Earlier this week, Qualcomm, whose chips likely power your Android phone, announced its 2020 mobile processor lineup. As they do every year, the silicon developer introduced its flagship SoC that almost every Android powered smartphone manufacturer will slap into their high-end devices throughout the next year. Rather than replace the current Snapdragon 865G with the 875G as expected, next year’s top-end chip is the Snapdragon 888 — likely named after the Chinese lucky number. With the usual incremental improvements to the included Adreno GPU, last year’s announcement had some varied effects on PUBG Mobile. So what can next year’s chipset mean for the game? It all depends on how we can gauge it against the 2020 models.
You might have noticed many of this year’s mid-range handsets didn’t use the Snapdragon 865G at all, instead opting for the cheaper 765G variant to keep costs down. While still a 2020 model built on the same architecture, this budget-friendly chip cut a few corners to keep device prices low. Most of them weren’t directly related to the graphics performance of the Adreno GPU inside, however, meaning gaming performance across the board wasn’t drastically different across mid and high-end handsets released throughout 2020. There’s been no mention of a matching 788 powering next year’s budget-friendly devices, but should it surface, expect a similar story in terms of gaming performance.
During the event, Qualcomm boasted about how its Snapdragon 888 chip would improve gaming performance by up to 35%. That’s a dramatic leap in a single year and apparently the “most significant” upgrade to date. Improvements to touch latency and built-in 5G/WiFi 6 modems mean that not only should this new chip make for the smoothest PUBG Mobile experience yet on an Android phone, it could also be the most responsive. Exactly how much is something we’ll have to wait for final benchmarks to confirm, but if you’re still struggling to hit that 60fps sweet spot, there’s a solid chance any mid/high-end device next year will provide a rock-solid experience.
But benchmarking isn’t as easy as it should be. When the 865G was unveiled last year, it promised to support 90Hz refresh rates out of the box. And it absolutely could, with the existence of $200 90Hz-capable devices being all the ammunition critics needed to scoff at Apple’s 60Hz iPhone 12 release. But it didn’t mean much to the PUBG Mobile gamers who were denied the chance to push beyond the arbitrary 60fps needed to make use of those abundant high refresh rate displays by the game itself. It wasn’t until a few months ago that OnePlus devices gained Android-exclusive support for a 90Hz/FPS mode, but even with that exclusively period having ended already, virtually no other phone out there has been whitelisted to support the same feature, despite having almost identical (if not greater) performance specs on paper. So with the new Snapdragon 888 said to support 144Hz displays, do we risk repeating a year of half-baked promises?
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Qualcomm can boast about the increased performance of the included Adreno 660 GPU as much as they like, but it’s hard to gauge the improvements first-hand. It’s not their fault, but for PUBG Mobile gamers, mentioning 144Hz support truly isn’t worth paying much attention to right now. Not until Tenecnt loosen the rules of PUBG Mobile‘s frame cap options! Without the freedom to unlock frame rates beyond 60fps in-game with the average handset, we can’t properly gauge how the Snapdragon 888 will perform against something like the Snapdragon 765G, meaning anyone on the hunt for a new gaming device can’t make a well-informed decision. What’s the point of spending potentially twice the cash just to have most of your phone’s gaming oomph locked behind a forcibly-imposed archaic frame limiter?
This year’s 765G chips can probably sustain the 90fps needed to feed the abundance of 90Hz-equipped phones. In fact, the OnePlus exclusivity agreement proved that even the 855 chip from 2019 can. Without being given the chance to stretch the wings of this year’s chip, all we can predict of next year’s silicon is that it’ll provide a more consistent 60fps experience. Battery drain should be noticeably better at matching frame rates — and that’s something we can test when the time comes — but that’s about it. Not to dilute Qualcomm’s advancements, but a 35 percent GPU improvement is hard to get excited about when we’ve had no trouble hitting the low ceiling of PUBG Mobile‘s peak performance for a while now. If you main the Battle Royale experience, this isn’t as great an announcement as it could (and should) have been.
Disclaimer: Fanbyte is owned by Tencent, which also runs Tencent Games, developer and publisher of PUBG Mobile. Tencent also subsidizes much of Fanbyte’s PUBG Mobile coverage by covering freelancer budget costs. Those covering PUBG Mobile for the site have no contact with Tencent, however, and are given complete creative control to write whatever they wish.