Clash of the SoCs: Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Vs. Samsung’s Exynos Vs. MediaTek’s MT

Clash of the SoCs: Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Vs. Samsung’s Exynos Vs. MediaTek’s MT

Clash of the SoCs: Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Vs. Samsung’s Exynos Vs. MediaTek’s MT

by February 3, 2018

A cursory glance at the realm of smartphones and mobile computing is enough to realize that the Space age is well and truly here! The ease of use and convenience that smartphones guarantee has got people across the globe hooked to them, with the level of dependence on phones rivalling necessities such as electricity and transport. In such a scenario, smartphone manufacturers have collectively spent several million seeking to fine-tune and improve the smartphone experience.

The element of the smartphone most crucial to smooth and seamless performance is the processor. We have come a long way from the advent of Android smartphones when 256MB of RAM was considered sufficient. In those days, the CPU of the phone was a separate unit, with all the other processing attachments found in auxiliary chips located in the vicinity of the CPU. With smartphones gradually becoming convenient alternatives to several other less portable appliances, an upgrade in processing power and capacity was necessary, which has led to the emergence of several large enterprises with a focus on processor development and manufacturing.

In present-day smartphones, this complex assortment of chips has been replaced by a single chip, called System-on-a-Chip. It generally consists of a central processing unit (CPU), graphics processing unit (GPU), modem, multimedia processor, security device and a signal processor. These chips also contain separate bits of silicon for GPS, NFC, Bluetooth, and camera.

It’s about Core Count

Spec sheets of phones released in the past few years have been dominated by details of the number of cores present in the processor. While this small statistic may not make much sense to the layman, the number of cores, and how they function in correlation to each other is pivotal to the overall performance of the processor. The past year has seen a gradual shift from quad-core processors to octa-core, and in some cases even deca-core processors. Most processors nowadays use the big.LITTLE technology from ARM, which allows different cores to perform different tasks, based on computing power required. This optimizes both phone performance and power consumption.

The premier SoC manufacturers in the present, such as Qualcomm, Samsung, and MediaTek, make use of this technology. The smaller cores take care of seemingly mundane and simple tasks, while the bigger cores kick into action when more complex tasks are being performed.

Finding the Best SoC

All the three above mentioned companies are heavyweights in their own right. They have carved their  niches in today’s cut-throat market, and have redefined innovation and ingenuity consistently with their offerings over the past few years. But choosing the best out of them requires in-depth and detailed analysis. Let’s attempt to do so:

The Reliable Qualcomm’s Snapdragon

Qualcomm is an American Semi-Conductor company, based out of San Diego, California. It is widely regarded as the most reliable and reputed SoC manufacturer in the present market. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processor series has attained legendary status in the realm of processors. There are several factors which set Qualcomm SoCs apart from their competition, most notably the use of superior quality X-series modems and Adreno GPUs, ensuring smoother connectivity and a seamless gaming and content viewing experience. Their flagship processors, the Snapdragon 800 and 801 were considered eons ahead of their time when they were launched, and continue to be used in several smartphones and laptops.

With the launch of their Snapdragon 835 processor, which will power the Samsung S8, Qualcomm is seeking to effectively blow away their competition. A brief glance at the specs sheet shows that their competitors are in for a tough fight to stay relevant!

  • Gigabit mobile internet: – By incorporating the latest X16 LTE modem, the 835 is capable of facilitating downloads at mind-numbing speeds of up to 100MB/sec
  • 4XKRYO 280 – 4XA53 CPU Cores: – The smaller A53 cores are more than capable of carrying out everyday function with little or no strain, and when heavy duty action is required, the larger Kryo cores kick in to ensure effortless performance. Even though the Snapdragon 820/821 were considered butter smooth and power-efficient, the 835 is expected to blow them out of the water, with a whopping 20% increase in performance.
  • Adreno 540 Graphics and VR: – The Snapdragon series has always been heads and shoulders above its competition in terms of the gaming/graphics experience. It owes this to the Adreno GPUs, which are the best in their class by a long margin. The 835 is equipped with the Adreno 540, which is a significant upgrade from the 530 present on the 820/821. The 540 delivers a 20-30% boost compared to its predecessor, ensuring a high level of clarity and detail on-screen. The 540 holds the distinction of being able to push 2K and 4K VR visuals, which no other smartphone GPU has been able to replicate so far
  • Absolute performance beast: – The Snapdragon 835 has lived up to all the pre-release hype, and delivered on all counts. With an Antutu score more than 180000, it rivals and even surpasses the hallowed iPhones in several parameters. The future for Android enthusiasts looks rosy indeed, with offerings such as these available to them!

The Capable MediaTek’s MT

MediaTek are a Taiwanese semi-conductor company, with a large presence in the Chinese smartphone market. Several globally recognized smartphone brands such as Xaiomi, Meizu, Vivo and Oppo boast MediaTekSoCs in several of their devices. The modus operandi of this enterprise has been to provide processing quality on par with global leaders in the market, at a cost that makes it accessible to the general public. And to a large extent, it has been successful. Their products Helio X10 and MT6752 were huge successes, guaranteeing smooth operations and little to no complaints. MediaTek was the first company to release octa-core (MT6592) and Deca-Core (Helio X20) processors.

MediaTek has been unfortunate to get a lot of negative publicity in the recent past, due to several phones running their SoCs facing heating and battery issues. This can be partially attributed to flaws in the phone, as MediaTek supplies to several lesser-known Chinese companies as well.

Comparison of MediaTek’s high-end models with premier models shows that MediaTek is more than capable of producing highly competent SoCs. Their latest offering, the Helio X30, is an attempt to break into the big leagues and stay there, with early indications of its performance looking very promising indeed.

  • Revolutionary architecture: – This deca-core processor promises exemplary performance with power-efficiency. The tri-cluster design comprises of one cluster of 2 big A73 cores, 4 A53 cores, and four small A35 cores. The smaller A35 cores are sufficient to handle all social media and similar everyday tasks, guaranteeing efficiency with minimal battery use. The more powerful cores kick in when called upon to produce brute force processing, capable of handling even the most power hungry and graphic-heavy games.
  • PowerVR 7XT: – MediaTek has used the same GPU used in Apple devices, bringing console level graphics to their smartphones. This GPU provides better rendering and lighting than other GPUs in this segment and guarantees users a delightful viewing and gaming experience.
  • Performance on a budget: – Staying true to the MediaTek reputation, the Helio X30 will provide processing power on par with the Snapdragon 820/821 series, at a much lower cost than Snapdragon flagship devices. For people looking for quality performance on a budget, the choice is very clear!

The Impressive Samsung’s Exynos

Attempting to introduce Samsung is an insult to the reader’s intelligence. The Korean electronics giant has consistently broken new ground with their forays into new technologies, and their attempts at building SoCs have been no less impressive. Their launch of the Exynos series coincided with the launch of the Galaxy S series, which defined an era in smartphones. The Android revolution owes much of its success to Samsung and the Exynos processors.

The days of Galaxy S Duos slowing down after a few months of usage and becoming liabilities seems like a millennium ago, with each new smartphone from the Samsung stable setting new standards of smoothness and reliability. Owning a flagship Samsung device is now a matter of pride and prestige, similar to the iPhone. The Exynos series has been at the forefront of this change, and the latest offering from this stable, the Exynos 8895, exudes class!

  • Octa-core delight: – The chip is composed of four custom M2 cores in addition to 4 Cortex A53 cores. These chips are fabricated using Samsung’s proprietary 10 nm FinFET process technology. The chip comes with guarantees of up to 27% better performance and 40% more battery life than its predecessor, the Exynos 8890, which powered the Samsung Galaxy S7. Keeping in mind that the S7 was no slouch, this is no mean feat!
  • Gigabit modem with 5 carrier aggregation (5CA): – Connectivity will be much improved from the S7, with the new modem offering faster LTE speeds and flawless networking experience.
  • Mali-G71 GPU: – Samsung promises 4K VR, as well as video recording and playback with its new GPU, with performance levels, said be 60% better than the 8890. A dual image signal processor has also been incorporated, creating a DSLR-like photography experience.
  • Consistent performance: – Continuing in its rich vein of form of the past few years, this latest offering from Samsung is proof that it has upped its game several notches. Its Antutu score of 170000 is proof that it will provide stiff competition to all the high-end SoCs present in the market

While Qualcomm has over-delivered on expectations with their insanely powerful Snapdragon 835, the Exynos 8895 and the Helio X30 have put themselves firmly in contention with their ingeniously crafted offerings. Each SoC has defining characteristics and no obvious weaknesses, putting the discerning buyer in a dilemma! But as all smartphone enthusiasts will tell you, being spoilt for choice is a very pleasant situation to be in!

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