Hardware Overview and CPU Performance

Inside the LG G5 is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820, and this is the first time I’ve had proper hands-on time with this SoC to assess its performance, particularly in comparison to the disappointing Snapdragon 810 and also Samsung’s latest Exynos chips.

The Snapdragon 820 comes with four Kryo CPU cores in a two-plus-two configuration: two ‘larger’ cores clocked at 2.15 GHz, and two ‘smaller’ cores clocked at 1.59 GHz. We’ve seen this sort of design with ARM cores before, but this is the first time Qualcomm has used it with their custom cores. It should be noted that the architecture of all four cores is the same, however the larger cores are tuned for higher clock speeds and better performance, whereas the smaller cores are tuned for power efficiency.

On a raw numbers basis, the Snapdragon 820’s CPU cores are clocked slightly higher than the Snapdragon 810’s. However, the move to a 14nm FinFET process, along with improvements in instructions per clock, should make the Snapdragon 820’s CPU more power efficient and faster in general.

The GPU in the Snapdragon 820 is an Adreno 530, which comes with the usual performance improvements thanks to Qualcomm’s unspecified architecture changes. The Adreno 500 series is Qualcomm’s first with unified virtual memory, and it supports APIs including Vulkan and OpenGL ES 3.1 + AEP. In the S820, the GPU is clocked at up to 624 MHz.

The LG G5 comes with 4 GB of LPDDR4 RAM, connected to the Snadpragon 820 through a 64-bit bus providing 29.8 GB/s of bandwidth. There’s also a Hexagon 680 DPS included in the Snapdragon 820 for high efficiency compute tasks like image, audio and video processing. Features like HEVC and VP9 decoding that were introduced with the Snadpragon 810 remain in the Snapdragon 820.

The collection of wireless radios you find in the G5 is pretty typical: Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac with 2x2 MIMO, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC, A-GPS, an FM radio, and up to Category 12/13 LTE through Qualcomm’s X12 modem. The H850 model I received to review packs quad-band GSM, 5-band HSPA+, and 14-band LTE, making it a suitable handset for users around the globe.

As expected, the LG G5 was an extremely fast smartphone to use. Apps load quickly, switching between apps is fast, performing basic tasks is smooth; everything you’d expect from a high-end device. Gaming performance was also excellent thanks to the power of the Adreno 530.

Let’s take a look at how the Snapdragon 820 benchmarks

As expected, the Snapdragon 820 has a significant performance advantage over the Snapdragon 810 (while being less hot and more power efficient). Compared to the best performing Snapdragon 810 device I reviewed, the Sony Xperia Z5, the LG G5 was 31% faster in CPU-limited workloads, and 36% faster overall. This is a great generational speed improvement, especially considering the G5’s 1440p display (the Xperia Z5 is a 1080p handset).

Compared to the Exynos 8890 in the Galaxy S7 Edge, we’re seeing a CPU performance advantage of around 8%, which is a slim but still significant margin considering Qualcomm’s silicon features four cores rather than eight. Overall the LG G5 is 21% faster, when factoring in the performance of the entire system.

Compared to two-year-old Snapdragon 801 handsets like the LG G3, CPU performance is anywhere from 70-90% better. I suspect this might be a large enough difference to entice people to upgrade.

There is still a pair of smartphones on the market with superior CPU performance, and that is the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. The iPhone 6s is around 30% faster in CPU workloads, which gives it a healthy advantage over today’s best Android smartphones. That performance difference will likely only get larger when Apple announces their new devices later this year.