Qualcomm, Apple, Samsung: whose chip is best?

By Harry Menear
With the mid-cycle launch of Qualcomm's new Snapdragon 965+ 5G, we're taking a look at three of the market's leading chips...

On Wednesday, chip manufacturer Qualcomm announced the launch of its most powerful mobile processor to date: the Snapdragon 865+ 5G Mobile Platform. As the latest generation of mobile chipsets begins to take shape, delivering more power and preparing devices for broadening 5G connectivity, Mobile World is taking a look at three of the leading chips on the market today from some of the world’s biggest competitors. 

Qualcomm: Snapdragon 865+ 5G

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon line is one of the most widely-used in the market, catering to budget and premium smartphone designers. Even Samsung, which devotes considerable resources to developing its own range of chipsets, uses Qualcomm tech in its budget, medium and even some of its premium range devices. 

The follow up to the Snapdragon 865, which was released earlier this year, the 865+ 5G launched on Wednesday, and is a double-down on Qualcomm’s arena of choice this year: 5G. 

The 865+ is designed to deliver increased performance across the board, with a reported 10% increase in CPU Prime Core performance, 10% faster graphics rendering, and even better 5G integration. The idea behind the chip is to create a processor that delivers gaming experiences comparable to PC-titles through mobile devices, while improving connectivity and reducing latency across different regions. 

Qualcomm claims that, with a full arsenal of Snapdragon Elite Gaming premium features, Snapdragon 865 Plus delivers desktop-quality gaming with first-to-mobile features like updateable GPU drivers and desktop forward rendering, ultra-smooth 5G gameplay at lightning speeds of up to 144 fps, and True 10-bit HDR gaming to provide cinematic detail in over a billion shades of color.

“As we work to scale 5G, we continue to invest in our premium tier, 8-series mobile platforms, to push the envelope in terms of performance and power efficiency and deliver the next generation of camera, AI and gaming experiences,” said Alex Katouzian, senior vice president and general manager, mobile, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. “Building upon the success of Snapdragon 865, the new Snapdragon 865 Plus will deliver enhanced performance for the next wave of flagship smartphones.”

ASUS and Lenovo have also announced that two of their upcoming devices will sport the new mid-cycle chip. 

Samsung: Exynos 1000

Despite using Qualcomm chips in some of its phones, Korean tech giant Samsung’s own chipsets are every bit as competitive in terms of performance. Samsung’s current chip, the Exynos 990 was also released earlier this year and benchmarks a little lower than the current generation of Snapdragons, and dramatically below Apple’s flagship processors (but more on that in a moment). Unfortunately, devices powered by the 990 have been plagued by overheating, poor autofocus and other issues. WCCF Tech found that “this issue occurs with the Exynos 990 version of the [Samsung] flagship, and not with the Snapdragon 865 variant.” Hardly acceptable for a chip powering phones that routinely cost more than $1,000. 

All that could be about to change, however. There’s good reason to suspect that Samsung’s next generation of chip, the Exynos 1000 (which is rumoured to beat the Snapdragon 865 in several benchmarking tests) has been rebuilt from the ground up to address the issues with the 990, and will replace Qualcomm’s tech in future generations, in part due to rumours that the next generation of Snapdragon will have an extra $100 tacked onto its price tag. 

Apple: A13 Bionic

While Qualcomm, Samsung and other leading chip-makers slug it out, Apple has been quietly dominating the mobile processing scene for a couple of years now. At first glance, this fact seems distinctly odd: Apple devices are traditionally thought of as slick fashion accessories, not high-powered processing monsters. And yet, over the last couple of years, that’s exactly what they’ve become. 

Today, Apple’s budget iPhone SE uses an A13 Bionic which, according to Android Central, “outperforms the Snapdragon 865 in almost every way.” In operation since 2019, the A13 was built with a focus on machine learning, with a dedicated 8-core Neural Engine capable of 5trn operations per second, two Machine Learning Accelerators on the CPU and a new Machine Learning Controller to balance performance and efficiency. 

Basically, the fluidity and power that the A13 brings to the table outstrips anything that the Android side of the market has to compete with, but whether this chip - along with the recent launch of the Apple SE, which finally brings a current-gen iPhone into an affordable price bracket - can tempt customers away from Android devices remains to be seen. Actually, I’m a lifelong android (and Nokia brick) user, and I’m almost a little tempted. 


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