System Performance

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.

PCMark Work 2.0 - Web Browsing 2.0 PCMark Work 2.0 - Video Editing PCMark Work 2.0 - Writing 2.0

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.

PCMark Work 2.0 - Photo Editing 2.0

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.

PCMark Work 2.0 - Data Manipulation

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.

PCMark Work 2.0 - Performance

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.

Speedometer 2.0 - OS WebView

In the JavaScript web browser benchmarks, we again see a bit of a spread spectrum when it comes to the resulting scores. In Speedometer 2.0 the Galaxy S10 oddly remains as the worst performing device whereas other phones are more closely following the top performance of the Kirin 980.

WebXPRT 3 - OS WebView

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.

Top Devices - China & Gaming Contenders Machine Learning Inference Performance
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  • tuxRoller - Friday, September 6, 2019 - link

    Qualcomm is unusually good in this area.
  • MrCommunistGen - Thursday, September 5, 2019 - link

    Interesting overview. I like that there are a lot of explicit comparisons between devices -- which is admittedly the purpose of a piece like this.

    I know you already do a lot of work for reviews and there's a LOT of data with a roundup with this many devices, but I have a request:
    Battery Capacity Normalized Battery Life.
    It would help illustrate platform efficiency vs battery size.
  • StormyParis - Friday, September 6, 2019 - link

    What about with a case...
  • pse - Friday, September 6, 2019 - link

    Hi, Andrei, excellent article, as usual. One question, perhaps I missed this in the article, but are the figures for the S10+ Snapdragon and Exynos the ones from the original S10 article, or have you retested it with the latest updates?

  • edsib1 - Saturday, September 7, 2019 - link

    It doesnt look like you are using the phones various gamespace modes

    My Oppo Reno 10x Zoom scores like your, but in gamespace mode it gets scores around 25% higher.

    Performance - 10564
    Web Browsing - 8257
    Video Edit - 6429
    Writing - 13638
    Photo - 22386
    Data - 8118
  • antifocus - Sunday, September 8, 2019 - link

    Very nice to see more Chinese manufacturers coverage.
  • tygrus - Monday, September 9, 2019 - link

    I would like to see more user controls to limit performance and allow better battery life. Some games hog CPU & GPU for no reason (static city/castle not fps), if I can force them to 15fps instead of 60fps then may be I can avoid the pocket warmer/fire-starter. Change peak MHz of the big cores or set an average power used over short to long term (30 seconds / 5 minutes / 1 hour). I don't want sudden power saving once battery is <20%. Better option if I can set the aim for 12 hours use at the start of the day and have the device limit power from the beginning. More RAM can enable users to keep more apps & data in memory to avoid the slower app startup cycles. I thought 3GB RAM would be great 4 years ago but that was quickly used up by larger OS updates & larger apps. An older phone had just 8GB storage which was swallowed up OS and a few apps.
    It's frustrating that not all the phones you mention are available in Australia & other countries. Grey imports are possible but do you risk getting a 2nd hand phone with no warranty? OnePlus models and Samsung Galaxy S10e with 8GB RAM are not available in Australia.
  • peevee - Thursday, September 12, 2019 - link

    "Differences in system performance between devices with the same hardware chipset basically boil down to one aspect: software."

    You forgot Flash and RAM choice.
  • peevee - Thursday, September 12, 2019 - link

    "Finally, in the overall score, the ZTE RedMagic 3 comes at the top alongside the Galaxy S10"

    In your list it is S10+. These are very different devices, and you cannot infer the performance of S10 from S10+.
  • peevee - Thursday, September 12, 2019 - link

    GPU "performance" - test after test of OFF SCREEN "performance". Does anybody play off screen? Show the real thing, so everybody would see the real cost of those useless extra-invisible pixels, and real advantage or lack of thereof of "90fps" and "120fps" - COMBINED with the battery life effects of all these!

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