With a revised graphics unit and faster and newly sorted CPU cores, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 is Qualcomm’s fastest system-on-chip (SoC) to date. The first tests that heise online was able to carry out in the course of the Snapdragon Summit 2022 confirm the leaps in performance mentioned by Qualcomm. However, the new processor does not only lag behind its direct predecessor. The advantage over Apple is also growing in certain disciplines.
A Qualcomm Reference Design (QRD) was available for the benchmarks. This is a smartphone with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 specially developed for tests. With a display resolution of 2400 × 1080 pixels, 12 GB of LPDDR5X RAM and Android 13, the QRD does not have any unusual equipment. However, due to possible unknown optimizations, the measured values cannot necessarily be transferred 1:1 to future series smartphones.
Qualcomm speaks of up to 35 percent higher CPU performance compared to the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1. However, it is unclear which individual measures are responsible for this increase. Because the company has not revealed many technical details. Among other things, it is unclear how large the caches are and what changes there are to the CPU cores compared to ARM’s standard designs.
Qualcomm only named the CPU models and the maximum clock rates. The prime core (ARM Cortex-X3) reaches 3.19 GHz, the four performance cores (two each ARM Cortex-A710 and -A715) 2.8 GHz and the three efficiency cores (ARM Cortex-A510 Refresh) calculate with a maximum of 2 GHz. But not only the maximum clock rate, which is higher in each performance level, and the use of new cores should influence the overall performance. The additional performance core – there were only three in the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 – should also give an additional boost.
In the Geekbench CPU benchmark, the single-core performance of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 is almost 21 percent higher than that of the first generation. Compared to their accelerated new edition Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1, the plus is still almost 14 percent. The lead in multi-core performance is even greater. Compared to the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, the new model calculates 42 percent faster, compared to the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 it is still 25 percent faster.
Compared to Apple, however, Qualcomm’s new mobile processor is again defeated. The Bionic A16 with its total of six CPU cores, which is found in the iPhone 14 Pro (test), among other things, offers 26 percent higher single and 5 percent higher multi-core performance. And even the Bionic A15 only surpasses the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 when using all cores.
Ironically, the most important change with regard to the graphics unit cannot be estimated. Because benchmark programs that can evaluate the ray tracing performance were not available at the time of the test. The performance losses associated with the more realistic calculation of light rays must therefore be shown by later measurements with series smartphones.
Apart from that, Qualcomm speaks of a 25 percent higher graphics performance, and even 30 percent when using the low-level Vulkan graphics API. How these increases come about is unclear. Because Qualcomm does not give any technical data for the Adreno graphics unit.
In the graphics benchmark GFXBench, the performance of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 is around 40 percent higher than its predecessor in all three test scenarios. The Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 is also slower: the new chip trumps it by about 25 percent. Unlike in terms of CPU performance, Qualcomm is clearly ahead of Apple in this area. The lead over the GPU of the Bionic A16 is 27 to 48 percent, depending on the scenario. However, it should be noted that the performance specifications of the three GFXBench tests refer to the display in 1920 × 1080 pixels. Actual performance at native resolution may vary.
The 3DMark suite was available for measuring the system performance. In addition to the CPU and GPU, the main memory also plays a role here. Compared to its predecessor, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 achieved a 50 percent higher rating in the Wildlife Extreme test. Compared to the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1, the plus is still 35 percent. As in the previous year, Apple ends up just behind Qualcomm.
The gains are even clearer when compared to the two-year-old Snapdragon 888. Compared to that, the new processor achieves more than 150 percent better performance.
At least in the adapted test smartphone, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 offers a significantly higher CPU and graphics performance than its predecessor and its accelerated variant. It remains to be seen what will happen to the user. Last but not least, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 has shown that there is a wide range of performance depending on the smartphone. In the end, it is not only the specific equipment in the form of working memory and display resolution that is decisive, but also the adaptation of the software. Temperature management, i.e. cooling, is also important. In the first tests, the performance sometimes dropped by about 5 percent under prolonged full load.
Compared to Apple’s SoC Bionic A16, Qualcomm benefits from a stronger graphics unit. In terms of CPU performance, however, the Snapdragon cannot keep up again. Here, Apple once again benefits from its own core design. Instead, Qualcomm is largely limited to what ARM specifies.
With the MediaTek Dimensity 9200 there is also a big unknown. The processor presented at the beginning of November 2022 uses a different CPU structure and a different graphics unit compared to the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2. According to MediaTek, however, it should outperform its predecessor by around 10 and 30 percent (CPU, GPU). That would land it in the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 range.