Yearly upgrades to smartphone silicon have made 5-10% increments in performance a common thing, more so, with chipsets found in Android flagships. But this year, with a shift to the 5nm fabrication process, each SOC-maker — Apple, Qualcomm, and Samsung — claimed performance improvements upwards of 15%.
With 5G no longer being a differentiator amongst flagships, in this article, we will compare Apple’s A14 Bionic chipset against Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 and Samsung’s Exynos 2100 to see how these new processors differ from each other.
As mentioned earlier, all three SoC’s implement a 5nm fabrication process, allowing OEMs to extract more performance while improving efficiency. Both Snapdragon 888 and Exynos 2100 feature eight-core processors while the A14 has a six-core configuration.
The Snapdragon and Exynos architecture, utilises one Cortex X1, three Cortex A78 and four Cortex A55 cores. In the Snapdragon, the elements clock at 2.84GHz, 2.42GHz and 1.8GHz, respectively whereas the Exynos clocks them at 2.9GHz, 2.8GHz and 2.2GHz.
Apple’s chip uses, two custom Firestorm high-performance cores clocked at 2.99GHz and four efficiency cores — called Icestorm — clocked at 1.8GHz.
Also read: Snapdragon 888 vs Snapdragon 865+ How far has Qualcomm come?
With the Snapdragon 865 Series, Qualcomm shipped an additional X55 modem which manufacturers had to include for cellular activity on flagship devices but this year the Snapdragon 888 features an integrated modem — X60 5G.
The iPhone 12 implements 5G with help from last year’s X55 5G Modem whereas the Exynos shows support with an integrated modem — the specifics for which are not available.
In terms of performance, the Snapdragon can use its mmWave components to deliver peak download speeds of up to 7.5Gbps. The Exynos 2100 provides the ability to download files at 7.35Gbps on mmWave and 5.1Gbps within the sub-6GHz range.
Apple’s 14 Bionic coupled with Qualcomm’s X55 5G modem can achieve download speeds of up to 4Gbps due to mmWave (only available in the US).
While Apple’s A14 implements WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0, the chips from Qualcomm and Samsung feature support for WiFi 6E and Bluetooth 5,2.
Although the latter options work with these, whether they get implemented is up to the smartphone manufacturer.
This disparity appears in the S21 Series, where the S21 Ultra features WiFi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2, and the S21 and S21 Plus implement Bluetooth 5.0 and WiFi 6 although they use the newer chipsets.
Also read: Samsung Galaxy S21 vs Galaxy S20 series: What’s new and different?
In smartphones available today, the computational role played by Image Signal Processors and AI — in photography — are significant.
The Exynos 2100’s new ISP now supports camera resolutions of up to 200MP and can also process video streams from four different camera sensors at a time. Qualcomm’s chipset also features the ability to take 200MP snaps but only supports up to three video streams at once.
Apart from this, the combination of the ISP and AI components allows the Snapdragon to simultaneously adjust focus, exposure, white balance and run object detection when filming 4K videos. The Exynos 2100 can also perform similar activities — these chipsets can also record 8K footage at 30 frames per second.
While Apple does not list details about its hardware like Qualcomm and Samsung, the iPhone 12 Series can also record multiple camera-streams at once — at least two — via Filmic’s Double Take ap. But its packaged camera application limits it to 4K at 60 frames per second when recording video.
Also read: What is Apple M1’s Unified Memory? How much do you need?
Over the last few years, the focus on Artificial Intelligence has been growing, and the new chips bring with them more progress; though, in terms of raw numbers, Apple does seem to lag behind the competition.
The Hexagon 780 processor on Qualcomm’s chipset can now achieve 26 trillion operations per second. Its integration with their propriety Sensing Hub allows for improved contextual awareness that can help wake a screen — from idle — with higher accuracy and actively look for keyword activations, like “Hey Google.”
Samsung mentions a new tri-core Neural Processing Unit, which also performs 26 trillion operations per second but with the most significant improvements claimed to appear in photography-based scenarios.
With A14, Apple brings a new 16-core Neural Engine which can perform 11 trillion operations per second.
|Category||Apple A14 Bionic||Snapdragon 888||Exynos 2100|
(Firestorm Cores at 2.99GHz, Icestorm Cores at 1.8GHz)
(Cortex X1 at 2.84GHz, triple Cortex A78 at 2.42GHz, quad Cortex A58 at 1.8GHz)
(Cortex X1 at 2.9GHz, triple Cortex A78 at 2.8GHz, quad Cortex A58 at 2.2GHz)
|GPU||Custom 4-core GPU||Adreno 660||Mali-G78 MP14|
|Connectivity||Qualcomm X55 5G Modem; Bluetooth 5.0, WiFI 6||Qualcomm X60 5G Modem; Bluetooth 5.2; WiFi 6E||Custom ISP, Bluetooth 5.2; WiFi 6E|
|Camera||Custom ISP||Qualcomm Spectra 580||Custom ISP|
Also read: Snapdragon 865+ 5G vs 865 5G vs 855+ vs 855