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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
Jerry Hildenbrand

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.

5 Comments
  • If you look at the core configuration and clocks the Exynos 2100 will absolutely outperform the Snapdragon 888 so I'm not sure why you think otherwise.
    Both chipmakers have ditched their custom core design so that is no longer a consideration really.
    And IMO no we shouldnt just "use the things" and not consider whats in them.
    Qualcomm does not need a virtual monopoly on high end chips as its bad for the market, innovation, and pricing.
    I very much hope the 2100 is a better chip than the 888 so it sparks some real competitiveness to create chips as powerful as Apple. Why do I mention Apple? Because they are the only mfg. that has created a consumer computer class ARM processor and it is as good, or better than, x86 CPU designs. I'd like to have a similar option for Windows/Linux.
  • This assessment of yours isn't grounded in reality. In CPU performance, leaked Geekbench results already show that the Exynos 2100 outperforms the Snapdragon 888 in multi-core test by a healthy margin & that isn't a surprise cause the Exynos boasts of higher clockspeeds. The GPU should be equal or even better. ISP is also better on the Exynos as it can use 4 sensors simultaneously, while the Snapdragon can only use 3 sensors simultaneously. I am very certain the Snapdragon 888 won't be the better chip here. It may win in GPU performance, but that will be very minimal, cause the Exynos 990 gpu trailed behind the Snapdragon 865 by just ~10%. It just had issues sustaining its performance because Samsung's cpu implementation was very inefficient, which in turn caused the whole chip to throttle after short bursts of operation.
  • Introducing you didn't mention whether there'd be big improvements in power efficiency in the Exynos 2100 which was a big issue with the Exynos 990 as well as poor GPU performance. While the Exynos 2100 is an improvement over the 990 you can't seriously believe that the Exynos 2100 with best the Snapdragon 888 in overall performance can you? It's not gonna happen this year that's for sure.
  • This is the perfect example why AC.com is considered to be so bad. I expected to come here and see a comparison of the 2 SoC, at least 1 proof of what the guy is trying to say in this article, but nothing. Instead this is just some pure speculation with nothing showed to back it up, I cannot even understand reading the article if he has tried any of the two SoC, let alone if he compared them. This is that kind of article you read, and then you got nothing, I didnt learn anything, this being said, the article is basically useless.
  • The Exynos 2100 probably won’t even beat the A13 on my 11 Pro Max let alone the Snapdragon 888.