End of Denial: Yet Another SD810 Phone with Issues?
From very early on, Android fans were concerned about the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810. Early rumors didn’t favor the chipset, but then they were just that – rumors. Then the G Flex 2 came out, and surprise-surprise: performance was sub-par. LG was quick to dismiss this as a software issue. The M9 rekindled the doubts when it was shown to overheat during intense benchmarking.
This, too, was dismissed as a software issue, and a firmware revision “fixed” the problem by putting a severe cap on CPU frequencies which directly affected real-world performance. But the story does not stop there…
Other developers were locked into the Snapdragon 810, presumably due to development times. The Xperia Z4 and Xiaomi Mi Note Pro are flagships with the same fiery dragon heart, and both of the companies behind these were reported to be fixing it. Sony was allegedly battling the Snapdragon 810’s heat, as was Xiaomi which recently disclosed that they had applied 5 different patents to try and tame the dragon. Xiaomi claimed that they did indeed succeed, and that they not only managed to keep the heat down, but also (and consequently) significantly improve performance.
The main issue we see at XDA is not the Snapdragon 810 itself, but the amount of misinformation surrounding this particular chipset. Another worrisome aspect is the fact that many websites – from Android blogs to business sites – try their best to mitigate these issues, hide them or dismiss them. The biggest problem comes when said sites take comments at face-value, like those of VP of Marketing Tim McDonough who adamantly defended the chip from criticism. As a marketer, that is his job. Our job at the XDA Portal is putting things into context to inform our users, and find the real truth in the process every now and then. We dismantled McDonough’s arguments and refuted them, but sadly the blogosphere at large didn’t do the same.
Now, the Snapdragon 810 publicly appeared again, this time in the allegedly “fixed” Mi Note Pro. Was the dragon really tamed? One would think it is too early to say (and it certainly is to conclude), but early reports paint a rather grim picture of the situation. Users in social media and the Xiaomi forums are claiming all sorts of incidents related to heat: high temperatures while charging and gaming, faulty displays and there are even mentions of components that simply stop functioning for good. Xiaomi investigated some of these issues and even replaced a particularly controversial unit. They contacted Gizmochina and said the following:
1. On May 13, we’ve given the user a new Mi Note Pro and he has expressed satisfaction with the replacement.
2. The technicians that first encountered the faulty unit have verified that the mainboard was NOT burnt.
3. The unit is currently in transit to Xiaomi’s Beijing office where our engineers will investigate why it cannot be turned on.
Xiaomi is very dedicated to their fanbase, and it is hard for us to believe that they would release a phone with these kind of issues – particularly the Pro version of a flagship. We do not know just how limited the scope of these incidents are, but to see such an awaited flagship be met with such controversy over what we can reasonably infer is the Snapdragon 810 is rather heatbreaking. But the most heartbreaking part about this is that many journalists are still afraid of pointing fingers at OEMs and Qualcomm. And while commercial devices do not show overheating per se, they suffer the constraints needed to reduce or eliminate it. There were overheating issues with the chipset, and there are still. The chinese giant itself had an administrator recognise these SD810 issues in a statement:
How do we work on the heating system of Mi Note pro, with a super slim body of 6.95 mm? To solve the heating issue of Snapdragon 810. Our engineers optimized the phone structure to dissipate the heat more evenly. Heat conductivity of CPU has been lifted and 4 graphite cooling fins are inserted inside, one of them being double-layered. Playing games for 20 minutes? The temperature on the back is 36.3℃, lower than that of human body. Xiaomi has applied for 5 heat conductivity patents.
So why are some sites like still referencing McDonough’s comments, and claiming that it might not be the actual Snapdragon 810’s physical construction that causes issues in both pre-release and commercial devices? They keep hinting that a software update will save the phone as seen in the M9 and G Flex 2, which made plenty of users feel like these two were unfinished phones. The fact that we are still talking about this problem 5 months and a half into 2015 and that the same problems still show up over and over while apologists deny it with arguments that can’t hold under scrutiny is rather embarrassing.
Even early reviews show that the Mi Note Pro (or at the very least certain units) gets hot (46°C after less than 15 minutes of gameplay) and throttles itself. A software update might fix these issues, and they might not even be as widespread or significant as before (time will tell), but it is about time the blogosphere as a whole starts, at the very least, looking at this situation a little more critically. I would wager that many journalists do not believe what they are writing when they defend the chip, because at this point it is rather nonsensical to buy into Qualcomm’s marketing fairytale without a significantly compelling explanation, which we still don’t have.
The Snapdragon 810 might have condemned an entire cycle of phones. HTC’s sales plummeted last month and analysts were quick to mention the Snapdragon 810 as a possible cause. It’s time to end unreasonable denial and apologia in the blogosphere, because it directly affects trusting consumers. Journalism must be skeptic, critical, and above all fair to everyone – especially the receivers. There is only one final thing to say here which I think summarizes some of the issues we see in this industry, and it does not come from any of us at XDA but from the acclaimed critical novelist and journalist George Orwell: