GPU Performance

When we covered the new generation SoCs in our chip-coverage of the Snapdragon 888 and Exynos 2100, GPU performance was an extremely contentious topic there as the new 2021 silicon generation showcased some extremely hot peak power consumption numbers in excess of 8W. These kind of power figures really aren’t sustainable in any phone, and the Snapdragon S21 Ultra really didn’t do well in terms of its throttling, ending up with performance that’s really no better than its predecessor generation in most cases.

I alluded in that piece that the Mi 11 would be a more aggressive device in terms of its thermals, as Xiaomi allows its phones to reach higher peak skin temperatures whereas Samsung seems to have a 42°C maximum target.

Indeed, the new Mi 11 will in routinely reach peak skin temperatures of 50-51°C, but it’s at that stage where we hit an enormous problem with the device: it errors out with an overheating warning.

This is by far not the first time we’ve encountered this issue. I remember the Snapdragon Galaxy S9 encountering it as well as many other Samsung Snapdragon phones, and I’ve seen it happen to many Xiaomi devices as well.

Generally speaking, when this occurs it’s a sign there’s something absolutely wrong with the device and its thermal management. In the past, there’s been indications that these are “optimisations” that are trying to cheat benchmarks, particularly for devices that are targeted at the Chinese market.

In the case of the Mi 11 – I don’t really have any kind of evidence that this behaviour is targeted solely at benchmarks, as I cannot see the device behaving differently with anonymised workloads. Let’s go briefly over the results before I comment more on the real-world device performance:

Basemark GPU 1.2 - Medium 1440p - Off-Screen / Blit GFXBench Aztec Ruins - High - Vulkan/Metal - Off-screen GFXBench Aztec Ruins - Normal - Vulkan/Metal - Off-screen GFXBench Manhattan 3.1 Off-screen GFXBench T-Rex 2.7 Off-screen

As you see, the Mi 11 is able to top the charts in almost every benchmark. Again, the problem with those scores is that they’re not actually truly indefinite “sustained” scores, as the device at some point will simply give off that overheating warning.

Ignore the Benchmarks Here

It’s a very special scenario we’re encountering here where the actual benchmarks absolutely do not line up with the actual performance of the device in real games. Although the Mi 11 will go about and sustain 7-8W in the benchmarks, heating up to silly temperatures, but posting great performance figures, it really doesn’t behave that way in games.

In Genshin Impact, which is one of the most demanding games out there right now, the Mi 11 will start off with great performance and will showcase power consumption of >7W. However after prolonged plays, the device will actually throttle, and power consumption will reduce to the 5W range, and surprisingly, the phone won’t heat up beyond the 44°C range. I’ve seen the GPU operate in the 400MHz range here, which is half of its peak performance, and obviously enough the game also falls down well below the 60fps mark which it might achieve when it’s cool. This indicates, that in real games, the thermal management seems to be working well.

This discrepancy between benchmarks and real games is extremely frustrating for me here as I cannot pin down why exactly it happens. Are the vendors cheating through whitelisting only real games in the thermal management? Whatever the real answer is, the end result of the Mi 11 in gaming is that it’s not drastically different than past Snapdragon 865 devices, or at least only marginally better. This is a case of where I suggest to just ignore the above benchmark numbers – although I’m still publishing them until I see definitive proof of possible malicious behaviour.

System Performance Display Measurement
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  • realbabilu - Thursday, March 11, 2021 - link

    Yes
    Kernel source has been out also but no support yet from lineage
    Reply
  • CrazyElf - Wednesday, March 10, 2021 - link

    There is a Mi 11 Ultra apparently coming too.

    One concern I have is the updates and software. The MIUI software has not been the most stable and I am not sure about how many years of updates this phone will get.

    Samsung recently offered 3 years of Android updates and 4 years of security updates. I'd like to see that be the norm.
    Reply
  • eastcoast_pete - Wednesday, March 10, 2021 - link

    Thanks Andrei! Question, possibly related to the high power draw at basic:Did you have a chance to try it with 5G turned off? In addition to the lower efficiency of the 888 vs the 865,the integrated 5G modem is apparently a bit of a power hog, compounding the already worst power draw of the 888 in Samsung 5 nm over the 865 in TSMC 7. So, how much battery drain does the 5G contribute? Reply
  • hanselltc - Thursday, March 11, 2021 - link

    So there is this long running thing about phones playing games better in power saving mode, and I've seen a few Chinese reviewers highlight that behaviour specifically on Mi 11, pointing out power saving mode somehow reduces GPU throttle. Any plans on testing that? Reply
  • TheForetold1 - Thursday, March 11, 2021 - link

    I also really want to know this. Reply
  • Calin - Thursday, March 11, 2021 - link

    Could you please do picture comparisons to one flagship or high midrange phone from several (like three) generations ago? Reply
  • adelio - Thursday, March 11, 2021 - link

    because of what china is doing internally and also in Hong Kong I am trying to NOT buy anything made in China. Hard because a lot of stuff is.
    But I just do not feel right giving money to China. The way they treat their people is awful and as for Honk Kong. It is not a one party state just like China with pre-elected officials sactioned by China. Neither country has any democratic proccesses left.
    Reply
  • UtMostUR89 - Sunday, March 14, 2021 - link

    Bro, don't be misled by our media. To know what China has done, you have to take a trip. The big cities are no worse than the US's, and it's safe to venture out alone at night. No country is perfect, but when you go to China, you can find out people's lives are so much better than our media reports. Just like, Apple, Lenovo, Huawei, Xiaomi, these technology brands' products are very popular in China, and you can see that most people's material conditions are not bad. Reply
  • Wardrive86 - Thursday, March 11, 2021 - link

    Hopefully LG will do a better job of getting those thermals under control than Samsung or Xiaomi has thus far. Reply
  • flyingpants265 - Thursday, March 11, 2021 - link

    So it's the same as every other phone on the market except it's a Xiaomi, huh? ...No thanks.

    My next phone will have to be an old S20 or LG G8 just due to lack of options. I paid $40 for this G6 so I don't need to pay 1000 bucks for a scam device.
    Reply

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