The smartphone processor market is essentially divided between Huawei, Samsung, and Qualcomm. Qualcomm is a supplier to most smartphone manufacturers, while Samsung and Huawei also manufacture their own chipsets. We have compared the single-chip systems to show you the main differences.
Processors for smartphones always come as a single system on a chip (SoC). This means that several processor types are lasered into one piece of silicon, which significantly influences the working speed of the smartphone. The clock rate and the number of cores of the central CPU computing unit do not say anything about how fast the smartphone works in certain tasks.
An SoC consists of a CPU, graphics processor (GPU), LTE modem, multimedia processor, security, signal processor, an AI accelerator, and often units for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. This feature diversity makes it difficult to speak of the fastest smartphone processor, overall.
Top Android smartphones will have one of the following chips in the second half of 2019:
Flagship smartphone chipsets in 2019/2020
|Chipset||Snapdragon 855 Plus||Exynos 9825||HiSilicon Kirin 990|
|Launch date||September 2019||August 2019||November 2019|
|CPU||Cryo 485 Octa-Core||2 x Mongoose + 2 x ARM Cortex-A75 + 4 x ARM Cortex-A55||4 x ARM Cortex-A76, 4 x -A55|
|CPU-FREQ (MAX.)||2.96 GHz||2.73 GHz||2.86 GHz|
|GPU||Adreno 640||Mali G76 MP12||Mali G76|
|AI processor||Hexagon 690||NPU||dual NPU|
|Wi-Fi||802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ad/ay/ax, 10 Gbps||802.11a/b/g/n/ac||802.11a/b/g/n/ac|
Qualcomm X24 Modem: Cat. 20, 2 Gbit/s
|Cat. 20 8CA, 2 Gbit/s||Cat. 21, 1.6 Gbit/s, 5G variant available|
|Production Process||7 nm||7 nm||7 nm|
|Extras||Spectra 380 ISP, LPDDR4x||LPDDR4x||Dual ISP, LPDDR4X|
Almost all smartphone chips rely on the ARM architecture for their CPU. ARM delivers CPU classes of different strengths, which can be found in several variations in smartphone SoCs. The trick is in the composition and timing of the chips.
The situation is similar with the graphics processors. Qualcomm uses the Adreno to develop its own accelerators. Samsung and Huawei, on the other hand, use the Mali units from ARM. All are addressed by Android via OpenGL in different versions. The latest models also rely on volcano support. This makes the chips largely interchangeable from the point of view of game developers and their gaming performance is comparable in benchmarks.
You can feel a difference between fast and slow GPUs in Android when you start a new game with a really old smartphone. Unlike the Windows computer, the games (mostly) do not jerk. Instead, they present fewer details.
The Snapdragon 855 Plus was launched in July 2019 and now runs in some smartphones. The result is a slightly overclocked version of the Snapdragon 855. The processor is based on Qualcomm's cryo cores, eight of which clock at up to 2.96 GHz.
Unlike Huawei, Qualcomm still does not use a dedicated AI processor in its chipsets. The Hexagon DSP performs AI-specific tasks, but also serves as an efficient sensor hub in the background. The Snapdragon 855 Plus also features the X50 5G modem, which makes the Qualcomm chip ready for the next generation of mobile phones.
Samsung's in-house Exynos 9825 celebrated its premiere in the Galaxy Note 10 and features a total of eight cores that are said to offer 20 percent more power than its predecessor. The revised GPU is expected to bring even more performance gains.
While the predecessor was still manufactured in the 8-nanometer process, Samsung is building the new processor in the 7-nanometer process.
Huawei presented the Kirin 990 at the IFA 2019, premiering it in the Mate 30 Pro, which is not yet on the market in all of Europe. Huawei offers the Kirin 990 in two versions, one with a 4G modem and one with a 5G modem. Huawei has also refurbished the NPU. In the 4G version, there is a small and a large core.
The situation is different with Kirin 990 5G. Here Huawei switches to the Da Vinci architecture and uses a small AI core and two large ones. This should significantly speed up the corresponding calculations. Huawei loves comparisons with the competition. Of course, the Kirin 990 should be faster than the competition from Qualcomm or Apple.
Conclusion: the fastest mobile processor
The top chipsets in 2019 focus on different points. Qualcomm delivers innovations mainly in video and the modem and continues to use the Hexagon ISP for AI and other tasks. Samsung, on the other hand, specializes in the photo and video sector and has changed the production size. Huawei also relies on its local AI functions and supplies a variant with a built-in 5G modem.
To speed up your current smartphone, follow these tips: