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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  • ZoZo - Wednesday, March 10, 2021 - link

    Curved edge screen? Next.
  • yankeeDDL - Wednesday, March 10, 2021 - link

    Really? Why? I have an S8 (yes, Samsung S8, 4 years old and counting) with edge screen. It still works perfectly, it is a pleasure to hold and it has some decent edge effects that are actually useful.
    I'd definitely consider another phone with curved edges.
    I look forward to something a tad smaller than this though: 6" for example.
    I hate the fact that on Android if you want the top of the line HW you get it only on huge phones.
  • Wereweeb - Wednesday, March 10, 2021 - link

    Because it's terrible to use and distorts images. It's stupid and should stop existing. I say this as a former S6 Edge user (I didn't buy it, it was handed down to me)
  • theblitz707 - Friday, March 26, 2021 - link

    thats your opinion. i never had a problem with my curves s10+ and quite like it, it makes the screen look more premium and i never felt a distortion problem when watching videos. in fact compared to 11 pro max, that looks like a phone from years ago.
  • inighthawki - Wednesday, March 10, 2021 - link

    Am I the only one who prefers a phone with a flat rectangle for a screen with no curves, notches, or rounded corners cutting off or warping various parts of the display?
  • Wereweeb - Wednesday, March 10, 2021 - link

    Eh, rounded corners makes it easier to hold, and doesn't really compromise images that much. I'll take notches over hidden cameras, but otherwise I also dislike them, and prefer pop-up cameras or a camera between the housing and the display.
  • inighthawki - Thursday, March 11, 2021 - link

    I guess I mean that I'm fine with having a bezel on the top/bottom for that kind of thing. The phone itself can still have some roundedness on the corners. For example right now I use a pixel 2 and love it. I think they could shrink the bezels without sacrificing the screen being a rectangle.

    And while the corners dont really compromise much, it's something that forces software developers to work around. For example, if you're right a game, you now have to query APIs to know how rounded the corners are to ensure you aren't putting text or status icons somewhere the user can't see. Like imagine if your desktop's monitor had rounded corners and it forced Microsoft to update the taskbar so that the start button wasn't flush against the edge. It serves no purpose. You're quite literally just losing functionality. And on a phone it's done for no other reason than the bragging rights of claiming the display is 0.2" larger than the previous generation with zero bezels.
  • inighthawki - Thursday, March 11, 2021 - link

    If you're writing a game*

    Stupid no edit button :(
  • hanselltc - Thursday, March 11, 2021 - link

    minor curved corners are acceptable if it truly helps the phone keep a more handleable shape. if it has a chin and/or a forehead, then it is stupid. other cutouts are all absolutely asinine.
  • MetaCube - Thursday, March 18, 2021 - link

    Rounded corners are great, stop smoking glue

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