Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 810 processor has only seen service in a limited number of devices but has already come in for much criticism across the industry following reports that the processor overheats. We’ve also seen stories of the HTC One M9, one of the devices that uses the new Snapdragon processor, running extremely hot under benchmarking and this story has been picked up by much of the media. Today’s story is more about one of the next generation Qualcomm Snapdragon processors, the 815, which has been tested and found to run cooler, but first I need to write about the concept of mobile processor temperatures and benchmarking in particular.
There are a few reasons why I am not a great fan of device benchmarks for assessing devices, but the main reason is that they essentially overwork the processor by running it at maximum frequency and voltage. In the case of multicore processors, many benchmarks run all cores at full tilt, even those System on Chips (SoCs) where we’d not ordinarily expect to see all cores plugged in at once such as those based around a big.LITTLE architecture. To explain big.LITTLE, this is whereby a chip has a set of lower powered, high-efficiency cores paired up with a set of high performance, but relatively power hungry cores. Under most circumstances, a limited number of processor cores will be in use – but benchmarking applications are designed to work out all cores at the same time. Most applications are aware of one or two processor cores and so will not put the hardware under so much stress: this means they’ll produce (significantly!) less heat.
Fortunately, benchmarking developers recognize this and point out the fact to customers: results are more an indication than anything else. However, there’s more: when we are looking at different processors and comparing their heat output, the more powerful processor will complete more work in a given period of time and so produces more heat. Benchmarks are more relevant when we compare temperatures during or after running a given task, which we might expect the newer generation processor to complete quicker (and then spend more time cooler). It means that newer generation processors, which are already designed to be more efficient, run cooler than older hardware as they have to work less hard.
With this in mind, the story today concerns a back to back comparison of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 801, 810 and 815. A new internal test organized by Qualcomm shows that compared with its two older cousins, the Snapdragon 815 runs cooler… although we don’t have enough information as to what the exact test was. We do know that the device used for testing purposes consisted of a processor, 3 GB of RAM and a 1080p 5.0-inch display. There were no radios or antennas attached… no surprises here, move along now, move along. Ultimately, we need more information to make more than a casual observation that under one laboratory test, the newer processor ran cooler. Nevertheless, the recent flurry of overheating Snapdragon temperature rumours has reminded us that thermal management is very important when it comes to smartphone design. Our smartphones need to keep their chips cool.
What do you think of Qualcomm’s testing showing the newer processor runs cooler? Would the rumors of the overheating Snapdragon 810 put you off buying a device based around this hardware? Or are you going to wait until the first production devices are released and tested? Let us know in the comments below.