GPU Performance & Power

We also finished up our GPU testing for the Galaxy S20 Ultra, and are able to showcase the Snapdragon 865’s true power efficiency as well as long-term performance for the first time.

The new Adreno 650 iGPU is a continuation of the architecture that has powered Qualcomm’s last two generations of SoCs. The company is advertising a 25% boost in performance, which we were able to verify in our performance preview of the SoC. What wasn’t very clear back then was the power efficiency of the new chip – again, our figures on the QRD865 weren’t very accurate – so testing out the new chip on an actual commercial device will be a much more representative measurement.

This is also the first time we’re able to showcase the sustained performance figures of the new generation SoC. Qualcomm had put a lot of emphasis on this aspect of the new chip, claiming it’s able to throttle a lot less than some other competing devices in the market. We hadn’t had the time to test this on the QRD865, so the S20 Ultra here will be the first device of 2020 going through this test. As a reminder, sustained performance not only is linked to the power consumption of the SoC, but also the thermal dissipation capabilities of the phone that it’s employed in, as well as the thermal limits imposed by the vendor.

3DMark Sling Shot 3.1 Extreme Unlimited - Physics

Starting off with the 3DMark Physics test, the new chip behaves fantastically, and even manages to perform better than the QRD865. The new Cortex-A77 cores are doing extremely well, and most interestingly, the sustained performance showcased by the unit is also excellent.

3DMark Sling Shot 3.1 Extreme Unlimited - Graphics

The graphics test of 3DMark is more GPU bound – and here again it showcased no throttling. This was a bit odd in the context that I did see more significant throttling in GFXBench…

GFXBench Aztec Ruins - High - Vulkan/Metal - Off-screen

In the Aztec High test, peak performance is identical to what we’ve seen on the QRD865, and sustained performance after a while throttles down by 25%. Although it’s a good showcase, the new Galaxy S20 Ultra here doesn’t fare any better than some of the best Snapdragon 855 devices out there, as well as lagging behind Apple’s iPhones.

GFXBench Aztec High Offscreen Power Efficiency
(System Active Power)
  Mfc. Process FPS Avg. Power
iPhone 11 Pro (A13) Warm N7P 26.14 3.83 6.82 fps/W
iPhone 11 Pro (A13) Cold / Peak N7P 34.00 6.21 5.47 fps/W
Galaxy S20 Ultra (Snapdragon 865) N7P 20.35 3.91 5.19 fps/W
iPhone XS (A12) Warm N7 19.32 3.81 5.07 fps/W
iPhone XS (A12) Cold / Peak N7 26.59 5.56 4.78 fps/W
Mate 30 Pro (Kirin 990 4G) N7 16.50 3.96 4.16 fps/W
Galaxy 10+ (Snapdragon 855) N7 16.17 4.69 3.44 fps/W
Galaxy 10+ (Exynos 9820) 8LPP 15.59 4.80 3.24 fps/W

Doing power measurements on the S20U, we see quite better figures than experienced on the QRD865. Thus, the Snapdragon 865 moves up in the efficiency scoreboard, inching closer to Apple’s A-series chipsets.

What’s interesting to see here is the absolute power figure itself coming in a little under 4W. This is an excellent improvement and reduction compared to the Snapdragon 855 last year, and it means heat generation should be a lot more in check compared to previous generation flagships.

GFXBench Aztec Ruins - Normal - Vulkan/Metal - Off-screen

GFXBench Aztec Normal Offscreen Power Efficiency
(System Active Power)
  Mfc. Process FPS Avg. Power
iPhone 11 Pro (A13) Warm N7P 73.27 4.07 18.00 fps/W
iPhone 11 Pro (A13) Cold / Peak N7P 91.62 6.08 15.06 fps/W
iPhone XS (A12) Warm N7 55.70 3.88 14.35 fps/W
Galaxy S20 Ultra (Snapdragon 865) N7P 54.09 3.91 13.75 fps/W
iPhone XS (A12) Cold / Peak N7 76.00 5.59 13.59 fps/W
Mate 30 Pro (Kirin 990 4G) N7 41.68 4.01 10.39 fps/W
Galaxy 10+ (Snapdragon 855) N7 40.63 4.14 9.81 fps/W
Galaxy 10+ (Exynos 9820) 8LPP 40.18 4.62 8.69 fps/W

The Aztec Normal test also shows excellent absolute peak power figures, and peak performance is where it’s expected to be at. Meanwhile, throttling on the S20 Ultra is again at around -25% of peak performance for sustained scenarios.

GFXBench Manhattan 3.1 Off-screen

GFXBench Manhattan 3.1 Offscreen Power Efficiency
(System Active Power)
  Mfc. Process FPS Avg. Power
iPhone 11 Pro (A13) Warm N7P 100.58 4.21 23.89 fps/W
Galaxy S20 Ultra (Snapdragon 865) N7P 88.93 4.20 21.15 fps/W
iPhone 11 Pro (A13) Cold / Peak N7P 123.54 6.04 20.45 fps/W
iPhone XS (A12) Warm N7 76.51 3.79 20.18 fps/W
iPhone XS (A12) Cold / Peak N7 103.83 5.98 17.36 fps/W
Mate 30 Pro (Kirin 990 4G) N7 75.69 5.04 15.01 fps/W
Galaxy 10+ (Snapdragon 855) N7 70.67 4.88 14.46 fps/W
Galaxy 10+ (Exynos 9820) 8LPP 68.87 5.10 13.48 fps/W
Galaxy S9+ (Snapdragon 845) 10LPP 61.16 5.01 11.99 fps/W
Mate 20 Pro (Kirin 980) N7 54.54 4.57 11.93 fps/W
Galaxy S9 (Exynos 9810) 10LPP 46.04 4.08 11.28 fps/W
Galaxy S8 (Snapdragon 835) 10LPE 38.90 3.79 10.26 fps/W
Galaxy S8 (Exynos 8895) 10LPE 42.49 7.35 5.78 fps/W

In Manhattan 3.1, things are also looking better for the Snapdragon 865. The improved power figures do have it now able to leap the A12 in power efficiency. The sustained performance comes in at 73% of peak performance in our testing conditions.

GFXBench T-Rex 2.7 Off-screen

GFXBench T-Rex Offscreen Power Efficiency
(System Active Power)
  Mfc. Process FPS Avg. Power
iPhone 11 Pro (A13) Warm N7P 289.03 4.78 60.46 fps/W
iPhone 11 Pro (A13) Cold / Peak N7P 328.90 5.93 55.46 fps/W
Galaxy S20 Ultra (Snapdragon 865) N7P 205.37 3.83 53.30 fps/W
iPhone XS (A12) Warm N7 197.80 3.95 50.07 fps/W
iPhone XS (A12) Cold / Peak N7 271.86 6.10 44.56 fps/W
Galaxy 10+ (Snapdragon 855) N7 167.16 4.10 40.70 fps/W
Mate 30 Pro  (Kirin 990 4G) N7 152.27 4.34 35.08 fps/W
Galaxy S9+ (Snapdragon 845) 10LPP 150.40 4.42 34.00 fps/W
Galaxy 10+ (Exynos 9820) 8LPP 166.00 4.96 33.40fps/W
Galaxy S9 (Exynos 9810) 10LPP 141.91 4.34 32.67 fps/W
Galaxy S8 (Snapdragon 835) 10LPE 108.20 3.45 31.31 fps/W
Mate 20 Pro (Kirin 980) N7 135.75 4.64 29.25 fps/W
Galaxy S8 (Exynos 8895) 10LPE 121.00 5.86 20.65 fps/W

Finally, in T-Rex, we’re again seeing a healthy boost in efficiency compared to previous figures, but in terms of sustained performance, the S865 is still largely behind the A13 chips.

Besides the improved power efficiency numbers, we’ve now measured on the Galaxy S20 Ultra, the one thing that I really liked about the new device’s behavior is its thermal behavior. The phone wouldn’t exceed 41-42°C peak skin temperature, remaining only relatively lukewarm no matter the kind of workload you’d throw at it. This is some excellent thermal management and I appreciate this a lot more than having higher performance that leads to the phone getting uncomfortably hot. Samsung deserves some praise here.

Fantastic Performance; Stay Tuned For The Full Review

When it comes to performance, the Galaxy S20 Ultra has so far been an immensely impressive device, easily being the single fastest, most responsive, and most fluid phone I’ve had the pleasure to use, quite far ahead of any second contender. The combination of a 120Hz screen with the new Snapdragon 865 is a match made in heaven, and people prioritizing this aspect of a phone will seemingly not be disappointed in the S20 line-up.

There’s still a lot of work to do until we get the full review finished, notably still waiting on the Exynos variants of the devices. One aspect that I want to make note of right now is that there’s been some concerns in regards to the battery life aspect of the new 120Hz mode of the phones, and I can confirm that in this setting the S20 Ultra showcases worse battery life than the S10+ (-10% in our web test), even though the new unit has a more efficient SoC as well as a 21% bigger battery. Samsung’s implementation of the 120Hz mode comes at quite a large power hit that’s very disappointing in how it behaves, and the device in general seems not quite as efficient even at 60Hz.

I’ll be posting a separate battery preview once I get more battery testing numbers together, and of course we’ll have a full feature review out once all the thorough testing is completed.

Intro & System Performance, CPU Power
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  • dad_at - Sunday, March 15, 2020 - link

    Please, use updated results (PCMark work 2.0) of S10+(exynos) when you compare it to newer devices. I think your data is even android 9(not 10) for S10/S10+ devices. Here's what I get right now on my S10+ (exynos 9820, 12 GB version) updated to the latest official firmware, performance mode:

    web browsing 2.0 my S10+/P: 9174 AT S10+(E9820): 7746
    video editing my S10+/P: 6113 AT S10+(E9820): 5476
    writing 2.0 my S10+/P: 9683 AT S10+(E9820): 9114
    photo editing 2.0 my S10+/P: 20455 AT S10+(E9820): 11019
    data manipulation my S10+/P: 6334 AT S10+(E9820): 5817
    performance my S10+/P: 9321 AT S10+(E9820): 7531

    See how much performance your result is missing? Photo editing 2.0 is almost 50% of its actual value... No point in comparing it with S20 ultra.
  • eek2121 - Friday, March 13, 2020 - link

    I have an iPhone 11 Pro Max and I can tell you without question that the phone has serious thermal throttling issues. As an example, I can play Dota Underlords at a fluid 60 fps until the phone warms up, and then things gradually drop to less than 15 fps. It is a very unpleasant experience.

    Furthermore I am wondering if Apple is doing something to make the A13 appear better then it actually is. Don’t get me wrong, the iPhone 11 Pro Max and the A13 are both fantastic, but there are many odd quirks about both. In non gaming scenarios, the phone performs quite well, and I have no complaints thus far. However, in gaming scenarios the phone gets quite warm and throttles.
  • emn13 - Friday, March 13, 2020 - link

    In essence you'd appreciate lower peak performance if it meant fewer throttling issues? I get the feeling lots of hardware is tends towards the running-too-hot spectrum, perhaps because it benchmarks better.

    The thing is that for really intermittent stuff - UI animation, basically - it might be OK to have an absurdly high power ceiling since it's so short-term. Then again, you'd hope UI animation isn't a heavy load in the first place...
  • eek2121 - Friday, March 13, 2020 - link

    Yes, it seems like the ramp up and throttling are both too aggressive. If the phone were clocked a bit lower, I imagine there wouldn’t be throttling issues at all except in extreme environments. I wish Apple offered a bit more control over this.
  • flyingpants265 - Friday, March 13, 2020 - link

    We should worry about nonsense like "UI animations" AFTER the devices are already fast, which they're not.
  • cha0z_ - Saturday, March 14, 2020 - link

    I play a lot of heavy games on my 11 pro max, including fortnite and never experienced what you describe. From 60 to less than 15? :)
    You are playing only dota underlords? Because there are some games that misbehave like for example magic duels - it drains x3 fortnite high@60fps and heats the phone like no tomorrow. This is literally the only game I ever had issue with and I got around atleast 30 games and 15-20 from them are one of the most demanding on the app store.
  • GeorgiaPortus - Saturday, March 21, 2020 - link

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  • name99 - Friday, March 13, 2020 - link

    3DMark Physics is essentially a test of (number of cores)*(frequency). It's not really a test of the GPU, and the way it tests a CPU is mostly not representative of most code.

    Apple has looked worse on it than any other benchmark since smartphones started for precisely this reason -- Apple ships with fewer cores and frequently clocked lower than Android.
  • id4andrei - Saturday, March 14, 2020 - link

    All benchmarks are ideal scenarios. Real life code never matched the theoretical advantages of DX12 vs DX11 for example. Apple looks worse in this test because it's also about thermals. Apple's high performance SoC's Achilles' heel is throttling under sustained workloads.

    User eek2121 describes above how the mighty pro max drops to unplayable 15fps becacuse it runs too hot.
  • cha0z_ - Saturday, March 14, 2020 - link

    orrr he have a defective device that is misbehaving, or he have a totally f up software that cries for clear reinstall without any backup restores. One user is one user + you can't even prove what he says is true. You can read Andrei's review and see how the pro max behaves when stressed.

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