Qualcomm is bringing at least two new high-end processors to market this year. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 quad-core chip is already available, and powers top-tier devices including the HTC One smartphone and the US version of the Samsung Galaxy S4.
The Snapdragon 800 chip which Qualcomm started showing off in January hasn’t yet made it to market. But as its launch approaches, the chip maker has started inviting journalists to test it out. A number of reporters and bloggers stopped by an event in San Francisco this week to run some benchmarks.
It blows away any other ARM-based chip released for Android devices so far, especially in terms of graphics performance.
There are a few things to keep in mind when looking at these benchmarks though. First, NVIDIA’s Tegra 4 chip isn’t shipping yet, but it should offer similar CPU performance (although early scores suggest it’s a bit slower on the graphics front).
Second, the reference tablets and phones Qualcomm is showing off have 1080p and 720p screens, respectively. Since many real-world devices have higher-resolution screens, the performance can vary (the more pixels, the harder a graphics chip has to work to fill them all).
Benchmarks also don’t always reflect real-world performance, especially across different software platforms. So it’s too early to say whether an Android device with a Snapdragon 800 chip will subjectively feel faster than the latest Apple phone or tablet running iOS.
That said, Qualcomm’s new chip offers some of the strongest CPU performance available today (although it’s not much faster in benchmarks than the Snapdragon 600 or Samsung’s Exynos 5 oca-core or dual-core chips). And in the 3DMark graphics benchmark, it’s nearly twice as fast as the competition.
AnandTech has some of the most thorough test results I’ve seen so far though, and as they point out, in most GLBenchmark tests Apple’s iPhone 5 and iPad 4 actually come out ahead of the Snapdragon 800 reference tablet… but Qualcomm’s new chip still outperforms anything else you’ll find in an existing Android device with an ARM chip. In some GLBenchmark tests, the Snapdragon 800 even outperforms Apple’s latest devices.
All told, the Snapdragon 800 appears to offer some of the highest-performance graphics you’ll find from any ARM-based chip today. On the other hand, you’d still get significantly better performance from the built-in graphics that come with an Intel Ivy Bridge processor.
Since Android tablets with Intel Atom Bay Trail chips (and Ivy Bridge-like graphics) and maybe even Haswell processors are on the horizon, the Snapdragon 800 might not be the champ in the Android graphics space for long.