The big players in the smartphone processor market are definitely Huawei, Samsung and Qualcomm. Qualcomm is a supplier to most smartphone manufacturers, while Samsung and Huawei manufacture their own chipsets. Are one of these processors better than the rest?
What exactly are processors?
Smartphone processors always come as single-chip systems (SoC). This means that several processor types are lasered into a single piece of silicon, which significantly influences the working speed of the smartphone. The clock rate and the number of cores of the central processing unit (CPU) do not say anything about how fast the smartphone works in certain tasks.
An SoC consists of CPU, GPU, LTE modem, multimedia processor, security, signal processor, AI accelerator and often also units for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. This variety of features makes it difficult to talk about the fastest mobile phone processor.
Qualcomm Snapdragon 855
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Snapdragon 855 is a high-performance 64-bitARM LTE System on a chip designed by Qualcomm and introduced in late 2018. Based on TSMC's 7nm process, the 855 features four Kryo 485 Silver high-efficiency cores operating at 1.8 GHz along with three high-performance Kryo 485 Gold operating at 2.42 GHz and another higher-performance Kryo 485 Gold core operating at 2.84 GHz.
The new Snapdragon for 2019 is a major update, and Virtual Reality and AI are clearly in focus here. The resolution and deferred rendering have been optimized. There are six degrees of freedom for motion tracking without external additional hardware. The chipset is not only expected in smartphones, but also in stand-alone VR headsets.
On the key new features of the Snapdragon 855 is a new DSP. It's called the Hexagon 690 and features a new Tensor Accelerator, designed specifically for AI-related stuff. This is Qualcomm's entry in the AI-enabled smartphone chip race, of which Apple and Huawei are both involved. Qualcomm's AI chip achieves 7 trillion calculations per second, which is 2 trillion more than the A12 Bionic.
Samsung Exynos 9810
The new Exynos 9810, which powers the Galaxy S9 got a biometric upgrade, as well as improved 3D face recognition. So far, neither Apple nor Samsung has satisfy their customers. The GPU responsible for this is reduced from 20 to 18 arithmetic unit, the resulting loss in performance can be compensated for by CPU clock rate.
Without the additional sub-unit for AI tasks, Samsung took a different design approach than Huawei or Qualcomm. Due to the lack of benchmarks for AI and Deep Learning, no one can say whether Samsung is making a mistake here.
Huawei/HiSilicon Kirin 980
With the launch of Mate 20 Pro it became Huawei first phone with the AI chipset known as the Kirin 980. When you look at the marketing of the new smartphone, it quickly becomes clear that the brand has put its money in AI. The chipset, which launched at IFA 2018 in Berlin, made some big promises on stage. This was the first SoC in the world to be manufactured using a 7nmk process. It also has some big AI features that promise faster than ever performance, at lower power consumption.
The Huawei-NPU is still seldom used. People are betting that Android will adapt, and that non-optimized apps will work with the NPU instead of the CPU. These would then be partly accelerated by a factor of 25 or require less energy by a factor of 50.
Is There One Fastest Processor?
The 2018 and 2019 chipsets have strengths in different areas, so it's hard to say which is the best. Qualcomm delivers innovations, particularly in graphics, and is getting ready for stand-alone VR. At the same time, however, the brand is also mastering tasks for AI assistants that work offline. Samsung, specializes in more efficient and hopefully more accurate 3D face recognition. Huawei, with its new chipset, is reaping the rewards from its investment in AI.
What Processor Does Your Smartphone Have and How fast it is? Let is know your thoughts in the comments.
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