Snapdragon 808

In configuring the G4, LG (and recently Motorola) have broken away from the pack in terms of SoC choice, electing to use Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 808. This makes the G4 the first flagship phone to launch with the 808 as its SoC, and the first phone overall that we have reviewed with the 808 as well.

For those that are unfamiliar with this SoC, I would refer to our previous coverage on the Snapdragon 808. In short, the Snapdragon 808 is effectively a simpler SoC than the Snapdragon 810, with two CPU cores on the big cluster instead of four, a more mature LPDDR3 memory controller, a smaller GPU, and some general reduction in features and complexity in some aspects like the ISP and video encode blocks.

Qualcomm's Snapdragon 810 and 808
  Snapdragon 810 Snapdragon 808
Internal Model Number MSM8994 MSM8992
Manufacturing Process 20nm 20nm
CPU 4 x ARM Cortex A57 + 4 x ARM Cortex A53 (big.LITTLE) 2 x ARM Cortex A57 + 4 x ARM Cortex A53 (big.LITTLE)
ISA 32/64-bit ARMv8-A 32/64-bit ARMv8-A
GPU Adreno 430 Adreno 418
H.265 Decode Yes Yes
H.265 Encode Yes No
Memory Interface 2 x 32-bit LPDDR4-1600 2 x 32-bit LPDDR3-933
Integrated Modem 9x35 core, LTE Category 6/9, DC-HSPA+, DS-DA 9x35 core, LTE Category 6/9, DC-HSPA+, DS-DA
Integrated WiFi - -
eMMC Interface 5.0 5.0
Camera ISP 14-bit dual-ISP 12-bit dual-ISP
Shipping in Devices 1H 2015 1H 2015

Meanwhile to understand why four cores is not immediately better than two cores - and thus why Snapdragon 808 is not as big of a difference from Snapdragon 810 as it may first seem - it's important to understand Amdahl's law, which is pretty simple once you think about it. In short, for a given workload if a certain percentage is inherently single-threaded, no matter how many cores you throw at the problem you will eventually rearch a point where you are solely limited by how fast the single-threaded portion (critical section) of the code will run, and the returns diminish with each core you throw at the problem. It turns out that people in general are really bad at thinking in a parallel manner anyways, so writing code that actually takes advantage of multiple cores is generally difficult and as a result a lot of applications will leave much of the work on a single thread anyways, so the third and fourth cores of a CPU can go relatively unused in some situations.

In the specific case of the Snapdragon 808 and Snapdragon 810, the differences between the SoCs' CPU blocks are definitely bigger than just a case of lopping off cores from a die. As a result the actual power consumed for a single core at a given frequency isn't guaranteed to be the same. There's definitely overhead involved in wiring up additional cores, so product design has to balance core count with core complexity.

System Performance

When it comes to smartphones, there’s a sort of hierarchy of needs when it comes to establishing a great user experience. If you follow this down to the base, the foundation that everything rests upon is the hardware. Within the somewhat nebulous area of hardware, there are a number of key drivers for app performance in the hardware. These areas include the SoC and eMMC/NAND. DRAM is also a key factor, but this is often hard to perceive as so much of a modern PC is designed specifically to hide the relatively high latency and low bandwidth of DRAM.

In order to try and get a holistic view of a smartphone, we run a suite of benchmarks ranging from Javascript/HTML5 browser tests to system API performance benchmarks like PCMark to attempt to get a good feel for whether a smartphone will perform well, in conjunction with subjective performance observations from day to day use.

Kraken 1.1 (Chrome/Safari/IE)

Google Octane v2  (Chrome/Safari/IE)

WebXPRT 2013 (Chrome/Safari/IE)

As we can see here, it looks like the combination of the Snapdragon 808 SoC and some work on LG/Qualcomm's part with optimizations for Chrome produces some pretty stunning results in Kraken and Octane. I suspect at least part of this is better optimization at the SoC level for the Cortex A57 in the Snapdragon 808/general software optimization, and at least partly optimizations designed to improve scores in those benchmarks as performance is noticeably more mixed in WebXPRT 2013. At any rate, web browsing performance is consistently good with the G4 and even intensive sites scroll smoothly.

Basemark OS II 2.0 - Overall

Basemark OS II 2.0 - System

Basemark OS II 2.0 - Memory

Basemark OS II 2.0 - Graphics

Basemark OS II 2.0 - Web

Once again, we see a noticeable performance uplift relative to the Snapdragon 810 devices that we've tested. It seems that LG has made a solid judgment call when they decided to use Snapdragon 808 instead of 810. However, despite this we see that the LG G4 trails behind the Galaxy S6 in terms of performance, which is due to the lower GPU score here which is closer to the Snapdragon 800 than Snapdragon 805.

PCMark - Work Performance Overall

PCMark - Web Browsing

PCMark - Video Playback

PCMark - Writing

PCMark - Photo Editing

Once again, we see that the G4 performs quite strongly in these general purpose benchmarks, which to some extent affirms that more cores aren't necessarily better, as core count alone really fails to describe significant differences between SoCs. With a combination of the Snapdragon 808 SoC and better software optimization, it seems that LG has made a phone that can perform everyday tasks better than Snapdragon 810 devices, although it still falls short when compared to something like the Galaxy S6.

Video Performance System Performance Cont'd and NAND Performance
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  • Fitnesspro - Thursday, July 30, 2015 - link

    Will keep my NEXUS 5 for now. Still under warranty. Will see the nee NEXUS 5, 2015, then decide
  • ThisIsChrisKim - Thursday, July 30, 2015 - link

    Yeah, the touch response isn't as great as I'd like--but it's not horrid (nothing like the OnePlus One). I miss maybe one touch a day.

    The framerate does jank once in a while (usually on websites in Chrome that have horrible overlay ads). I'm thinking about root to install Adaway but am reluctant for losing the 1-year warranty...

    And yeah, the Nexus software experience is definitely superior. But I was done giving up good camera and battery swapping for the software. I'd rather have those two things in the end at the expense of software.

    The great thing is, we have so many choices at competitive prices these days! It's really a blessing.
  • Pissedoffyouth - Friday, July 31, 2015 - link

    Can't you unroot it and then you have warrenty? Or do they have knox like system?
  • jvl - Thursday, July 30, 2015 - link

    I thought the Nexus 5 2015 will use a 820? Is that benchmark-leak-rumor where it crushed all outdated?
  • grayson_carr - Thursday, July 30, 2015 - link

    Some people now think that benchmark is from another LG flagship that is expected to launch this fall.
  • ThisIsChrisKim - Thursday, July 30, 2015 - link

    SD820 seems unlikely to launch in the fall.
  • toyotabedzrock - Thursday, July 30, 2015 - link

    Looking at the performance Google would be disappointed with sales if the Nexus 5 2015 uses the 808.
  • tipoo - Thursday, July 30, 2015 - link

    I like the style of pictures in this and the Apple Watch review Josh!
  • Pissedoffyouth - Thursday, July 30, 2015 - link

    Cheers Josh.

    Looks like this may be my next phone considering no other major phones have a removable battery I can swap with Zerolemon one
  • Drumsticks - Thursday, July 30, 2015 - link

    Thanks for the review! Did Motorola leave you with review units after the press event, so that you're able to start reviewing it now?

    I'll be passing my S6 to my mom likely, and picking up a new phone. Ive had the battery life be way to inconsistent for me (everything from 3-5 hours of screen on time with the same uses). I'll probably get the G4, OP 2, or Moto X. Anandtech reviews make deciding much better :D

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