Smartphone SoC Comparison 2021: Here’s What Snapdragon 888, Exynos 2100 & Co.

The SoC is considered to be the heart of all smartphones and therefore it is surprisingly interesting to take a look at Huawei’s Qualcomm, MediaTek and HiSilicon. Our introduction to SoC basics went so well that we now offer a comparison of current flagship models!

Comparison SoCs include Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888, Samsung’s Exynos 2100, Huawei’s HiSilicon Kirin 9000, MediaTek’s Dimensity 1200, and Apple’s A14 Bionic SoC. It should be noted that the MediaTek Dimensity 1200 SoC, which is currently the most powerful SoC from the Taiwanese chipmaker, is not yet among the best, but it is currently the best that MediaTek has to offer. So yes, we also included the Dimensity 1200 in the comparison.

Flagship SoCs 2021: These are the similarities!

Surprising as it may be, all of the SoCs included in this comparison share a few things in common. One of the reasons for this is that they are all based on the ARM architecture. More specifically, all of the SoCs here are based on a 5nm manufacturing process (except Dimensity 1200, which is based on a 6nm node).

As explained in our SoC guide, moving to smaller fabrication nodes generally equates to faster performance and better power efficiency. And it’s only natural that the flagship SoCs in question feature the latest advancements in SoC core design.

NextOnePlus 9 Pit Camera

One of the most popular flagship smartphones of 2021, the OnePlus 9 Pro is based on Qualcomm Snapdragon 888/ © NextPit

Another thing that all of these SoCs have in common is widespread support for 5G networks. With the exception of the Dimensity 1200, all the other SoCs here offer support for sub-6GHz and mmWave 5G networks. Note that the Apple A14 gets a separate modem from Qualcomm, while all other SoCs already have an integrated modem. However, the end user will hardly notice any difference when it comes to this specific factor, as all devices receiving these SoCs are compatible with most of the 5G networks currently in operation.

Snapdragon 888 vs Exynos 2100 vs HiSilicon Kirin 9000 vs Dimensity 1200 vs Apple A14 Bionic: Specs Comparison

Flagship Smartphone SoC Comparison – 2021

The best SoCs for smartphones of 2021

Qualcomm Snapdragon 888

samsung exynos 2100

HiSilicon Kirin 9000

MediaTek Dimension 1200

Apple A14 Bionic

CPU details

Eight cores

1 Cortex-X1 at 2.84GHz
3 Cortex-A78 @ 2.4GHz
4 Cortex-A55 @ 1.8GHz

Eight cores

1 Cortex-X1 at 2.9GHz
3 Cortex-A78 @ 2.8GHz
4 Cortex-A55 @ 2.2GHz

Eight cores

1 Cortex-A77 at 3.13GHz
3 Cortex-A77 @ 2.54GHz
4 Cortex-A55 @ 2.05GHz

Eight cores

1 Cortex-A78 at 3GHz
3 Cortex-A78 @ 2.6GHz
4 Cortex-A55 @ 2GHz

hex core

2 firestorm (large cores)
4 ice storm (small cores)
Apple’s own design

CPU cache (L2) 1x1024KB
3x512KB
4X128KB
1x512KB
3x512KB
4x64KB
N/A 1x512KB
3x256KB
4x64KB
N/A
Manufacturing process (nm) 5nm 5nm 5nm 6nm 5nm
GPU (graphics) adreno 660 Mali-G78 (14 cores) Mali-G78 (24 cores) Mali-G77 (9 cores) Apple-owned core
Supported RAM Type LPDDR5/LPDDR4X LPDDR5 LPDDR5/LPDDR4X LPDDR4X LPDDR4X
modem Integrated Snapdragon X60 Integrated Exynos 5123 Integrated balloon 5000 Helio M70 5G integrated Snapdragon X55 external
Benchmark Results Antutu: ~700,000 AnTuTu: ~680,000 AnTuTu: ~650,000 N/A AnTuTu: ~640,000

As you can see from the table above, at first glance the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 and the Samsung Exynos 2100 seem to be more closely related than the others. Both SoCs have a nearly identical CPU core configuration, the only differences being in clock speeds and cache configurations.

Well, this didn’t happen purely by accident. It turns out that both Samsung and Qualcomm participate in ARM’s exclusive CxC (Cortex-X Custom) program. This program allows participants to work closely with ARM to develop custom CPUs that offer better overall performance compared to the company’s generic Cortex-A7X series CPUs. The CxC program is suspected to be the reason Samsung is moving away from its own custom cores (Mongoose) in its flagship SoCs for 2021, at least for now.

CXC1 blog image

Snapdragon 888 and Exynos 2100 feature ARM Cortex-X1 performance core / © ARM

The first CPU core to come out of the CxC program is the Cortex X1, and that’s what’s used in both the Exynos 2100 and Snapdragon 888. The thing about the CxC program is that access to CPU cores from Final production coming out of this program is limited to companies that agree to be part of the program. And as of now, those companies are Samsung and Qualcomm. So, at least for the time being, it appears that both MediaTek and HiSilicon are not part of the CxC program and therefore will not have access to the Cortex X1 core either. These companies will have to settle for generic Cortex-A77/78 cores for their performance cores for the same reason, at least for now.

Flagship SoCs 2021: these are the current trends

As already stated, the Snapdragon 888 and the Exynos 2100 have nearly identical CPU cores. However, you will also notice that in the case of Exynos, almost all cores are clocked higher. However, to Qualcomm’s credit, it is noted that the 888 has more L2 cache to offer than the Exynos 2100.

As for the Kirin 9000, its performance core includes four Cortex-A77 cores, one of them with a much higher clock speed (3.13 GHz) compared to the other three A77 cores (clocked at 2.54 GHz). GHz). The MediaTek Dimensity 1200 SoC has a similar setup with a 3GHz Cortex-A78 core and three other 2.6GHz A78 cores. Apple’s main performance core is clocked at nearly 3GHz, while the rest of the CPUs drops to 2.8 GHz.

Dimension 1200

The MediaTek Dimensity 1200 still has a lot of catching up to do. / © MediaTek

The key takeaway from this is the fact that while Apple has had a comfortable lead over Android-focused SoCs for some time, the move to the X1 core certainly helps the Android camp fill some of that gap.

GPU performance improvements across the board

Another area where most Android-focused CPUs show significant performance gains is in graphics performance. While the GPU performance increase in the A14 Bionic was only 8 percent over the A13 Bionic, the Android camp has been busy announcing double-digit gains in that department. It also means that Android devices are now closer to iPhones in terms of pure graphics performance.

apple iphone12 iphone12pro ipadair availability singapore 04 10222020 big.jpg.large

The Apple A14 Bionic still has an edge over most Android-focused ARM-based SoCs, but the gap is the smallest it’s ever been. / © Apple

With its 14-core Mali-G78 GPU, Samsung claims a 40 percent improvement in graphics performance compared to the 11-core Mali-G77 GPU in last year’s Exynos 990. Similarly, Qualcomm claims that its Adreno 680 has a 35 percent performance boost over the Adreno 650 we saw in the Snapdragon 865. Huawei claims that its 24-core Mali G78 GPU offers a staggering 52 percent performance boost. cent over the Adreno 650 in the Qualcomm SD865 from 2020. However, the elephant in the room is MediaTek, which barely saw noticeable improvements in graphics performance with Dimensity 1200. In fact, it uses the same Mali G77 GPU that the year’s predecessors used past. Not good, MediaTek!

AI performance

While it’s not easy for us to compare AI and machine learning capabilities, we generally tend to stick to the numbers provided by manufacturers. Manufacturers use TOPS (trillion operations per second) to advertise AI performance, and if we go by those numbers, SoCs have shown a consistent 70% increase in AI performance. Here’s a quick rundown of how AI performance is improving from one generation to the next.

  • Apple A13 to Apple A14 – 6 TOPS to 11 TOPS
  • Exynos 990 to Exynos 2100 – 15 TOPS to 26 TOPS
  • Snapdragon 865 to Snapdragon 888 – 15 TOPS to 26 TOPS

While we may not be able to make full sense of these numbers, we can agree that all 2021 flagships offer notable leaps in AI performance compared to previous generations. Once again, we have very little data on the MediaTek SoCs in this regard.

Smartphones based on the flagship SoCs of 2021

This is a rough list of popular smartphones based on the flagship SoCs we have talked about so far.

Do you already have a smartphone that uses one of these flagship SoCs? Have you noticed a noticeable improvement in various aspects of your smartphone since the update? Let us know in the comments section below.