The Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 is the newest high-end SoC to emerge from the house of Qualcomm and one that is expected to make its way to a number of premium flagship smartphones throughout 2018. With the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus likely to be two of the very first smartphones to include the new SoC. As a result there are going to be high expectations on how the 845 performs and not just when compared to the competition but also when compared to its predecessor, the Snapdragon 835.
Recently we were invited to Qualcomm’s HQ in San Diego to take part in an early look at the 845 and its performance based on the use of synthetic benchmarks. As is always the case with benchmarks, the scores do not automatically equate to user performance and in many ways do not measure most of the fundamental aspects of a chipset that matter. Although, they are a metric that can be used to provide some comparative data. The scores below were not provided to us by Qualcomm but were gathered by us when running the benchmarks using a Qualcomm Reference Design (QRD) phone which housed the Snapdragon 845. For comparison measures, the same tests were then run (within 24 hours of the QRD testing) on a Google Pixel 2 XL (Android 8.1.0) and a US version of the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 (Android 7.1.1) - both of which are powered by the current Snapdragon 835 SoC. We were not the only outlet at the event and others were noted getting wildly different scores at times when using different QRD devices - an aspect to keep in mind as it further highlights how these scores should not be taken as definitive measurements.
Qualcomm Reference Design (QRD) phone
Before we get to the numbers here is some background on the QRD phone used for benchmarking. This is a device that looks to showcase the use of the Snapdragon 845 within a form factor that is as close to a smartphone as you can get… as it is a smartphone but one designed for development and testing and not for consumer use. As a result of its purpose the QRD phone is a little thicker and boxier than what consumers will actually end up seeing the 845 included in. As for the QRD phone specs, the display measures in at 5.5-inches and makes use of a 2560 x 1440 resolution. Besides the Snapdragon 845 the QRD phone is powered by 6GB RAM and runs on Android 8.0 (Oreo). A dual rear camera setup consisting of a 12-megapixel and 13-megapixel camera is included, as is a 12-megapixel front-facing camera. Now to the scores.
An AnTuTu score is always a popular metric to quote and so we will start off with this one. According to Qualcomm, the Snapdragon 845 was expected to score a minimum of 265500 with a possible top(ish) score of around 267000. During our testing the 845 scored within this range although in each instance towards the lower end with the first test seeing the 845 score 265613. Interestingly, during the second run the score increased slightly to 265632. By the time the third test was done, however, the SD845 started to show a decrease in AnTuTu performance with the score coming in at 265020. This is a fairly demanding benchmark test and after running the test three times in quick succession a drop in performance is probably to be expected. When comparing the SD845 to the SD835 devices, the SD845 showed significant improvement and consistently - with the Pixel 2 scoring 201032 and the Note 8 scoring 200284.
N.B. Others saw quite fluctuating scores on AnTuTu with their QRD devices and sometimes by as much as 10,000. We did not however with our tests all scoring in excess of 265000.
Another popular benchmark measure is Geekbench and although the scores noted during our testing were relatively in line with what Qualcomm suggested, these were not quite as accurate as the AnTuTu scores. For example, during the three tests both the single-core (S/C) and multi-core (M/C) scores came in slightly under the expected minimums although still within an acceptable margin of error. More importantly, although underscoring, the scores over the three tests were highly consistent. For example, on all three M/C tests the 845 roughly scored 2-percent less than expected. Likewise, on all three tests the SD845 greatly outscored the Pixel 2 and the Note 8. Below you can see the full comparison of scores but to sum up - the lowest S/C score for the 845 was 2411 (vs 1900 for the Pixel 2 and 1863 for the Note 8) and the lowest M/C score was 8089 (vs 6420 for the Pixel 2 and 6202 for the Note 8). Scores which do highlight significant improvements compared to the 835.
The GFXBench 4.0 scores for the SD845 proved to be the most accurate when comparing the actual scores to those provided by Qualcomm. While GFXBench 4.0 offers a wide range of measurements the scores below are specifically related to the Manhattan 3.0, Manhattan 3.1, Car Chase, and T-Rex aspects of the GFXBench tests. All of these tests were conducted using the 1080p and offscreen filters - in line with Qualcomm's suggested values. Results represent FPS and in all instances the SD845 scored either exactly as suggested or slightly higher, and significantly better than the scores for the Pixel 2 and Note 8.
As part of the benchmarking process 3DMark test scores were also collected as these tests provide some insight into the graphics performance of the device. The test used for the SD845 included Slingshot Unlimited 3.0 and 3.1. Qualcomm did not provide minimum total values for these tests and instead provided FPS values for the two graphics tests (32 & 19 for 3.1 and 43 & 28 for 3.0). However, we opted to use the overall scores for comparison. So below you will see one score which represents the full overall score and the second score representing the dedicated graphics score - for both Sling Shot Unlimited 3.1 and Sling Shot Unlimited 3.0.
The following benchmark scores are relevant to Chrome browser benchmarks. Qualcomm provide expected scores and so therefore we ran the same tests quickly to see how in line with those expectations the scores were. However, less prominence was given to these tests due to these being browser benchmarks and some of which are no longer even officially supported. As a result the scores have been included below for additional information purposes. Each benchmark was only tested once on the QRD, as well as on the Pixel 2 and the Note 8.
Kraken (lower is better)
Octane (higher is better)
SunSpider (lower is better)
Jetstream (higher is better)
Overall, and across all the benchmark tests, the Snapdragon 845 performed well and within the expectation range set out by Qualcomm. In some instances - like Geekbench - the level of performance was not quite to the level suggested by Qualcomm although the difference was negligible and within an acceptable margin of error. As mentioned already, these results were taken from one device (although in some instances the tests were performed more than once) and others who were also testing at the same time were getting varied results where sometimes their devices scored better, and at other times worse. Therefore the results here are not designed to be an approximate or even a solid indicator of what performance will be like when the 845 arrives at the consumer level. In either case, and taking into consideration the variable nature of device-to-device differences, as well as minor discrepancies between the suggested and seen benchmark results, what is clear is how well the 845-powered QRD phone performed when compared to the Snapdragon 835-powered Pixel 2 XL and Galaxy Note 8. In every instance not only did the 845 perform better (as would be expected), but it did so convincingly and over repeated tests.
It is also worth keeping in mind that these benchmark tests took place in a back-to-back fashion over the course of a couple of hours. During this time the phone was continuously in use and having a heavy load placed on it. This is even more relevant when taking the AnTuTu results into consideration as that particular benchmark was ran last. Even then, and while others noted some discrepancy between the suggested and seen values, we did not - with the QRD phone performing exactly within Qualcomm’s suggested range.