Android Headliner: Qualcomm Snapdragon 810: Preview Of A Mobile Processing Monster

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Over the last few weeks, there has been intense speculation surrounding Qualcomm's latest flagship processor, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810. This is the follow up to the widely used 805 and 801 processors and marks the first leap in the Snapdragon range to 64-Bit processing territory. That said, the speculation has not been around the specs of the processor or its capabilities, but instead it's rumored problems. It has been reported that the 810 seems to suffer from overheating and as such Samsung were reportedly dropping the Snapdragon from their latest flagship device, the Samsung Galaxy S6. At least to begin with.

With such talk surrounding the performance of the 810, both manufacturers and future customers alike were probably worried about what to expect, whether to invest and basically what is going on. Yesterday, we saw a couple of reports come down the wire, which showed the performance of the 810 on various benchmarks. The short of those reports was there was nothing major wrong with the processor and certainly no issues of overheating. However, a couple of days ago a report published by AnandTech gave an extremely in-depth analysis of the 810 and a preview of its performance. If you are interested in reading the full analysis then you can do so by clicking the source link below. Be warned though, it's a cool 7 pages of processor talk. That said, we will try and go over a couple of the main points made here.

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First up, AnandTech explained a bit about the 810 and why it might be a game changer. In superficial terms, the 810 is not hugely different to any of the previous processors and instead employs the same octa-core application processor, based on a big.LITTLE framework. This means there are four A53 cores and four A57 cores. Now, the A53 cores are designed to carry the main load of work and make sure (as a baseline) the processor runs smooth. Think of these as the 'workhouse'. In contrast, the A57's are the beef and designed to run with all the tasks which are too much for the A53 cores. This big.LITTLE design ensures that the processor works as efficiently as it can. That said, that has been the norm for smartphone processors for a while now and certainly since processor were designed to utilise in-order and out-of-order events (IOE and OoOE). While big.LITTLE processors make use of IOE and OoOE (the low cores doing the in-order executions while the big cores do the more random order executions), the design by nature is a power eater. They speculatively adjust their behaviour to ensure the correct nodes are processing the correct need. However, this power consumption in generally believed to be a necessary evil for this sort of processing and is the best way to deal with the complex issue.

What makes the 810 different though, is that in spite of using the same structure of the cores in a big.LITTLE layout, they are not designed to run in the 'normal' way. Normal IOE/OoOE distribution is set by what is known as 'Global Task Scheduling' where the decision of 'who to do what' is determined by 'Peer Entry Load Tracking'. This is where the 810 differentiates itself. The problem with peer entry load tracking is that sometimes there can be gaps in the time it takes for these decisions to be made. The 810 employs more of a window-based system where the load is determined based across an averaging of the windows model. In short, the 810 is able to basically juggle the load in a more efficient and timely process. At least this is the belief. By averaging the load across windows, allows the scheduler to allocate processing to where it needs to. The other supposed benefit, is that the scheduling is able to make more informed decisions. For instance, offloading heavy task to low-cores (regardless of whether it is too heavy for those cores) which avoids throttling the big cores. In very short terms, the new 810 can better manage its cores due the employment of this window-based system. The other differences of the 810 compared to what else in on the market is that the 810 employs the Arena 430 GPU. This GPU in itself is supposed to offer a 30% increase in graphics performance. While the 810 also employs the MDM9x35 with support for Cat 9 LTE for the RF, which allows for a greater and wider band capability. Basically, more carrier compatibility, as well as higher upload and download speeds.

In terms of the tests ran by AnandTech, the 810 was pitted against the results of the Snapdragon 805 (running in a Samsung Galaxy Note 4) and also Samsung's own Exynos 5433 processor (also running in a Samsung Galaxy Note 4). If you are wondering what device the 810 was running on, this was the Qualcomm Mobile Development Platform Tablet. There were a huge number of tests performed across all the major benchmarks and you can see all the data findings in the images below. However, to give you a breakdown, it seems the 810 does overall perform (across the board) better than the Exynos and 805 processors, That is to be expected and as such, is not really big news. What is more of a concern, in terms of the actual processor, is how it performs within itself. After all, the apparent issues are what caused the headlines. In respect of this, AnandTech did not find anything wrong with the processor, there were no issues of overheating and the processor performed as expected. That said, the data did reveal some interesting findings. When you take away the fact that overall the 810 performs better than the Exynos or the 805, there did seem to be within-processor inconsistencies. Across the benchmarks, the 810 either scored very high or very low. The highs are to be expected, but the lows not so much. This could mean there does seem to be some form of instability happening somewhere. Although in fairness, this is could also be due to the instrument (the tablet) being used. maybe in a more appropriate and tuned device, the lows would be less low.

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Either way, the overall riding theme from the report was that the 810 does seem to be indeed running fine. There are currently no noticeable issues and it is presumed the processor will only become more stable as time goes on and more devices employ its use. Is it worth using, after reading the report? Yes, it is (on average) faster, better and more efficient than what is already out there. Will it be better, faster and more efficient than whatever ARM, Nvidia, Apple or Samsung bring out in due course? That's another question for another day.

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Editor-in-Chief

John has been writing about and reviewing tech products since 2014 after making the transition from writing about and reviewing airlines. With a background in Psychology, John has a particular interest in the science and future of the industry. Besides adopting the Managing Editor role at AH John also covers much of the news surrounding audio and visual tech, including cord-cutting, the state of Pay-TV, and Android TV. Contact him at [email protected]

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