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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  • Pedro10alves - Thursday, March 11, 2021 - link

    Nice to see you in my home country Luxembourg. Wonderful pictures Reply
  • SpellingBee889 - Thursday, March 11, 2021 - link

    Our world is you Reply
  • MoePtyan - Friday, March 26, 2021 - link

    Thank you Andrei Frumusanu for the review.
    I am a reader from China and of course a digital fan. I would like to add some explanations to some of the article based on what I have learned.

    The SoC power control strategy is different for real games and benchmark tests. It's because Xiaomi added the " God hidden mode" as a means of global background control of running power in earlier versions of MIUI. The principle of its implementation is to define the SoC temperature threshold and SoC frequency for different Apps, and even control the hardware refresh rate of the screen when different Apps are opened.

    The configuration file of "God Hidden Mode" is sent from the cloud, and the update frequency is 7-15 days as long as the phone is connected to the Internet. You can call *#*#76937#*#* to check the control panel of this profile.The difference between "China server" and "International server" is the configuration for different regions of Apps. I have a positive opinion about the " God Hidden Mode". You can call *#*#76937#*#* to check the control panel of this profile.The difference between "China server" and "International server" is the configuration for different regions of Apps.

    I have a positive opinion about the " God hidden mode " approach, and I am a Genshin Impact player.Due to the presence of the "hidden mode", the X1 big core often runs below 1Ghz while gaming, which results in better sustained performance and temperature threshold performance. Of course, this feature is definitely not meant for benchmarking fraud, but for better longevity and sustained performance.
    Reply
  • MoePtyan - Friday, March 26, 2021 - link

    Incidentally, this profile can be deleted. In the application management of the settings panel, find "Power & Performance" (I'm not sure if this is the name of the international version of MIUI) and clear the application data, and the temperature and frequency profiles of all Apps will be deleted. At this point the phone is not suitable for daily use, the battery life is very bad, often hot, but the performance has been unlocked. Many senior Chinese players will use this method, the phone plus the cooling back clip together. Reply
  • Samrich - Tuesday, June 1, 2021 - link

    1 Reply

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