Samsung Galaxy S7: Snapdragon 820 vs Exynos 8890 flavors compared

The release of the Galaxy S6 was a watershed event for Samsung. Not only did the company prove that it can do design proper, but the phone was the culmination of what we imagine were a number of technological breakthroughs waiting to happen. Faster storage, better camera, quicker RAM... and a new home-grown processor for everybody.

For those among us that have intimate knowledge of the workings of the industry, the fact that Samsung used to mix it up when it comes to processors will be no news. Indeed, until the Galaxy S6, the South Korean conglomerate had a strong ongoing relationship with US-based Qualcomm, which supplied it with Snapdragon chipsets for the US market and a few others, while the rest of the world were treated to Samsung-made Exynos silicon. While the Galaxy S6 was only made available with an Exynos chip—mostly due to the Snapdragon 810's many shortcomings—the split is back with the new Galaxy S7.

So, if you live in the US, you'll be getting the quad-core Snapdragon 820 processor. If you live elsewhere, however, you'll be treated to an Exynos 8890—an octa-core chip. Here's a quick breakdown of the two system chips:

As you can see, the most important difference between the two solutions is the CPU count, with the Snapdragon 820 utilizing four of them, while the Exynos 8890 makes use of eight. As you'll see in a bit, this distinction is mostly one on paper, though the two do prove slightly better in certain tests.

This dragon sure can breathe fire!

When you drop $700 for a phone, you expect to get the latest and greatest. And you sure as hell wouldn't like it if your friend's otherwise identical device is a better performer than yours. Which is why fans have been requesting that we run our suite of synthetic benchmarks on both the Exynos and Snapdragon 820 flavors of the Galaxy S7. Since the S7 is identical to the Galaxy S7 edge hardware wise, we consider the results below representative of its performance as well.

Before we get to that, however, here's a quick rundown of the methodology used. Each of the tests you see below was ran with both devices in comparable condition in terms of the number of installed apps and processes running in the background. To correct for random flukes, all tests were ran three times, with the scores that you see being the average from the runs.

As you can see, overall the two chips are very much comparable in most cases. Still, the Exynos variant did have a tiny bit more trouble with the GPU-heavy GFXBench Manhattan test, and posted a slightly lower score. The older, more forgiving T-Rex benchmark, however, consistently returned identical scores. 

That said, the Snapdragon 820 did fare notably worse when it came to browsing benchmarks, with double the score in Sunspider (lower is better). The Exynos 8890 also has a significant lead in the very comprehensive Vellamo Browser benchmark (which was developed by Qualcomm, mind you).

Finally, it's worth mentioning that both devices returned very consistent scores in all tests but one: Vellamo Metal. This has lead us to believe that something about the benchmark's design allows for a rather high variance in scores, with a delta of some 700 points between the lowest and highest scores recorded. So while the Exynos 8890 posted a notably lower score in Metal, it's worth pointing out that in its best run, it did manage 3,430 points, which makes the difference negligible.

No conclusion really needed, but here's one

We'll spell it out for you, just in case all the technical talk from those last few paragraphs sounded like alien language. In short, whether you end up with the Snapdragon 820 or Exynos 8890 flavor, it's fair to say that you can expect very comparable system performance. At least synthetic benchmarks agree on that. As soon as time permits, we'll be running another important test to answer another important question: are both these chips equally as power efficient, or does one allow for a notably better battery life? Hang around for the answer.

Now read...

Related phones

Galaxy S7
  • Display 5.1" 1440 x 2560 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP / 5 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 820, Quad-core, 2200 MHz
  • Storage 32 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 3000 mAh(28h 3G talk time)



1. tech2

Posts: 3487; Member since: Oct 26, 2012

Anyone know how the two performs in battery department ? Also, which of the two has a better GPU? Thanks.

3. rubyonrails3

Posts: 375; Member since: Oct 01, 2014

GPU for sure its Snapdragon.

19. tyrionTheWise unregistered

Adreno has a boost clock, it can't sustain the performance for more than a minute or so. The boost clock will result in better benchmarks though.

41. Shocky unregistered

Nice, Qualcomm are basically cheating then.

45. tyrionTheWise unregistered

Not exactly. It will give you better performance in bursty GPU workload. Gaming doesn't qualify but suppose you're rendering a webGL based webpage, or an image via OpenGL. In those cases, this burst frequency will come in. Also, benchmarks will be higher. Apple A9 is also similar. It can't sustain performance for long. Many desktop manufacturers do that, and it's a good thing as it helps in bursty workload. All Nvidia GPUs have a boost clock. However, the adreno 530 is definitely not a better GPU than the mali T880MP12 for gaming. Gaming is not bursty.

48. Shocky unregistered

Still sounds like cheating to me, I don't see how a brief increase on clockspeeds will make any real world difference in your examples. Benchmarks on the other hand will get a nice boost from this and that's unfortunate.

49. tyrionTheWise unregistered

Rendering an image is a small process, a faster GPU for a short amount of time will help in that. It's the 'race to finish' type of scenario.

52. Shocky unregistered

Images render pretty damn quickly on my Galaxy S6, would a small boost in GPU clockspeds really make it notability faster? I don't think it would. I don't think Qualcomm believe that either.

57. Berzerk000

Posts: 4275; Member since: Jun 26, 2011

It's most definitely not cheating. Pushing a GPU or CPU to a higher speed, even if just for a short time until thermals limit it, is a very standard feature. Nvidia has been doing that for years on their GPUs with GPU Boost. It's a feature that's so standard that I wouldn't be surprised if Samsung has this feature too, and if they don't, it's their own fault for not fully utilizing the chip.

58. Shocky unregistered

If your referring to desktop GPU's then that's not how GPU boost works, it's a sustained boost, not temporary. I've never read anything refering to this on their mobile parts. No Samsung does not have this feature, they all throttle eventually, however boosting the GPU to a frequency it can't maintain for more than a minute or more is cheating. Based on a continuous looping test Exynos 8890 maintained near peak performance for around 15 runs of an intensive benchmark before throttling kicked in, that's pretty good and shows no evidence of what you're suggesting.

61. Berzerk000

Posts: 4275; Member since: Jun 26, 2011

Yes, that is how it works. Boosts will be sustained until temperatures rise to a point where it is unsafe for the GPU to operate, then they will throttle to keep the GPU from damage. This is no different to what Qualcomm is doing, except phones reach that point much more quickly than laptops or desktops because they don't have active cooling. The GPU rises to a frequency past the rated clock speed, then goes back down when temperatures get too high. If cooling were better on phones, it would sustain that frequency, just as Nvidia GPUs with better coolers have better performance than similar GPUs with worse coolers. If Samsung doesn't have that feature, then that's their own fault. It's a very effective way to boost performance for short GPU intensive tasks. There's nothing wrong with it.

62. DoggyDangerous

Posts: 1028; Member since: Aug 28, 2015

I prefer Qcom over others bcoz of wide developers support and custom ROMs. So, small throttling is acceptable to me.

65. Shocky unregistered

This is a little different to your standard throttling.

63. Shocky unregistered

It's completely different, the stock coolers on nvidia cards can sustain this performance, they generally run well within temp limits even with gpu boost, most of the cards are from 3rd parties with improved coolers anyway. Do either of my GTX980 cards throttle? the answer is NO, I have all the stats displayed while a play, from temps, frequency and gpu usage I would know if they were throttling. How can you even compare that with that Qualcomm are doing? You don't know what you're talking about. Go away. In a laptop? sure, because heat can be an issue if the manufacturers were lazy, but desktop cards? No.

66. Berzerk000

Posts: 4275; Member since: Jun 26, 2011

Reference cards can sustain performance above stock clocks, but can't get as high as non-reference designs due to temperature limits. Here's a comparison between various 980Ti models from different manufacturers with different coolers; Notice how every single card gets better scores compared to the reference design. This is because they all have better coolers. The better the cooler, the more performance you get. That is how it works. Qualcomm is using the same thing in their GPUs. However, it is less effective because phones don't have active cooling, and they can't sustain their performance for very long. If you compared a tablet and a phone running the 820, the tablet would score higher because it has more surface area to spread the heat, keeping the GPU cooler and sustaining that boost speed.

67. Shocky unregistered

Even when the stock cards reach 80C the cards don't drop to stock clocks, it just reduces the boost. Non-reference usually don't have that issue due to better cooling. It's not the same as what Qualcomm are doing as this can be sustained and partially sustained in worst cases, excluding user error. What Qualcomm are doing can NEVER be sustained, I don't understand why you're even comparing the two. It's ridiculous. /shakes head in disbelieve.

69. Berzerk000

Posts: 4275; Member since: Jun 26, 2011

Of course they wouldn't go below stock at 80 degrees, Nvidia usually sets TJ Max to 92 degrees, that's when they go below stock. But the point is that the lower the temps, the higher the boost. Qualcomm is doing the same thing, it's just a worse case scenario because it's passively cooled. The 820 goes past stock clocks for a few minutes, then back down to stock when the temperature gets too high. It COULD be sustained longer with more surface area, but on a phone it can only be done for a few minutes. This is NOT cheating. It's just boosting the GPU when temperatures allow it, which only happens to be a couple minutes for something as small as a phone. Completely fair game.

71. Shocky unregistered

80C is the target temperate for these cards and they rarely go beyond that, so generally they don't throttle stay above stock clocks. The problem with Qualcomm doing this in a phone is the only time it will be able to acheive this is for a very short time after you start a game/benchmark and then it will immediately drop, it wouldn't surprise me is this boost causes the SoC to overheat and throttle a lot faster than it usually would. This also invalidates benchmark results and gives users a very false image of what hardware can actually do.

75. Berzerk000

Posts: 4275; Member since: Jun 26, 2011

It doesn't create a very false image. Any self-respecting reporter would run the test multiple times to get an average result. This negates the effects of a single boosted benchmark. PhoneArena did this, "To correct for random flukes, all tests were ran three times, with the scores that you see being the average from the runs." Even with three consecutive runs, the 820 still managed to beat the 8890 in a few benchmarks. This can mean two things. Either Qualcomm's boosting is actually effective and can be sustained through long intensive tasks, or even at stock speeds it can still beat the Exynos. Either way, the same message is being given to the reader.

78. Shocky unregistered

You're giving them fair to much credit if you think that's true. Do you think Phonearena care if the sources they link to provide results from a single or over multiple runs? of course they don't.

82. Berzerk000

Posts: 4275; Member since: Jun 26, 2011

So your only argument at this point is the validity of the news source. I think my point has been made then.

98. Shocky unregistered

You've completely missed the point.

94. mitchytan92

Posts: 92; Member since: Mar 02, 2015

I don't think by "ran three times", they meant "ran 3 consecutive runs". I think they just ran and wait for the phone to cool down and ran again then taking the average score. It is unbelievable how both chipset can withstand a score of 130k+ if it is 3 consecutive runs.

70. Shocky unregistered

Non-reference cards are clocked higher dumbass, you can overclock the reference cards and get the same results.

73. Berzerk000

Posts: 4275; Member since: Jun 26, 2011

Listed clock speeds don't matter at all. Almost every GPU regardless of cooler goes past their listed clocks with GPU Boost, even reference. However, the cards with better coolers go much higher than the reference.

80. Shocky unregistered

You really think a stock card will suddenly boost to speeds matching a non-reference card if you install a 3rd party cooler on there? No, it won't. It's a bit more complicated than that.

83. Berzerk000

Posts: 4275; Member since: Jun 26, 2011

Actually, yes. That does happen. If you put a water cooler on a graphics card with the NZXT G10 or Corsair HG10 bracket, or do a custom loop, it's performance will increase significantly. Maybe not to the point of non-reference cards because those typically have better power delivery as well, but it will be a noticeable improvement.

104. zunaidahmed

Posts: 1185; Member since: Dec 24, 2011

Yes, it would boost a little higher, but no, it still can't match a lot of non reference cards. Non reference cards usually have a custom VBIOS, which has higher power limit than reference card, some even have better power design such as better power phases, more power supply pins, which all adds up to higher boost clock and even higher overclock(if you do overclock)

68. Shocky unregistered

One is sustainable and represents actual performance, the other has no hope in ever being sustainable. Even in a tablet it won't be a able to sustain this for long enough , it may take a little longer to throttle but that's it.

91. XileForce

Posts: 4; Member since: Mar 11, 2016

samsung had this feature on the exynos 7420. It would use 772mhz only under certain situations, such as not fully loaded, in order to reduce thermals. I would be very surprised if the 8890 didn't have a similar feature. source: Galaxy S6 Kernel Developement

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