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What Reviewers Are Saying About the Newest Qualcomm Smartphone Chips

February 13, 2018, 3:57 PM UTC

Qualcomm’s newest chip to power smartphones, the Snapdragon 845, is out and reviewers say it should meet the company’s promised performance gains. Consumers should start to get their hands on phones with the 845 starting in a few months, perhaps including Samsung’s Galaxy S9 rumored to be coming out soon.

Qualcomm unveiled the chip in December, promising 20% faster maximum download speeds, 25% faster processing, and 30% faster graphics performance. The new chip also includes improvements for camera image processing and artificial intelligence apps. The company could use a win, as it tries to fend off an unwanted takeover from Broadcom (AVGO) and continues to battle Apple (AAPL) in court over royalty rates.

But while the chip benefits from numerous design improvements, it is still being made at the same 10-nanometer scale as last year’s Snapdragon 835, tech review site Anandtech reports. That means it lacks the dramatic gains in power and efficiency that come when a chip moves to a smaller scale.

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On a web browsing benchmark, a test phone model incorporating the Snapdragon 845 was 20% faster than the Google Pixel 2 XL, which uses last year’s 835 chip, according to Anandtech’s report. On some data and app tests, the new chip was 8% to 14% faster.

On photo editing, however, the 845 was 38% faster. On a Javascript test, the 845 was 37% faster than the nearest Android phones, though it lagged far behind Apple’s latest models, which run in proprietary chips designed by the Cupertino phonemaker. Graphics performance improved by 30% to 50% on benchmark tests.

“Overall the Snapdragon 845’s system performance is a mixed bag,” the review concluded. “We had higher expectations from the new CPU changes, but it seems we’ve only gotten incremental improvements…But with that said, whatever Qualcomm doesn’t quite bring to the table with their CPU, they more than make up on the GPU side of matters. Qualcomm’s new Adreno 630 GPU easily impresses and widens the gap to the nearest competition.”

At CNET, tests showed a similar 25% improvement in computing performance, but reviewers were more wowed, describing the new chip as “insanely fast.”

Android Central also ran the Qualcomm (QCOM) test phone through the paces of various benchmark tests and reported the results. But the site urged readers not to compare the performance to the results from older phones on the tests.

“None of (the benchmark tests) was running in a real-world environment on a phone with extra software and user-generated data,” reported Android Central. “And that’s why these benchmarks no longer give a realistic view of what the Snapdragon 845 will offer consumers when they go to buy a Galaxy S9 or any other flagship in 2018.”