The Snapdragon 865 SoC: Beating Expectations

We’ve covered the Snapdragon 865 extensively over the last few months, and more recently did a performance preview of the chip on the Galaxy S20 Ultra:

It’s safe to say that Qualcomm managed to beat our expectations in terms of power efficiency improvements. Which is something we’ll go over in more detail in this piece as well.

At the heart of the Snapdragon 865 we find Arm’s newest Cortex-A77 CPU cores. The new microarchitecture is said to bring a 20-25% IPC improvement over its predecessors, and that’s where the new SoC derives most of its performance improvements from, as the clock frequencies of the cores are identical to that of last year’s Snapdragon 855.


Snapdragon 865 CPU Topology

One aspect where Qualcomm did improve the design is in doubling the shared L3 cache of the CPU cluster, going from 2MB to 4MB. Not only does this further improve the performance of the CPUs by allowing for more data to be cached on-chip, but Qualcomm has explained that one of the primary reasons for this was to also improve power efficiency of the SoC by reducing how often the SoC has to access the DRAM, which is a relatively power-expensive operation.

The chip still has a 3MB system level cache that serves the various IP blocks on the SoC – it’s again meant to not only improve performance but also improve power efficiency as it avoids external memory accesses. The memory subsystem here is smart and detects when to bypass this cache when there’s latency-sensitive workloads, and in general we’ll see some massive memory subsystem improvements on the part of the Snapdragon 865 in a later dedicated section.

All the CPUs being in the same cluster and cache hierarchy means that the core-to-core latencies are relatively uniform, only differing based on their frequencies and lower level cache access latencies. It’s not too much of an exciting metric here, but it’s important context to have as we’ll consider the Exynos 990’s CPU topology in just a bit.

Again, we’ve covered the Snapdragon 865 quite extensively in the above linked articles so I recommend reading them again for other details on other parts of the new chip, such as the new ISP, DSP, and GPU details. However, one aspect that’s very defining for the flagship Qualcomm chipset this year is that the company is separating the modem from the SoC – essentially making the SoC just an application processor for this generation.

The external nature of the X55 modem has a few implications: first of all, there’s an additional component on the motherboard which vendors will have to make space for, which means additional cost. Secondly, there’s the big question of how power efficiency will be affected by the external modem. We’ve seen Apple devices perform excellently over the years while never having an integrated modem, and I feel like the Snapdragon 865 and X55 also fall into this classification, as I haven’t seen any major differences in efficiency due to the external nature of the modem.

Design, Continued: An Ultra Mega Phone The Exynos 990 SoC: Last of Custom CPUs
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  • crimson117 - Friday, April 3, 2020 - link

    $1400 is absurd. There's no way they're worth more than twice as much as a brand new S10. Reply
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Friday, April 3, 2020 - link

    Probably one of the reasons Samsung still continues to sell the S10 series. They're really excellent value right now, and you're not missing out on too much. Reply
  • cha0z_ - Monday, April 6, 2020 - link

    You are literally getting just one more year of software support going for s10 series... samsung software support policy is abysmal with less than two years of real support and from there just security. I got both iphone 11 pro max and exynos note 9, if I put aside the cr*ppy 9810 - it will not receive even the oneUI 2.1 as an update, while samsung will soon release it for s10 line. Enough said, note 9 is year and a half old.

    How can you recommend someone 1000 euro or 1400 euro phone if it will be supported for 1.5 years and from there 1.5 more security updates next to apple with 5 years FULL support with major, minor, day one, betas + security update for old iphones like 4s and 5 (2011 and 2012 respectably)?
    Reply
  • goatfajitas - Monday, April 6, 2020 - link

    You do realize the phone doesn't stop working when it doesn't get an OS update right? TBH, neither Android or IOS has added a whole lot in the past few years, its just a yearly cadence of very minor updates and not getting them means almost zero in actual use. Reply
  • Featherinmycap - Monday, April 6, 2020 - link

    I think there have been a lot of added features to IOS in the last 3 years that I use a great deal. Not saying that Android didnt already have some of these features, but for IOS users we got with IOS 11; a file manager (finally), Messages sync with iCloud, screen recording, useful improvements to Siri and ApplePay. IOS12; lots of performance improvements (lots), Screentime, Shortcuts (scripting), CarPlay, Animoji Memoji, Tracking prevention, IOS13; Single Sign on, external storage, Dark Mode, better support for keyboards, trackpads/mice, etc. Reply
  • Famorcan007 - Tuesday, April 7, 2020 - link

    I think it's because Android mostly has offered those features(file manager,screen recording, external storage,support for mice etc.) since way back compared to iOS' slow but steady trickle of features that's why iOS users feel every OS update is huge and significant. I'm using a Note 4(my backup device) right now to comment which doesn't feel too crippled compared to my Android 9 P20 pro. Reply
  • cha0z_ - Tuesday, April 7, 2020 - link

    Let's not find an excuse - software support is software support. Security is security - some of us keep all their personal info on their device (most of us) + bank accounts and whatnot, risking compromise on your phone is not that innocent compared to what was like back in the days. IOS adds rapidly more features for sure compared to android that recently starts to look more and more like IOS (and I personally totally don't like that), but still added some good stuff under the hood and some new features.

    It's not serious to sell 1400 euro phone that is supported for one year and a half. I own exynos note 9 - it's 1.5 years old and already samsung dropped the support, s10 line received oneUI 2.1, note 9 will not. How is that for my 1000 euro phone + double served with that cr*ppy exynos 9810 in it. Now it's in my GF and I am rolling iphone 11 pro max. I prefer android and love oneUI, but I am tired to be a second hand customer.
    Reply
  • s.yu - Tuesday, April 7, 2020 - link

    Don't know what you're talking about. My Note8 just got another update days ago, one that I preferred not to have because each update comes with a risk of bricking the device while potential changes to the UI are not always welcome either. I also got it ~30% off retail a few months after release, such has always been the state of Samsung, at least for S and Note.
    I'm no longer buying Samsung but the main reason is lack of the 3.5mm port, if I have to name another then it's between the questionable choice of telephoto in the smaller variants or the oversized device with a mediocre battery(I regard 5000mah to be mediocre for the size). I still do like the UI but I'm willing to look around.
    Reply
  • Psyside - Tuesday, April 7, 2020 - link

    "It's not serious to sell 1400 euro phone that is supported for one year and a half. I own exynos note 9 - it's 1.5 years old and already samsung dropped the support, s10 line received oneUI 2.1, note 9 will not. How is that for my 1000 euro phone"

    Very easy, with those "very old software features" Samsung can do what MAC can't, and don't get me start it on the utter crap IOS.

    Also don't spin it, Samsung offer 4 (four) years of security updates, so do your research before you type something.
    Reply
  • cha0z_ - Wednesday, April 8, 2020 - link

    fanboy. Security update hahahahah iphone 4s and 5 still receives security updates - 9 years old phone for 4s. What you will say now?
    iphone receive FULL support with MAJOR ios versions, updates, minor updates, BETA versions, DAY ONE as their newest and most expensive phone - for 5-6 years and you are talking about 4 years of security updates roflmao. Samsung released note 9 with android 8 when android 9 was already released from more than a months. Oooo, it's enough time, because you can dev your skin and features on top of the dev previews, especially the later ones that are closer to final (for the more tricky/deeply integrated code) - so no excuse for what they did. Basically they gave me one major update - android 10 as android 9 should had been on the note 9 from the start. Even if we count 2, how is that next to 5-6 versions of ios?

    And before you talk some more fanboy bs that never used recent years iphones - ios brings a lot more in every new versions (adding features that was missing for no reason, like external USB flash support, file browser for the files on the phone, etc) while android 10 brings you what? More lockdown ios style, iphones gestures and pixel device that is a cheap iphone wannabe.

    Because of people like you samsung don't want to change their software support policy. Why should they? It costs money or now you will start with the argument how the phone hardware is not supporting oneUI 2.1 (for the note 9 that is 1.5 years old, but will not receive it most likely ;) ). Or maybe android 11 will be too much for the phone, right? :D

    Also I agree - my note 9 can do more than my iphone 11 pro max, but everything that the phones do both (and that's 99.9% of what you will end up using constantly) - the iphone 11 pro max makes the exynos note 9 look like a total utter joke - faster, smoother with NOT A SINGLE frame drop no matter what you do, gaming is insanely good with surprise - NOT A SINGLE frame drop, battery life is x3 times better, apps have MORE features and runs super smooth and great, speakers destroys the note 9 one, camera too is times better, materials are a lot better too, faceid is super good and fast - feels like I don't have any security on - never failed or gave me any issue. Fun fact, note 9 came with fortnite and recommended as gaming phone for that game. My exynos variant can't run smoothly the game even with 30fps cap medium settings and !1080p! while iphone XS max runs it 60fps high 2688x1242 without a single frame drop. Same goes for the 11 pro max, obviously.

    As for ios - it improves massively and adds more and more missing features/drops restrictions with every version. ios 14 is already known to drop more. I prefer android, because I can do more + I love oneUI, but that doesn't change the fact that in my country I will receive exynos and 1.5 years of decent support. And in the end of the day - I spend my time in apps, not in the settings menu and apps on ios are better, with more features, smoother, a lot of them exclusive to the platform. Can you play dead cells on your android device? No? Yeah, the port is expected around the end of the year, I have it from June 2019. Full blown civilization 6 on your android device? Yeah, will never come, I have it and it's 1:1 port that runs great. Can go on and on and on. If you spend your time tweaking settings, options, UI - good for you, I spend my time in games and apps.
    Reply

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