The Snapdragon 855 Phone Roundup: Searching for the Best Implementationsby Andrei Frumusanu on September 5, 2019 8:30 AM EST
Differences in system performance between devices with the same hardware chipset basically boil down to one aspect: software. When a vendor starts developing a new phone based on a new chipset, they are supplied by the chipset vendor with a base software package (BSP) containing the boilerplate drivers and Android implementation upon which the vendors can then go and customize and optimize to their liking. This development happens early in a device’s development life-cycle, and different vendors have different approaches as to how they go ahead and further optimize the BSP.
The biggest differences we see between the various devices today simply come down to the matter on when exactly the vendor has forked off their development branch from Qualcomm’s official BSP branch. Even earlier in the year I saw quite a lot differences between various Snapdragon 855 devices such as the Galaxy S10 and the G8, both having different versions of CPU schedulers at different stages of their implementations.
Such differences we also saw earlier in the year where Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 performance preview on the reference devices were running lower performing BSPs than what were found on the Galaxy S10. The question is now which vendors put in the effort to try to optimize the most out of the software stack, and which vendors were content to just leave things as they are.
The writing sub-test is amongst the most important ones in PCMark as it’s the most representative of real-world performance experience of a phone. Here, all the Snapdragon 855 phones perform very well, except for the OPPO Reno.
I have to mention that the phone I’ve reviewed came with the Chinese firmware variant. The OS offered a “Performance” mode, however this mode was quite dishonest as it simply pegged the CPU frequencies to their maximum, instead of serving as a more responsive DVFS mode as found on the performance modes of phones such as from Samsung or Huawei.
The OnePlus 7 Pro lead the pack here in the Photo Editing test which makes use of RenderScript Android API image processing functions, likely due to it’s 90Hz screen which does improve the measured responsiveness of the benchmark.
Interestingly, the RedMagic 3 leads the pack here when it comes to the data manipulation test which is characterised my a mixed thread workloads with a larger single heavy thread, pointing out to better scheduling on the part of the ZTE device and its software.
Finally, in the overall score, the ZTE RedMagic 3 comes at the top alongside the Galaxy S10. It seems that these two devices have the newest and most performance scheduler versions made available by Qualcomm, and why they end up at the top of the pack.
In WebXPRT 3, the S10 and OP7Pro take the top spots, although again slightly behind the Kirin 980 chipset devices from Huawei.
Overall, performance of all the Snapdragon 855 were quite excellent and all phones are among the fastest devices on the market, which should come as no surprise to anyone.
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Babar Javied - Thursday, September 5, 2019 - linkThose are some good questions.... I ask similar questions before making a purchasing decision.
Wardrive86 - Thursday, September 5, 2019 - linkThose are good points about a phone comparison but I believe the point of this article is to compare different implementations of the Snapdragon 855
Macazian - Thursday, September 5, 2019 - linkIt'd be interesting and I would be intrigued if you added the Asus ZenFone 6 S855 for China phones to this list.
Andrei Frumusanu - Thursday, September 5, 2019 - linkI don't have the unit, sorry.
airdrifting - Thursday, September 5, 2019 - linkIt's funny how top of the performing phones in the benchmarks are mostly Huawei devices, yet we couldn't buy them in the US because of puppy politicians with their ulterior motives.
Alistair - Thursday, September 5, 2019 - linkYour carrier might not stock one, but "can't buy one" is a ridiculous thing to say. They are everywhere, offline and online, including Amazon.
IUU - Friday, September 6, 2019 - linkRight now , snapdragon is king, so your lack of huawei does not hinder you from buying some top silicon for your smartphones. Some twists included and some not so well-known corners, snapdragon rules over the a12 as well; if for nothing else , for the hideous software environment called iOS.
The latest anf greatest of Huawei(cough cough kirin 980 )} still struggles to overcome sd 845. You are really not losing much.....
cha0z_ - Monday, September 9, 2019 - linkRules over the A12? :D
SSNSeawolf - Thursday, September 5, 2019 - linkI don't particularly care about the 855, but Andrei's muscular technical expertise always makes for a compelling article worth reading.
patel21 - Thursday, September 5, 2019 - linkQualcomm would have been devastated by reading the review that they funded out of their pockets:
" Apple’s SoCs now power the best-performing devices. "
Also when the performance of your device depends on the software optimization of the vendor, qualcomm would better do something about it.