Xiaomi releases a GPU driver update for its Snapdragon 865 devices on its Chinese app store
When Qualcomm announced the Snapdragon 865 mobile platform back in December, one of the most interesting new “Snapdragon Elite Gaming” features they introduced was updateable GPU drivers. Normally, GPU driver updates are contained within OTA updates sent to users, meaning the user has to wait for an OTA update to roll out before they can get updated drivers. With the Snapdragon 765 and Snapdragon 865, Qualcomm worked to make it possible for OEMs to distribute GPU driver updates through an app store. The first OEM to take advantage of this feature appears to be Xiaomi as the company has released an Adreno 650 GPU driver update on its Chinese app store.
Xiaomi recently uploaded an application called “GPU Driver Updater” on its Chinese app store. The app, with the package name “com.xiaomi.ugd,” is intended to update the Adreno 650 GPU found in the Xiaomi Mi 10, Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro, and Redmi K30 Pro powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 SoC. The update brings optimizations to several games including PUBG Mobile, Fortnite, and Honkai Impact 3rd. Updates to OpenGL ES and Vulkan are also contained within the GPU driver update.
We got our hands on the GPU Driver Updater APK to see what it contains. The APK, as expected, mostly contains updated GPU driver libraries from Qualcomm for the Snapdragon 865 (code-named “kona”.)
We reviewed documentation that details how OEMs are supposed to enable updateable GPU drivers on their devices. In summary, OEMs grab an empty signed pre-release driver APK from Qualcomm, unpack and resign this APK using a unique package name, place the package in /vendor/apps, set a few system properties, add new games to the whitelist, modify the Settings app to include the GPU driver updater in the preference list, and enable the new driver in Game Driver Preferences in Developer Options. We don’t know exactly what the whitelist is for, but it’s possible that only whitelisted packages can work with the updated GPU libraries. Based on what I’ve read, it’s unclear why these updateable GPU drivers can’t be offered by Qualcomm themselves rather than the OEM. Still, it seems that Qualcomm has made it really simple for OEMs to implement, so hopefully, we’ll see more OEMs implement updateable GPU drivers for their Snapdragon 765 and Snapdragon 865 devices.