The Exynos 2100 is just playing catch-up to Qualcomm, which is exactly Samsung's plan

Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 (Image credit: Qualcomm)

The Exynos 2100 looks to be Samsung's best mobile chip yet.

It features ARM's Cortex-X1 core with three other Cortex-A78 cores and four less power-hungry A55 cores to play nice with your battery. It also has ARM's Mali-G78 GPU for 40% better graphics than the last generation, a tri-core NPU for better on-device AI, is 5G-ready (both Sub-6GHz and mmWave), and is built on Samsung's 5nm process tech to save even more battery.

Expect to see it in all of Samsung's best phones — including the imminent Galaxy S21 — throughout 2021. In a world where nobody bothered to care about the chip inside their phone and how much better one specific brand can be than everything else, this would be great and everyone would be satisfied.

Here's the thing though. We do care that one brand of chip has marginally better AI reaction times, takes better photos, has better 3D graphics, gets better battery life, and kicks the pants off of other brands when it comes to connectivity, especially the LTE and 5G kind. I'm talking, of course, about the Qualcomm Snapdragon platform.

The reason why the latest Snapdragon will always be a better chip than the latest Exynos isn't a secret. Qualcomm is a company that specializes in selling mobile chips and its flagship products are really its only focus. They've been the only focus long enough that the company has stumbled on some great ideas. It's forced to license some of these, but others are just part of what makes a Snapdragon so damn good. Samsung and Qualcomm both may start with ARM reference core designs, but that's where the similarities end and the Snapdragon 888 will once again outperform the Exynos 2100 in almost every measurable way.

The Exynos2100 will be good, but the Snapdragon 888 will be better.

And Samsung is fine with that because it isn't a company that only builds mobile chipsets.

Here's the thing nobody really wants to hear: the Exynos SoC exists only as a way for Samsung to save money on its upper and mid-range phones. It's the same year after year; in some countries, Samsung has to license Qualcomm modem tech to even try to compete with the latest Snapdragon SoC (System on a Chip). To make things easier, Samsung simply sources a Snapdragon SoC for phones from those parts of the world, which is mostly North America. Everywhere else gets an Exynos-powered model which is a lot cheaper to buy. Yes, Samsung has to buy from Samsung in plenty of cases. Processors are one of them.

Samsung could buy a Snapdragon 888 (which everyone is certain will be what powers the Galaxy S21) for every model in every country and everything would just work. Everything would also be plenty more expensive and no company that's set up to make a profit likes it when things are more expensive.

Maybe we should just use the things and not try to measure everything.

Don't get me wrong — the Exynos 2100 will be a fine chip and will power plenty of devices. It will probably be revamped and paired with an AMD GPU to power the inevitable Galaxy Z Fold 3. But there will be noticeable differences in performance when compared to a Snapdragon 888 model. Millions who live outside of North America will buy an Exynos-powered Samsung phone and love the hell out of it because the chip works so well. Maybe the people who don't obsess over things like what smartphone chip is best all have the right idea.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20

Source: Hayato Huseman / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Hayato Huseman / Android Central)

But you'll read all over the internet, including right here at Android Central how users are seeing better performance from the Qualcomm-powered Galaxy S21 than they are from the Exynos-powered model. Some people are going to be angry about this, some just won't care, but most will just deal with it because it's the same way every year.

There is a silver lining, though — Exynos chips keep getting better year after year and with ARM's new Cortex-X program, Samsung really is on the edge of a breakthrough. With ARM helping to build and tune cores for the right balance of performance versus power, and AMD working to provide a world-class mobile GPU, an Exynos chip in the near future is going to be as good or better at everything except North American 5G networks. And if you aren't living in North America, you don't even have to care about that.

That's not going to be this year, though. The Exynos 2100 will be fine and most users won't care, but expect the Qualcomm versions of the S21 to be the "best" versions and Samsung is going to save a ton of money by building things this way.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.