Tested: Android’s newest chip shows we probably don’t need premium phones anymore

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Tested: Android’s newest chip shows we probably don’t need premium phones anymore

If you’re spending time poring over Android phone spec sheets when deciding which phone to buy, then you know there are basically two processors to look for: the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon chip—right now, that would be the Snapdragon 865 or slightly faster 865 Plus—and everything else. Smartphone processors move so fast that even the previous flagship processor’s speeds are old news.

That’s changed this year. Along with the high-end Snapdragon 865 that powers flagships like Samsung’s Galaxy S20 and the Snapdragon 865 Plus for even higher-end gaming phones, Qualcomm is also selling the Snapdragon 765 and 765G chips, which raises the middle tier substantially. While mid-range phones have typically run Snapdragon 6 and 7 Series chips, the 765 is a different animal.

lg velvet colors LG

The LG Velvet 5G looks like a premium phone on the outside but isn’t powered by the latest Qualcomm silicon.

For one, it has an integrated 5G modem. For another, it’s significantly cheaper than the 5G-enabled Snapdragon 865, so 765-based phones won’t cost anywhere near four figures. In fact, the first Sanpdragon 765G phone to launch in the U.S. is the LG Velvet and it costs $599, considerably less than the crop of 5G phones from Samsung and Oneplus that launched earlier in the year.

But how does it measure up to those phones? I recently got my hands on the LG Velvet and ran it through a battery of tests and came away very impressed. While it’s still bested by the Snapdragon 865, as it should be, the gap isn’t nearly as wide as the previous mid-range processor, and it could make a phone like the Pixel 3a feel remarkably fast. Let’s dive in.

First, let’s set a baseline. The predecessor to the Snapdragon 765G is the 730, with a 2.2 GHz Kryo 470 Octa-core CPU. It’s a different sort of chip for a much cheaper class of phone (mostly because it doesn’t have 5G), but it’s roughly similar to the 765’s 2.3 GHz Kryo 475 CPU. I don’t own a phone that uses this chip, but a smattering of tests on NotebookCheck gives a good idea of what to expect: 

Snapdragon 730

  • Geekbench 5 Single: 542
  • Geekbench 5 Multi: 1647
  • Speedometer 2.0: 32.8
  • PCMark Work 2.0: 7494

To start my testing, I turned to the LG V60 with a Snapdragon 865 processor to keep it in the family as well as the Galaxy S20 Ultra, which has the same chip but way more RAM (8GB vs 12GB). All phones were updated and restarted, and I ran the same tests as above: Geekbench 5’s CPU tests, PCMark’s Work 2.0 Performance tests, and Browserbench’s Speedometer 2.0 test (over Chrome), which measures the responsiveness of Web applications.

LG V60

  • Geekbench 5 Single: 907
  • Geekbench 5 Multi: 3332
  • PCMark Work 2.0: 10432
  • Speedometer 2.0: 74.1
    galaxy s20 ultra camera bump Christopher Hebert/IDG

Galaxy S20 Ultra

  • Geekbench 5 Single: 893
  • Geekbench 5 Multi: 3156
  • PCMark Work 2.0: 12350
  • Speedometer 2.0: 67.2

Those are really really good scores, as you should expect from phones that cost this much. Even though the V60 is substantially cheaper than the S20 Ultra ($950 vs $1,400), the Snapdragon 865 chip inside both of them performs better than most Android phones you can buy at any price.

asus rog 3 back fan Adam Patrick Murray/IDG

The Asus ROG Phone 3 has so much power, it comes with a clip-on fan to keep it cool.

Next up is the Asus ROG Phone 3, which is the latest decked-out gaming phone with all of the performance bells and whistles, including a slightly faster Snapdragon 856 Plus processor. I had oddly low results from Speedometer 2.0 with this phone so I’m not including them, but overall, the 865 Plus is as advertised: a little faster than the standard 865. Asus also has a battery-sucking performance mode that cranks the chip even higher:

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