radio is better, the headlights are halogen, and look at that wood veneer and the chrome accents. Or, We can't make the car any faster, but it gets better fuel economy with cylinder deactivation! This is the stage of "progress" we're in now.
  • It's a monster.