With Galaxy S21, Samsung may finally bridge the Exynos vs Snapdragon model differences

With Galaxy S21, Samsung may finally bridge the Exynos vs Snapdragon model differences
There has been a gap in performance and thermal throttling between the Snapdragon and Exynos processor versions of Samsung's Galaxy Note and S-line models for a good while now. When the Note 20 Ultra hit, we expected the gap between its US-bound 865+ and the global Exynos 990 models, to grow even larger, ran some benchmarks, and were not disappointed.

While the Exynos 990's powerful M5 Mongoose core holds its own against the Snapdragon 865 Kryo 585, when the whole chipset gets involved, including the slower core clusters and the graphics calculations, the Snapdragon jumps ahead indeed.

As usual, the Exynos version of the Note 20 Ultra gave way to the Snapdragon model, even more so than the S20 variants. There is the thermal throttling to consider, and, looking at our Note 20 Ultra battery tests, the Exynos version still has a way to go in order to catch up to the Snapdragon models in the US when it comes to endurance. When comparing the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra Snapdragon vs Exynos battery life tests, the result was the same, too:

  • up to 33% longer battery life of Galaxy S20 Ultra Snapdragon 865 in 60Hz vs 120Hz display mode.
  • up to 22% longer battery life of Galaxy S20 Ultra Exynos 990 in 60Hz vs 120Hz display mode.
  • up to 25% longer battery life of Galaxy S20 Ultra Snapdragon 865 vs Exynos 990 in 60Hz display mode.
  • up to 27% longer battery life of Galaxy S20 Ultra Snapdragon 865 vs Exynos 990 in 120Hz display mode.

Will Galaxy S21 put an end to the Snapdragon vs Exynos rivalry?


All in all, both Snapdragon vs Exynos synthetic benchmarks, and real-life scenario battery tests return an advantage for the Snapdragon models. Not that this comes as a huge surprise, yet we sincerely hope that Samsung will tame that split processing practice for the Galaxy S21, and a recent leakster tweet may point in that direction indeed.


Needless to say, even if this little experiment holds water in the end, it would still be a fight between the 7nm Exynos 990 and the 5nm Exynos 2100 that will land in the Galaxy S21. Samsung, however, mentioned that its 5nm EUV process is 20% more power efficient than the 7nm that Exynos 990 is built on, which doesn't really explain such a drastic power draw difference. 

Could we finally see an end to the Exynos thermal throttling in the Galaxy S21? It looks like it, and the sheer fact that Qualcomm chose Samsung's 5nm EUV process to produce its Snapdragon 888 chipset that will land in the US-bound Galaxy S21, is a vote of extreme confidence in the new production node. It could've gone with TSMC that does the 5nm Apple A14, but it obviously concluded that Samsung's foundry is now superior. 

To top it all off, the Exynos 2100 is said to outperform the Snapdragon 888. Even though they will have the same Arm Cortex-X1 core, three Cortex-A78 cores, and four Cortex-A55 cores configuration, Samsung may have opted for higher clock speeds, while Qualcomm kept it as high as Snapdragon 865, and didn't even venture into 3GHz territory like Snapdragon 865+ or Apple's A14.

Exynos processors used to be great just a few Galaxy S or Note generation back, and it's a tempting thought that Samsung may have paid attention to the significant reputation damage and user backlash it received this year after the umpteenth peformance gap in favor of the Snapdragon models. In any case, Samsung is expected to unveil Exynos 2100 next week, on Decemeber 15, and we will know more about the viability of that "equal Galaxy S21 performance" theory then.

Related phones

Galaxy S21
  • Display 6.2 inches 2400 x 1080 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP (Triple camera) 10 MP front
  • Hardware Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 8GB RAM
  • Storage 128GB, not expandable
  • Battery 4000 mAh
  • OS Android 11 Samsung One UI

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