In the last few weeks, we have seen three new processors hit the market from the three top Soc manufacturers, Apple, Qualcomm and Huawei. Apple launched the A13 Bionic chip to power its iPhone 11 phones, Qualcomm came up with the Snapdragon 855 Plus and then from Huawei we also have the Hisilicon Kirin 990 5G. All three of them are flagship offerings from each of the companies, and undoubtedly each one of them can handle any task thrown at them with ease. Be it hardcore gaming or intensive mobile processing by any video or audio encoding application, all three of them will get it done without breaking a sweat. And this is what you would expect of a top tier processor, but which is the best among them? Let’s take a look at a side by side comparison of Apple A13 Bionic vs Snapdragon 855 Plus vs Kirin 990 5G and decide which processor has the upper hand as of now.
Apple A13 Bionic vs Snapdragon 855 Plus vs Kirin 990 5G: Specifications
Apple has its own Hexa core setup with two high-performance cores called Lightning cores clocked @2.66 GHz and four other power-efficient cores called Thunder. This new processor from Apple claims a 20% faster speed and 30% more efficiency as compared to its predecessor.
Moving on to Huawei’s Kirin 990 5G, we see an octa-core setup here. There are two powerful Cortex-A76 cores clocked @2.86 Ghz and another two Cortex-A76 cores clocked @2.36 GHz. As for the other four cores, we have four Cortex-A55 cores clocked @1.95Ghz.
Now on the Snapdragon 855 Plus we have a similar octa-core setup, but here we have custom Kryo cores as compared to the ones on the Kirin 990 5G. The 855 Plus has one Kryo 485 core (Cortex-A76) clocked @2.96 GHz, three Kryo 485 cores (Cortex-A76) clocked @2.49 GHz and four low power consuming Kryo 485 cores (Cortex-A55) clocked @1.78 GHz.
If we look at the hardware comparison, it seems like the Kirin 990 5G and Snapdragon 855 Plus will easily outperform the Apple A13 Bionic chip. But Apple as always with their stable optimizations manages to surprise everyone in real-life usage. Last year’s Apple’s processor was the best among its class even though on paper it seemed like it was somewhat lacking. So going by Apple’s track record, it won’t be surprising if the A13 Bionic repeats history once again.
All three of them are built on a 7nm process but Apple’s A13 Bionic uses the second Gen TSMS 7nm node as compared to the first generation TSMS 7nm node, which gives the A13 Bionic an advantage in terms of performance and mainly in terms of power efficiency against the Snapdragon 855 Plus. But the Kirin 990 5G is not far behind the A13 Bionic which uses the special 7nm EUV node from TSMS. This brings Kirin 990 5G somewhere in the middle between the Snapdragon 855 Plus and Apple A13 Bionic chip.
Apple, Qualcomm and Huawei were not gonna hold back in terms of GPU performance from their flagship offerings. The Apple A13 Bionic has its very own signature quad-core setup GPU which is claimed to provide 20% faster speed and 40% more power efficiency than it’s predecessor.
Again on the Kirin 990 5G, we see the Mali-G76MP16 which as the name suggests comes with 16 cores. It can run any game thrown at it at the highest graphics settings, but it is really surprising to see that Huawei didn’t go for the Mali-G77 on their flagship since Mali-G77 is the latest version with better speed and efficiency than the Mali-G76. Only Huawei knows the reason behind this, but it does put Huawei at the last spot as compared to these other two high powered processors.
As for the Snapdragon 855 Plus, we have the latest Adreno 640 GPU, which does outperform it’s predecessor easily when used in real life. At present, though we don’t have any data to back up this claim.
As one can see, not one among the three is slack in terms of GPU performance but Apple A13 Bionic with it’s optimized setup seems to be taking the crown here.
AI has been the talk of the tech town since last year and it is indeed the future we are looking at here. The Apple A13 Bionic has an octa-core Neural Engine setup for all its AI task handling. This setup allows the A13 Bionic to perform 10 trillion instruction per second, which is way more than enough for a smartphone. This has led Apple to work on a Deep Fusion technology, which takes four pictures before pressing the shutter, four after pressing the shutter and one long exposure one during this entire time. This will result in an extremely detailed photo with accurate colours and exposure. This is Apple’s reply to Android’s HDR+ photography.
Moving on to the Snapdragon 855+, we see the Hexagon 690, which is a quad-core AI engine combined with a tensor accelerator. This allows for an advanced machine learning task handling which makes the Qualcomm’s Neural Processing Unit capable of text-recognition, scene detection, face authentication, dual and single-camera bokeh effect and super-resolution. This is all possible because the NPU is capable of performing 7 trillion instructions per second. Yes, it is three trillion less than the A13 Bionic but 7 trillion is more than enough to operate AI tasks of a smartphone easily.
Finally, we have the Da Vinci Neural processing Unit from Kirin 990 5G which has a unique three core setup. Out of the three here, two are high-performance cores assigned for handling AI tasks that require superior processing. The third core is a lower performing power-efficient core, but together with the other two cores, they can perform all the AI tasks thrown at them. Video rendering which is an intensive task and pushes even the best of CPUs to their limits, the NPU on Kirin 990 5G allows for real-time video rendering, that is video rendering while the video is being recorded. This shows how far we have come with the help of machine learning and what lies ahead is a long way with infinite possibilities.
On Geekbench, the Apple A13 Bionic chip scores a single-core score of 5,472 points and a multi-core score of 13,769 points. At present, these are the highest points on any phones. Compared to that the Snapdragon 855 Plus only manages a single-core score of 3,623 points and a multi-core score of 11,367 points. Unfortunately, we have nothing on the Kirin 990 5G here as no device with the 990 SoC has been tested out on Geekbench, as of now.
On Antutu, the Snapdragon 855 Plus scores an impressive score of nearly 5,00,000 points, which makes it the Antutu benchmark table topper for now. But surely after Kirin’s 990 5G and Apple’s A13 Bionic chips are tested on Antutu, we will have a different winner. Looking at Geekbench scores it will probably be the Apple A13 Bionic chip.
Apple A13 Bionic vs Snapdragon 855 Plus vs Kirin 990 5G: Which one is Better?
These are pretty early days to choose a winner for sure. But as of now, we can say that Apple’s A13 Bionic chip will easily outperform any processor, both in terms of GPU and CPU. However, Apple’s chip is only exclusive to its own devices. This gives them an advantage since they have only a specific device to concentrate on and optimize their processor accordingly to achieve better results. Similarly Huawei’s Kirin processors also specifically deliver to the needs of their own devices. Qualcomm, on the other hand, has a wider reach and almost every smartphone manufacturer other than Apple and Huawei opts for a Snapdragon processor. This is what makes Snapdragon processors the most popular ones in the market.
Snapdragon 855 Plus comparison with Kirin 990 5G and Apple A13 Bionic chip will become more difficult to differentiate after Qualcomm launches the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865, which is rumoured to come later this year or early in the Q1 of 2020. Till then Apple is the clear winner here.
However, both Snapdragon and Kirin still have an advantage over Apple’s processors as Apple is yet to announce chips capable of providing 5G connectivity. We expected Apple to come with a 5G capable processor this year, but it seems that Apple fans will have to wait till next year to get 5G compatible iPhones.