Qualcomm's latest flagship mobile processor is the first 5G ready mobile chipset. Apart from that, the Snapdragon 855 carries new Kryo CPU cores, a power efficient 7nm fabrication process, and an upgraded X24 LTE modem. We don't have to wait for long since the new Samsung Galaxy S10 is one of the flagships to house it.
No matter how much we try, we can't help but compare the Snapdragon 855 chipset with Apple A12 Bionic in the iPhones. The slightly older A12 Bionic processor powers most of the 2018 iPhones, including the iPhone XR and the iPhone XS. The A12 Bionic is one of the first mobile processors to be manufactured using the 7nm fabrication process. It delivers a faster graphics performance and an enhanced Neural Engine.
So, we're comparing these two top-tier processors of 2019 (at least for now) to chart out their similarities as well as differences.
The A12 Bionic and the Snapdragon 855 processors are based on the 64-bit microarchitecture and manufactured through the 7nm fabrication process. A smaller process node boosts the overall performance and the power efficiency of the chipset. Well, that's the only similarity between both the processors.
The A12 Bionic adopts a six-core CPU configuration — two Performance cores and four Efficiency cores.
The A12 Bionic only brings a relative bump in performance and not too significant one when compared to the A11 Bionic. So you'll notice that the app launches are a bit faster owing to the smart compute system. Also, A12 Bionic is more power efficient and consumes less power.
Unlike the 6-core CPU implementation of the A12, the Snapdragon 855 has 8-core configuration. Qualcomm has opted for a tri-cluster arrangement, instead of the regular two cluster arrangement.
The Snapdragon 855 sports eight Kryo 845 cores clustered across a single 'Prime' Cortex A76 core clocked at 2.84GHz, three 'Performance' Cortex-A76 cores clocked at 2.42GHz and lastly four 'Efficiency' Cortex-A55 cores clocked at 1.80GHz. These clusters are designed for high performance, high efficiency, improved task-sharing capacities and low latency rates.
In addition to that, the Snapdragon 855's Prime core has a 512KB L2 cache and is coupled with performance core's 256KB L2 caches and the efficiency core's 128KB L2 cache. These L2 Caches work together to push the information way quickly and without any interruptions by acting as a bridge between the processor and the memory.
On the GPU front, the Snapdragon 855 bundles the Adreno 640 GPU which offers a 20 percent boost in gaming graphics and can handle 4K HDR10+ playback. That's what Qualcomm claims.
Well, the benchmark scores may not accurately translate to the real world experience. But at the end of the day, these scores help portray the potential of a chip in numbers. Hence, a peek into the benchmark scores helps gauge the true prowess of a chipset.
As per the folks at Tom's Guide, the Snapdragon 855 scored 3,552 (single-core) points and 11,196 (multi-core) points on Geekbench 4 benchmark tests. On the other hand, the Apple iPhone XS powered by the A12 Bionic clocked 4,701 (single-core) and 11,420 (multi-core) in multi-core on the same benchmark test.
The difference is quite slim in multi-core tests but is significant differences in single-core implementations.
Single-core Geekbench 4 Score
Multi-core Geekbench 4 Score
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Artificial Intelligence or AI plays an integral part in the chipsets of 2018-19. When it comes to the Snapdragon 855, it bundles a 4th generation multi-core AI Engine to power the AI-related tasks. It's worth noting that this engine is a combination of the Hexagon 690 processor, the Kyro CPU, and the Adreno GPU. If we talk numbers, it's capable of handling up to 7 trillion AI operations per second.
The Snapdragon 855's Hexagon 690 DSP is upgraded to handle more complex AI tasks. And combined with a dedicated tensor accelerator, the DSP gives the chipset a threefold gain in machine learning performance.
Among the many advantages of this AI engine, a few notable ones include scene detection, super resolutions in snapshots, face authentication, dual and single-camera bokeh, and text recognition.
Qualcomm's new chipset also supports AI frameworks like Google's TensorFlow, Facebook's Caffe 2, and the Open Neural Network Exchange (ONNX).
As opposed to Qualcomm's 4-core AI engine, Apple bundles an 8-core Neural Engine in its A12 Bionic processor. And it can perform a whopping 5 trillion AI operations per second.
Aside from tasks like face detection or making predictions based on your actions, the key task of this processor is resource allocation (which we mentioned above). It smartly computes where to run algorithms on the GPU, the processor or in the neural engine. At the same time, it can even direct additional processing power where needed.
Plus, there are improvements like faster app launches, learning user habits, and real-time machine learning power. Apple claims that it can run Core ML nine times faster, while at the same time using only a small portion of the resources and battery juice.
The Shutter Game
Today, camera tech and AI walk hand-in-hand. That's because cameras are now tapping into the power of the AI engine for producing images which are rich in details and are crisp as well as sharp.
In the case of the A12 Bionic processor, the neural engine helps to analyze shots in real-time and makes the changes accordingly. Plus, the enhanced ISP brings home minute details to photos. Along with that, the Smart HDR brings in quality dynamic range.
On the other hand, the Snapdragon 855 features the in-house Spectra 380 Image Signal Processor. Qualcomm claims that it is the world's first AI-integrated ISP.
The Snapdragon 855-powered Galaxy S10 Plus
This gives the chip a gain when it comes to hardware depth sensing, object segmentation and object classification in real-time. For instance, your phone will be able to easily replace video or photo backgrounds in real time, among other things.
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The Battle Cry Gets Louder
Apart from the key differences above, the Snapdragon 855's main advantage is that it is 5G ready and one of the most noticeable upgrades will be the bump in speed. It also features the Snapdragon X24 LTE that can enable download speed up to 2Gbps and upload speed up to 316 Mbps. Plus, it also features the new Elite gaming mode to improve the overall gaming experience.
When it comes to the performance, both are almost at par, with the A12 Bionic taking the lead in single core performance. But when it comes to being a future-ready chipset, the 855 fights hard for the top spot. Hopefully, the next generation Apple chipsets will challenge the Snapdragon 855 and bridge the gap.
Next up: Intrigued by the new Samsung Exynos 9820 processor in the Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus? Read about the chipset's features in detail from the link below.