The Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 Delivers a Solid Boost From the Snapdragon 810

By Ashraf

In a previous column, I suggested that although the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 should be quite a nice mobile processor, the claims that the company had been making about the CPU cores that power the chip -- which it markets as Kryo -- might not be what they appear to be on the surface.

Fortunately, thanks to a solid find by Real World Tech forum member that goes by the handle "no," the first potentially representative performance tests of the CPU inside of Qualcomm's upcoming chip are now public.

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Does the CPU stack up? Let's take a closer look.

First, how do we know these results are legitimate?When it comes to leaks, it is always good to question their legitimacy; after all, it probably isn't that hard to get bogus results into a benchmark database. The first thing I did, then, was to try to get a sense of whether the result was truly of the Snapdragon 820.

Here is a screen capture that includes key information of the chip that was tested:

Data source: Geekbench 3 database.

We know that MSM8996 is the part number for the Snapdragon 820, so that's good. The key to determining whether this is a legitimate result is to look at the processor ID. We see here that the CPU core was apparently designed by "ARM implementer 81."

For cores that were designed by ARM Holdings and licensed to others, the implementer number seems to be 65. The implementer number seen in previous Qualcomm processors with Qualcomm-designed CPU cores was 81, so it looks like we have a Qualcomm-designed CPU core here.

And since Qualcomm's previous in-house CPU cores could not deliver anywhere close to the performance that this chip delivers, I am led to believe that this is a genuine Snapdragon 820 result.

OK, but how does it perform?According to the test, the chip delivers a single-core score of 1887 and a multi-core score of 3936. For now, I am going to discount the multi-core score because it looks far too low and is probably not representative of what final, shipping silicon should be able to provide.

The single-core score represents a pretty solid improvement over the ARM Cortex A57 found inside of the Snapdragon 810. The best result that I can find in the Geekbench 3 database of the HTC One M9 (which uses a Snapdragon 810) is a single-core score of 1416, meaning that the Kryo CPU core in the Snapdragon 820 is around 33% faster than the A57 in the Snapdragon 810 (with the latter chip not throttling).

That's about in line with the claims that Qualcomm made in a leaked marketing slide detailing the improvements in the Snapdragon 820 relative to the Snapdragon 810.

It's also worth noting that the Geekbench 3 result for this chip shows that this processor was run on a 32-bit Android operating system. Since 64-bit ARM processors tend to get a solid boost in performance in going from 32-bit mode to 64-bit mode in this test, it's possible that the chip will perform even better when it finally lands in commercially shipping devices during the first half of 2016.

Can Snapdragon 820 help boost Qualcomm's business?Given that the Snapdragon 820 seems to deliver a solid jump in CPU performance, as well as a whole host of non-CPU related bells and whistles, this looks like a really good applications processor for premium smartphones.

It should do a good job staving off competition from MediaTek and other merchant vendors during 2016 but, as I've said in previous articles, what will ultimately make or break the Snapdragon 820 will be whether it wins back a spot in Samsung's flagships or not.

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Ashraf Eassa owns shares of ARM Holdings and Qualcomm. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Qualcomm. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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