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DXOmark Measures Phone Cameras

August 3, 2021

Author: Tom R. Halfhill

Smartphone vendors know that a picture can be worth a thousand dollars as well as a thousand words. In the $1,000+ premium tier, phones are rapidly improving their cameras with multiple lenses, larger image sensors, and better processing.

Evaluating these improvements is a challenge. Qualitative reviewers typically photograph various subjects and compare the pictures with those made by other phones. Other reviewers prefer quantitative data, so they photograph test targets to measure parameters such as dynamic range and resolution. DXOmark Image Labs combines both approaches to create its eponymous benchmark, which has become a respected source for smartphone-camera comparisons.

DXOmark’s phone reviews provide numerical scores for the cameras, displays, audio, and batteries. The camera tests evaluate both still-photo and video performance and are impressively thorough. The company says its testers take more than 3,000 photos and 2.5 hours of video for each review. Despite criticism that the scoring method is proprietary, DXOmark ratings have become a de facto standard.

The current high scorer at 143 points is the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, which has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 application processor. Android phones outrank Apple’s best iPhones, and more high-rated phones integrate Snapdragon than any other processor. These rankings are due partly to market forces: most smartphones run the Android OS, and Qualcomm is the leading supplier to phone vendors that don’t make their own processors.

Among the 14 phones to which DXOmark awards the 10 highest scores (including ties), 7 employ a Snapdragon 888 or 865. Although the application processor is just one link in a complex image chain, Snapdragon’s popularity is more than coincidence. It’s worth exploring the DXOmark ratings to explain Qualcomm’s success in the premium tier.

Subscribers can view the full article in the Microprocessor Report.

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