Last month, Google released its 2016 smartphone range of devices: the Google Pixel and the Google Pixel XL. These two devices are similar in many respects and both are based around the Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 chipset with 4 GB of RAM and at least 32 GB of internal storage. The Google Pixel has a 5.0-inch 1080p AMOLED panel whereas the Google Pixel XL uses a higher resolution, larger 5.5-inch QHD AMOLED panel. The Google Pixel devices were the first to be introduced to the North American market based around the Qualcomm Snapdragon 821, but Google decided to underclock the new flagship Snapdragon chipset to a maximum clock speed of 2.15 GHz, the same as the Snapdragon 820's maximum clock speed. Qualcomm rate the chip at up to 2.4 GHz for the two high performance cores, giving a quoted 10% improvement in processor performance compared with the older Snapdragon 820 – which matches the difference in clock speeds.
Given that Google are clocking the Snapdragon 821 at 2.15 GHz, the same speed that most Snapdragon 820 chips are clocked at, we do not expect any material difference in processor speed between the Google Pixel smartphones and the other 2016 flagship devices based around the Snapdragon 820. So when PhoneBuff tested the performance of the Google Pixel XL head to head with the LG V20, which is powered by the 2.15 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 chipset, any differences in running speed are unlikely to be associated with a difference in processor. Instead, we may see differences associated with operating system optimization and memory management – and that's exactly what we see in the YouTube clip below, which shows two laps of both the Google Pixel XL and the LG V20 launching a number of applications and starting a process in a few of them.
For the first lap of the test, the Google Pixel XL outperformed the LG V20 but a small margin, managing a time of 1:36. The LG V20 managed 1:43, so only six seconds behind. What was interesting is that the video encoding and Photoshop tasks showed no difference in time taken between the two models, which is as we would expect given the Pixel XL and LG V20 have a similar processor architecture and clock speed. However, the tester kept going, running through a second lap and here the Google Pixel XL immediately started losing ground. The biggest difference is that the LG V20 kept the games running whereas the Google Pixel XL needed to reload these, and as the test went on so the gap widened. The LG V20 completed the second lap at the 2:27 point with the Google Pixel XL taking another 30 seconds, passing the second lap at the 2:57 point. The key difference here appears to be how aggressive Google's stock Android 7.1 Nougat is when it comes to clearing RAM compared with LG's modifications. It is possible that Google takes a more conservative approach to RAM management in order to conserve battery by closing applications, or it may be that Google's engineers could improve things with further operating system optimizations. It will be interesting to see how the devices fare in six months to see if the Pixel XL has narrowed the gap.