Following the introduction of the Samsung Exynos 2100 chipset at CES 2021, the list of flagship processors that will power smartphones in 2021 is now complete. Exynos has now become the beating heart of this year’s flagship phones, along with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888, Huawei’s Kieran 9000 and Apple’s A14 Bionic. So let’s see what each chipset has in store for us and our next generation gadgets.
Before we get into the differences, let’s look at the similarities between these chipsets. First of all, all four chipsets will be mass-produced with the new 5nm EUV process. New techniques used in Samsung and TSMC factories make it possible to make smaller transistors than ever before, so we have to wait for higher transistor densities and higher energy efficiency. And all of this will lead to significant improvements in the capabilities, performance and battery life of smartphones.
The second similarity is the move towards the use of integrated 5G modems. With the exception of Apple’s A14 Bionic, flagship smartphones that will arrive in 2021 with one of the remaining three chipsets will feature an integrated modem built into the processor itself. This integration also leads to the benefit of performance, space available for mobile internal components, and energy efficiency. All four chipsets also support networks below 6 GHz and mmWave. Of course, we see significant differences in terms of capabilities, but the next generation smartphones will bring significant benefits in terms of energy efficiency and battery life.
What can we expect from the next generation of performance?
One of the most interesting comparisons that can be made is the processor structure of the Exynos 2100 and Snapdragon 888. Both Samsung and Qualcomm have partnered on the ARM CXC program, which means they have access to the new and very powerful Cortex-X1 kernel. On the other hand, both chipsets use three large Cortex-A78 cores and four smaller Cortex-A55 cores.
But in the meantime, Samsung has moved to a higher clock in its processor cores. This means we should expect a slight advantage of the Exynos 2100 when running everyday applications. Either way, there are more factors than clock speed to measure superiority, and things like cores and system cache also affect performance. Given that Samsung has completely abandoned the customized Mongoose cores this time around, we can expect very close performance and power consumption between Qualcomm’s Exynos 2100 chipset and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888. Early benchmarks show that the Cortex-X1 looks even stronger than the core of Samsung’s previous-generation M5, so Snapdragon will be able to match the Korean version in this respect.
We go to the Huawei Kieran, whose Cortex-A77 cores have an even higher clock speed, which makes it possible to compensate for the shortcomings of using an older kernel. Of course, the Cortex-X1 achieves greater performance by a wide margin in scenarios where only one core is used. Similarly, Apple Firestorm personalized cores appear in highly powerful single-core benchmarks. But other chipsets in the world of multi-core tasks greatly reduce the performance gap, just like we saw in the previous generation.
There are also very ambitious claims when it comes to graphic performance. Samsung claims that thanks to the ARM Mali-G78 14-core GPU, we can expect a 40% improvement in graphics processing on the Exynos 2100, a comparison to last year’s 11-core Mali-G77 GPU. But the processor is still smaller than the Mali-G78 in the Kierin 9000, which has 24 cores. Of course, it should be noted that the performance of Mali processors does not increase in parallel with the number of cores, and it is not the case that we see twice as much graphics processing power than the Exynos 2100. Huawei claims that its GPU could perform 52% better than the 2020 Snapdragon 865 Plus in the GFXBench benchmark. But benchmarks done by third parties do not confirm the accuracy of the issue.
Qualcomm, meanwhile, has promised a 35% improvement in graphics performance over the Snapdragon 865. In theory, this puts Qualcomm’s chipset ahead of the Exynos 2100 and Kierin 9000 in terms of performance in games. But if Samsung has been able to minimize the differences in general performance, this year we will no longer see whether the Galaxy S series Exynos mobile version is better or the Snapdragon version.
Apple’s A14 Bionic also has the slightest graphics improvement over the previous generation, and looks about 8% better than last year’s A13 chip. But in any case, it was superior to Apple, and so the Cupertino-based company in this generation can compete with other chipsets. Regardless of which powerful mobile chipset will be your next, gaming performance on the Android operating system is set to improve dramatically by 2020.
The most prominent trends
These days, performance is just a small factor in the vision of mobile chipsets. The most advanced chipsets with artificial intelligence, extensive imaging capabilities, networking and other essential dimensions are also defined in our smartphones.
Without an in-depth look at the architecture of any system, we can’t talk much about AI performance on each chipset, and the “Trillion Operations Per Second” (TOPS) benchmark we’re talking about these days isn’t exactly an accurate measure of performance. In fact, the question is, what exactly do each of these operations do? But we can actively look at the figures presented and overlook the prospect of improvement in this generation.
Apple Performance A14 chipset brings 11 Tops of AI, which means an 83% improvement over the 6 Tops on the A13. The Exynos 2100 also benefits from a new neural processing unit that has 25 tops of power, which is almost twice as much as the 15 tops of the Exynos 990. The Snapdragon 888 also has 26 tops of artificial intelligence, so we still see a 73% increase over the Snapdragon 865 with 15 tops. Huawei is more ambitious and says that with its new neural processing unit, it has achieved 2.4 times higher performance than the Snapdragon 865 artificial intelligence processing capabilities.
So wherever we go, tech companies are making big claims. The bottom line is that AI-based applications will now run faster than ever. Of course, as long as applications use the right programming interface for each platform. In the meantime, more noticeable changes can be seen in the two fields of imaging and multimedia.
The Exynos 2100 is a leader in this field and comes with an image signal processor that supports a camera resolution of 200 megapixels. On the other hand, this image signal processor can process four cameras simultaneously. You’ll also find support for a 200-megapixel camera or three 25-megapixel cameras at the same time on the Snapdragon 888. Both Samsung and Qualcomm support 8K video at 30 frames per second, but only the Exynos 2100 can play 8K video at 60 frames per second, and Snapdragon is limited to 8K video at 30 frames per second. But we have to wait and see if these features are used in smartphones at all.
Unfortunately, we do not have access to the same information on the A14 Bionic and Kieran 9000 chipsets. But since these chipsets are only available on Apple and Huawei phones, we have to wait and compare the devices directly with each other. But at this point we know that both chipsets have a close relationship between imaging capabilities and artificial intelligence to produce better resolution images.
For example, Huawei combined the image signal processing power and neural processing unit in the Mate 40 family to balance colors on its RYYB image sensor, provide image stabilization, and improve various dimensions of the XD Fusion feature set, including portrait portrait enhancements. , HDR Multi-frame and bokeh crystal in real time in 4K resolution. The iPhone 12’s “Deep Fusion” enhancements also lead to better images in low light conditions, HDR frame composition and better software zoom.
Meanwhile, Samsung has some new tricks up its sleeve. The Exynos 2100 Frame and Multi-Camera (MCFP) processor gathers data from four different cameras to improve zoom and performance in ultra-wide shooting mode. The image signal processor and the AI processor also work seamlessly to improve scene, face and object recognition. Qualcomm offers similar capabilities to the Snapdragon 888, including artificial intelligence autofocus, auto exposure, white light balance, and the ability to detect objects directly from the image signal processor for 4K video. But it is not yet clear which phones equipped with Snapdragon 888 will use these features.
Of course, chipsets are just one factor in imaging, and lenses and sensors are just as important. In 2021, we will definitely see more powerful and smarter cameras in mobile phones, and the list of features will be longer than ever. As such, we should expect a wide range of camera capabilities and structures in the market, and every manufacturer will go for those features that they think are most suitable for their mobile phones. So look forward to another exciting year of mobile photography.
What can we expect from 2021 mobile processors?
Production with a 5-nanometer process and support for 5G networks are the highlights of the 2021 processors. Smaller, more efficient 5nm processors will in themselves bring about the most processing improvements we’ve seen in recent generations, especially in gaming. Similarly, denser chips incorporate more AI, image processing, and networking capabilities. All four chipsets we’ve talked about in this article will keep you up to date in general processing and when running the heaviest apps available.
If you are looking for a mobile phone that you will use for a long time and one eye is on 5G networking, all four chipsets can be great options for this need. But what matters most are the smartphones that will eventually arrive. Apple and Huawei can benefit from a very close relationship between their company’s chipset and mobile design units and get the most out of their components. Samsung is able to do the same to some extent, but usually in the Galaxy family of smartphones, it seeks a balance between the versions equipped with Exynos and Snapdragon. Qualcomm, on the other hand, will help its partners, but it cannot force them to use all the capabilities of the Snapdragon 888 chipset. So the variety of capabilities in smartphones is supposed to be very wide.
Thanks to these four premium chipsets, 2021 will be another great year for smartphones. Also a great year for gamers and people who use multimedia capabilities. The biggest question, however, is whether these chipsets and the capabilities they bring with them will once again drive up the price of smartphones, or whether the use of integrated components has reduced the final cost. Analysis of the iPhone 12 has shown that the transition from a 7-nanometer process to a 5-nanometer process has cost Apple more. But on the other hand, radio parts are now less expensive and can lead to more balance.