The 5 premium chips that will power flagship smartphones through 2017 and 2018

The 5 premium chips that will power flagship smartphones through 2017 and 2018
The SoC (System-on-a-Chip, also refered to as processor and chipset) is at the heart of the smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, and other connected gear we use on a daily basis. Now that the information is broadly available, we'd like to sit down and review the upcoming processors that will power the majority of 2018's high-end smartphones.

With considerably advanced developments in CPU core design by ARM, the British company whose work is licensed by virtually all embedded chip makers as the basis for their products, we have plenty of gains in performance and power efficiency to look forward to!

2018's most prominent flagship chipsets will be five. These are Qualcomm's Snapdragon 845, Samsung's next Exynos 9 series chip, the Apple A11, the Huawei HiSilicon Kirin 970, and the MediaTek Helio X40. They are listed in the same order.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 845

Qualcomm's next-generation high-end Snapdragon processor is going to power the majority of top-shelf smartphones for the Western market next year. We already seem to know a lot about the Snapdragon 835's successor, which is a pretty big deal.

Reportedly to be made on a 10nm process as opposed to the 7nm one that was pegged for 2018, the Snapdragon 845's CPU will be 30% more powerful in single-core processing, and as many as 70% faster in multi-core than its closest relative.

This is accomplished with a quad-core configuration comprised of a pair of Cortex-A75-based CPU cores for heavy crunching, synergistic to a pair of power-efficient Cortex-A55-based cores. It's highly likely that Qualcomm will be modifying those stock ARM cores to suit its performance and power efficiency goals.

The last time the chipmaker used stock ARM designs (the Snapdragon 810), things didn't go down very favorably. The chipset couldn't reach its performance potential due to overheating promoting speed throttling under sustained performance load.

The powerful new CPU will be paired with the Adreno 630 graphics unit. Qualcomm does not discuss its graphics technology in any relevant detail, so there's little that we know of it, other than a purported 30% performance increase over the Snapdragon 835's Adreno 530 unit. Sounds good!

Read more about the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 (and related stories):

It goes without saying that Samsung will debut a new Exynos processor together with the Galaxy S9 next year. Alas, there's virtually zero that we know of the chip ā€“ we don't even have a clue about its name. Where does Samsung go from Exynos 8895? 8900? Exynos 9 Super-duper 2018 Edition? Nobody knows yet.

There are two things that are guaranteed to happen with this chipset, though. First, it's going to go into the Galaxy S9 in certain regions, such as Korea. Second, it's going to benefit from ARM's latest Cortex-A75 and A55 CPU core designs. And these are powerful stuff!

The A75 alone can push up to 50% better performance in multi-threaded use, 16% improved memory throughput, and a 30% performance increase in large-screen devices compared to the older spec. Likewise, the A55 core is 15% more power-efficient and has double the memory throughput of the previous generation.

Like Qualcomm, Samsung too employs custom cores, based off ARM's original designs. So these performance advantages will inevitably trickle down to the next Exynos 9 chipset. As for the graphics unit, Samsung uses ARM's ready-to-go scalable Mali units. The latest-generation Mali-G72 commands a 20% performance increase and 25% improved power efficiency over the Mali-G71.

The next Exynos 9 will have, at the least, performance parity with Qualcomm's Snapdragon 845 SoC. It could even go a bit further, but since we won't be seeing this chipset in devices outside high-end Galaxy phones due to business agreements between Samsung and Q, it's going to remain an exclusive.

Read more about the next Samsung Exynos 9 chip (and related stories):

Apple A11

A11, the 10nm processor that's going to power upcoming iPhones throughout this and next year is already in mass production at Taiwan's TSMC fabrication facilities. The switch to a newer 10nm production process from the older 16nm one alone could result in a 20% speed gain and 40% less power drain. Mix in some of Apple's proprietary chip design mojo, and we've got the foundations of a serious upgrade.

Unfortunately, we know nothing else about the chip's architecture. Speculating about, it is likely Apple will continue from the A10's Fusion design, mixing performance and power-efficient CPU cores together with a PowerVR graphics unit. There's no considerable doubt that the A11 will be an absolute beast, but we'll only get to discover its nature following the new iPhone's launch.

Read more about the Apple A11 (and related stories):

Huawei HiSilicon Kirin 970

Woah, that's a mouthful! But it's your right to know that Chinese telecoms mogul Huawei owns processor design firm HiSilicon and employs its talent to produce bespoke chipsets for its mobile devices. As the Kirin 960 reigns supreme in current phones like the Huwei P10, the 10nm Kirin 970 is scheduled for a late 2017 release, to be ready in time for 2018 launches.

Unlike the rest of these chipsets, the Kirin 970 might make do with ARM's older Cortex-A73/A53 CPU cores, which is a bit of bummer. Regardless, it is going to be a reasonably fast and up-to-date chipset with a 5x20 MHz 256 QAM modem, capable of 1.2Gbps speeds (good for future-proofing, as gigabit LTE is still mostly test lab stuff).

We also know that the Kirin 970 supports 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, UFS 2.1 and MMC storage memory, and 4 x 16-bit LPDDR4 RAM modules. The SoC is also rumored to be debuting ARM's new Heimdallr graphics architecture. Mind you, this isn't going to be the Mali G72 graphics unit, as this is the second mobile GPU descended from ARM's Bitfrost architecture. Unfortunately, there's zero information about Heimdallr right now.

Sans cutting-edge CPU cores, the Kirin 970 seems to have everything it takes to power a compelling smartphone. Let's hope the older cores won't put the chip to any considerable performance disadvantage.

MediaTek Helio X40

MediaTek chips power the majority of smartphones sold in China, India, and other Asian regions. They are highly affordable, provide adequate (though not Qualcomm-like) performance, and stay in line with modern technological developments like dual cameras and enhanced signal processing.

Reportedly, the Taiwanese company is going to start producing a 10nm, 12-core CPU at local fabrication powerhouse TSMC in the third quarter for a Q1 2018 release. Tentatively called the Helio X40, it's going to take off after the 10-core Helio X30. There's no information as to what cores MediaTek has chosen to include in its processor. However, ARM's latest Cortex-A75 and A55 cores will most likely be involved, along with a PowerVR graphics unit.

With this many CPU cores ticking in sync, managing power and switching between them must be very complicated. Hopefully, MediaTek can write a mean CPU core scheduler to harness the the 12 computational cells's full potential.

Read more about the MediaTek Helio X40 (and related stories):



1. Myphoneisonfire

Posts: 403; Member since: Sep 05, 2016

Good to see competition like this ! Consumer is the winner in this !

2. Medoogalaxy

Posts: 232; Member since: May 25, 2017

Exynos most powerful. the s7/s8 exynos variant present better performance than qualcomm, A11 in numbers the weakest but in real life fastest. for that the Exynos is the most powerful processor mobile

3. Medoogalaxy

Posts: 232; Member since: May 25, 2017

A11 fast because the software and hardware by one company for that compatible.

6. mikehunta727 unregistered

A11 "weakest in numbers" ? We don't even know one thing about it yet lol

9. Medoogalaxy

Posts: 232; Member since: May 25, 2017

always apple's processors are weak: dual cores, 16nm, Gpu doesn't support 4k, maximum fullhd!

10. zunaidahmed

Posts: 1186; Member since: Dec 24, 2011

What do you mean by "support" 4k..... the GPU can't output to an external 4k display? Why the hell would you need that??? The GPU on the ip7 actually still holds its grounds and beats the on in exynos 8895 and snappy 835 on GSMarena's offscreen GPU benchs. The CPU is still almost twice as powerful in single core test while only lagging 10% behind this years greatests from any android phones..... Apple is usually ahead in term of performance, but not raw specs. It's like saying "oh, my car has a big V12, so it will crush you puny v6", nope, my car could have 2 turbo chargers which could crush you v12. Same goes for the mobile raw specs, which does not equate to performance at all.

12. sgodsell

Posts: 7606; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

I know sheeple like to believe in what ever Apple tells them. Then they like to go forth and preach that Apple crap. If Apple has the fastest smartphones on the market, then why do they have the highest priced flagships with the lowest resolution displays? Which btw a 2k display is pushing 4 times the number of pixels compared to an iPhone 7, and pushing 2 times the number of pixels compared to an iPhone 7 plus. Is and iPhone 7 plus twice as fast, not even close. Even the SD 821 can sustain a 2k display at 60 fps with VR. If an iPhone 7 tried that it would die, and overheat, plus throttle down. Even Apple hasn't done anything with VR/AR/MR, because it would confirm to the rest of the world, that Apple's GPU couldn't handle sustainable VR. Let alone handle it with a 2k display. I guess that is why Apple is dropping Imagination PowerVR GPUs. Does anyone here believe for one minute that Apple would drop Imagination'sā€‹ PowerVR GPUs if they were the fastest? Not a chance.

14. mikehunta727 unregistered

Please just stop you spew this same stuff every single time, there are off screen benchmarks and tests you can do on these devices to have them on equal level playing field(can set both iPhone and Android device to 1080p/1440p and test performance, vice versa) A10 is right there with the best in GPU/CPU performance and actually has less thermAl throttling vs other SoC's, so extremely good performance and very competitive Apple doesn't even ever deep dive into their SoC's, they just give basic info to the masses at reveal and then tech people (Arstechnica, PA, Erica griffin, whatever, the whole smartphone tech industry) is able to thoroughly test via reputable reliable sources Apple makes extremely good SoC's and i am not sure why this bothers you but please stop spreading misinformation

15. sgodsell

Posts: 7606; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

Oh, like off screen benchmarks are real world. Get real. When it comes to real graphics, then the A10 currently is nowhere close to even the SD 821, let alone a SD 835. But since Apple doesn't have an iPhone that supports anything higher than full HD. The real world performance will never be known for Apples AX SoCs. If Apples AX SoCs currently have the fastest GPU performance, then do you honestly think Apple would drop them? Not in a million years, especially when Apple has invested in Imagination, and owns a good percentage of their stock.

16. mikehunta727 unregistered

Of course off screen benchmarks are real world lol. They use actual game engines and the latest graphical API'S in mobile games today. A10 GPU is on par with 821 GPU. Apple's A SoC's offer pretty blistering real world performance too(A10 performs extremely well, even the 6S with A9 from 2 years ago is noticeably faster then the S8 with 835 in real world) Apple's A SoC's actually even do better in real world performance vs their benchmarking which is funny to me because those who bash A series SoC's and don't know what they are talking about say the opposite Yes Apple's AX SoC's no question have the best GPU and CPU performance, and yes Apple is slowly dropping Imagination Tech for their own GPU design, have you been living under a rock past few months? In about 2 years Apple will not be using Imagination Tech GPU'S anymore but will be making their own custom GPU design just like they do with their CPU design on A SoC's Apple can save more money with developing and integrating their own GPU design in their vertical stack, and roll the ball further Apple is currently making extremely good SoC's that is moving the industry forward in this regard, us consumers all benefit from Apple making very good and very competitive SoC's, it pushes Qualcomm, everyone else further to make their next SoC even better

18. sgodsell

Posts: 7606; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

"Of course off screen benchmarks are real world lol.". Oh like all graphics in games in other apps mainly use off screen graphics. Are you for real sheeple? Then you have the nerve to lol. Like that is real world. If you actually learn to read and comprehend what was actually written. Then you would have noted that I mentioned that Apple's iPhone's resolutions are so low, that they should be getting great results. So sure that makes sense that an iPhone 7 with only a HD display with a resolution of 1334x750 should beat a device that is using a display with a resolution of 2560x1440, and pushing 3.7 times more pixels than an iPhone 7. Duh. Did you get a rocket scientist to help you figure that one out Mike? Or did you figure that one out on your own? Even if you bring in the iPhone 7 plus and compare it to a QHD display device, then that QHD device is pushing almost twice the number of pixels compared to a 7 plus. The only real world test would be an actual iPhone with a QHD display. But since no iPhone exist in the real world with a QHD display. Then it's all pretend and make believe on Apple's end, especially with those synthetic benchmarks. Which btw are NOT real world.

20. mikehunta727 unregistered

Dude what are you saying? Your truly rambling. Apple's A SoC's pertorm very well in benchmarks, in graphics benchmarks, in which that puts maximum load on a GPU unlike 2D UI stuff(when your not gaming) Increased resolution outside of gaming has little effect on GPU performance when pushing normal 2D UI(outside of gaming)this is very commonly well known for nearly 2 decades now Off screen benchmarks put the SoCs at a level playing field, A10 GPU can match Adreno 530 at 1080p and 1440p Pushing 2-3x the amount of pixels doesnt mean jack s**t nowadays outside of games, you are literally claiming that higher resolution requires 2-3x more processing power when not gaming when thats just completly false See Galaxy Note 7 at 720p vs 1440p resolution, they literally perform exactly the same way when doing eveything else but gaming Galaxy S7 at 720p vs 1440p performs exactly the same when doing eveything else besides gaming You have no point here at all So really your honestly just rambling right now and your unexplainable hatred for Apple's SoC's is really just ridiculous and very misinformed. You need to do more research here Apple' SoC's perform really well in real world because of very good CPU/GPU performance, and also really fast storage speeds(NVMe in 6S and beyond is extremely fast and faster than UFS 2.0 in areas where it matters most in real world performance), that is why Apple's A SoC's are very good and very fast

38. .7.8.6.

Posts: 75; Member since: May 25, 2017

Kinda, what you have to understand is that the CPU sets the frame up + handles all the AI/resource allocation and then passes the parameters to the GPU which then draws the frame. So the CPU does its thing sends the frame along to the GPU. The larger the frame and the more processing required the longer it takes for the GPU to finish. At low resolutions the frames are drawn much much faster therefore the CPU has to do alot more work setting up more frames. Of course using vSync limits you to 60FPS so the CPU strain wouldnt change regardless of resolution provided that your GPU can handle 60FPS at the larger resolution.

23. AmashAziz

Posts: 2934; Member since: Jun 30, 2014

Btw sgodsell, you are criticizing mikehunta but its actually you who have been living under a rock. You don't have any knowledge about smartphones, real world speed test, and the potential of SoCs. I wouldn't waste my time on you but you frustrate me with your ignorance. As you think resolution is the only reason iPhones are faster than Android phones, I advice you to see Phonebuff's speed test on youtube where he compared a 1440p Note 7 to a 720p one. I guess that will fix your brain. You will probably come with another autobiography explaining how he was wrong and the test wasn't fair, but still!

35. .7.8.6.

Posts: 75; Member since: May 25, 2017

Go play with your iToy with outdated 720p screen and 2gb Ram Dumb guy paying just the logo while the phone still dates back 2010 lmfao Single core who still uses single core you live in the 90s?

24. AmashAziz

Posts: 2934; Member since: Jun 30, 2014

And btw sgodsell, you say iPhones are weak as they win in speed tests only because of their lower resolutions? What about an iPhone 7 plus defeating a Oneplus 3t in a speed test? I mean, both have 1080p displays..... what's your excuse now? Or a 6S plus defeating a Oneplus 3 (haven't seen one against a 3t)? make no sense whatsoever.

34. .7.8.6.

Posts: 75; Member since: May 25, 2017

Dumbass Apple's iOS is made for phones while Android was made for full fledged OS like Wp

40. AmashAziz

Posts: 2934; Member since: Jun 30, 2014

Are you really this dumb? Do you even know what an OS is?? How can Android be made for Windows Phone when both are OSes??? Where you at Kiko, here's another piece of trash, having no logic in his arguments whatsover

36. .7.8.6.

Posts: 75; Member since: May 25, 2017

No they don't they are good at ram management superscaling bandwidth and single core

37. .7.8.6.

Posts: 75; Member since: May 25, 2017

So it's not actually that the load is being transferred to the GPU at higher resolutions, it's more so the CPU is doing about the same amount of work no matter what the resolution, and the GPU has to put in the extra effort? So you are wrong

22. AmashAziz

Posts: 2934; Member since: Jun 30, 2014

You're a 3rd class troll, sgodsell.

28. MrHate

Posts: 318; Member since: Feb 09, 2015

Hey man my iPad Air from 2013 runs at a higher resolution than 2k and is still going strong like a champ. But you're nothing but a hater so what you care for am I right? Keep talking s**t cause that's all you can do it seems like.

19. Medoogalaxy

Posts: 232; Member since: May 25, 2017

iphone7 has PowerVR GT7600 GPU can't output to an external 4k display, adreno540/Mali G71 does, exynos 8895 can support display resolution 4k 120fps by the way A10 has 4cores, 2 for high performance and 2 in normal perf, not like android's devices architecture big.LITTLE quad/octa cores works in the same time. apples fans believes Apple and what it say in conference if we use android on iphone's hardware, full lags. vice versa If you were using iOS in any device from the average Android, Flew !

11. Nopers unregistered

Yeah that's why the A10 rips through rendering and other cpu bound tasks faster than the 835/8895. Even at 16nm it's powerful. Next will be 10nm so expect another ~40% increase in performance.

13. mikehunta727 unregistered

Full HD has nothing to do with SoC, thats screen resolution of a device. There are off screen benchmarks that show A10 GPU is right there with the best It being dual core doesn't mean anything. Apple's dual cores are the same size as 8 core CPU'S on other SoC's, they take up just as much die space on the SoC as 8 core CPU's do. So the A10 offers very good performance actually that is properly very balanced TSMC 16nm 2nd gen is pretty Much on par with what S821/others used, A11 will move to 10nm this year And I'm almost certain too that the GPU in the A10 can support 4K but Apple has it disabled for obvious reasons, there are no 4K screen on iOS devices(A10 can play 4K videos flawlessly no problem though)

21. AmashAziz

Posts: 2934; Member since: Jun 30, 2014

Guys can you please leave that medoogalaxy troll. He just registered to make our lives harder and you guys are wasting your time on him. We know he's making stuff up and all of it is wrong. He doesn't know a thing about SoCs so leave him alone. Better leave the ignorant. By the way, the A10 is a quad core chip!

27. Khyron

Posts: 402; Member since: Sep 28, 2015

Apple single core Will always be higher than Android cpu because Apple's designado puta more transistor to increase IPC because can afford cost more transistor andas be reliable forma them un counter part android's chipmakers can obtain the same perfomance in a low cost with smart design favoring superior multicore perfomance

33. .7.8.6.

Posts: 75; Member since: May 25, 2017

Not really. There is a difference between multiple processors and multi-core processor. I'll try and keep it simple. A single processor can only do one thing at a time so when it has a list of things to do it works through the list item by item. With multi-core processors they can work through the list of tasks together and don't rely as heavily on other computer resources like RAM. Apple's single core is crap There OS is outdated darwin Unix halfbaked jnk unlike Android full fledged Linux

4. ShadowSnypa786

Posts: 654; Member since: Jan 06, 2017

For me im more excited for the Exynos, this year and previous years show that Samsungs CPU is more efficient and is better optimised for galaxy phones hence why they don't lag as much as the Snapdragon variants. The Exynos used in the S8 is blazing fast there isn't any lag at all, so it be good to see what the next generation can do.

25. AmashAziz

Posts: 2934; Member since: Jun 30, 2014

Every phone lags at some point. The S8 lags too.

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