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Has Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 865 Caught Up With Apple’s A13 Bionic? Not Really.

It’s comfortable at the top, and Apple’s 2019 releases reflect that much. While the iPhone 11 Pro showcased huge leaps in display, camera and battery performance, the A13 chipset within had uncharacteristically single-digit improvements over its predecessor the A12.

Image: Qualcomm

Anecdotally, Qualcomm’s best chipsets have been about two years behind Apple’s top offerings of the same generation. That’s a significant drawback, since Qualcomm’s flagships power the crème de la crème of the Android world.

The Snapdragon 865 obviously does outperform last year’s Snapdragon 855, but this time, astounding improvements have led to sensational headlines like Android Authority’s “Finally! Snapdragon’s 865’s CPU beats the Apple A13”.

Media preview benchmarks utilising a Snapdragon Reference Device show improvements of around 35% in AnTuTu and Geekbench scores.

While the ARM Cortex-A77 cores on the Snapdragon 865 still lag behind Apple’s Monsoon cores on the A11 Bionic chipset in terms of integer computations, it is able to outperform it in terms of floating point (FP) values.

In layman terms, this means that Qualcomm’s latest offering still lags behind Apple’s 2017 A11 Bionic chipset in some regards.

Qualcomm was eager to mention that the Snapdragon 865 has one more trick up its sleeve: a 25% improvement in sustained GPU performance. However, tests seem to show the Snapdragon 865’s peak performance falling flat of the sustained performance of the A13.

Why The Hype?

Android Authority’s headlines triggered a landslide of follow-up coverage, keen to capitalise on the killer story of how Apple has lost further ground to Android. It’s easy to draw links to how Apple’s stellar camera performance had been trounced by Huawei and Google’s Pixel.

The Pixel 4 XL (L) powered by the Snapdragon 855 and the iPhone 11 Pro Max (R) with the A13 Bionic within. Image: Ian Ling/VR Zone

I believe it’s inevitable that chipset performance will at a certain point reach a plateau where the differences are harder to ascertain – perhaps in the near future should Qualcomm’s future iterations outperform Apple’s silicon team consistently.

It’s also pointless to compare benchmark figures between the twain. Screen resolutions, architectures, user interface differences all add up and render performance comparisons not indicative of real-life experiences.

Mid-tier smartphones in 2019 have been fair performers thus far. Google’s Pixel 3a with its Snapdragon 670 chipset is still very usable, Oppo’s Reno2 is a capable performer.

The main issue isn’t performance, it’s all about the longevity of the internals. While Android manufacturers go head over heels trying to produce a brand-new mid-tier performer each year, the budget iPhone option at the Apple Store is simply the iPhone 8 from 2017.

Ian Ling
Ian is the resident Tech Monkey and Head of Content at VR Zone. His training in Economics and Political Science is at the basis of his love for journalism and storytelling. A photographer by passion, and an audiophile by obsession, Ian is captivated by all forms of tech that makes enthusiasts tick.

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