American semiconductor giant Qualcomm has launched its flagship 5G processor Snapdragon 865 along with two 5G premium mid-range processor 765 and 765G in December 2019. On October 2019, Samsung has also unveiled its next-generation flagship processor Exynos 990. Both processors will power 2020’s flagship 5G phones. However, on upcoming Galaxy S20 lineup, we will see two different versions depending upon the country/ region, one with Snapdragon 865 SoC and another with Exynos 990 SoC. Now questions are arising as to how the top tier flagship chipsets fare against each other. So, let’s take a look an in-depth comparison of both these flagship processors based on their specifications and benchmark scores.
Snapdragon 865 vs Exynos 990 Comparison
Central Processing Unit (CPU)
First of all, we can’t compare Snapdragon 865 to Exynos 990 due to Samsung’s approach towards making their new custom CPU design. Also, Samsung hasn’t disclosed about the frequencies of their flagship processor.
Snapdragon took a clear cut approach and showed every detail regarding their new flagship processor 865. So if we look at Snapdragon 865 it’s an octa-core CPU. Between those eight core; One core is dedicated towards high-performance tasks with ARM Cortex A77 core based on Kryo 585 Microarchitecture which runs at 2.84GHz, Three others core’s runs on same architecture with 2.42GHz speed for somewhat power-efficient tasks and last four core are made taking power efficient in mind, these cores are made using ARM Cortex A55 core based on Kryo 385 Microarchitecture which runs at 1.8GHz speed.
Now coming to Samsung’s Exynos 990 it is also an octa-core CPU. But they haven’t shared the clock speed of those eight-cores. Of those eight cores, two cores run on Samsung own 5th gen Mongoose architecture which is called Exynos M5 cores and Samsung says those two cores are 20% faster compared to their 4th gen Mongoose cores, next two cores are upgraded from Cortex A75 to Cortex A76 this time and the rest four cores Cortex A55 cores.
Graphics Processing Unit (GPU)
If we are to believe the claim of Qualcomm and Samsung this year both of GPU of Snapdragon 865 and Exynos 990 are 20% faster compared to their last-gen GPU’s. But in term of power efficiency, Snapdragon 865 is likely to gain the upper hand in this field. In Snapdragon 865 we see Adreno 650 GPU at 587 MHz and in the Exynos 990, we see ARM Mali-G77 GPU in MP11 configuration.
Both chipsets are built using 7nm lithography but they somewhat differ in their manufacturing process. Qualcomm is making Snapdragon 865 using TSMC’s 7nm N7P node whereas Samsung manufacture Exynos 990 using their own 7nm EUV(Extreme Ultraviolet) node.
In terms of memory, both SoC’s got upgraded from their previous flagship counterpart. In Snapdragon 865 memory type is upgraded to LPDDR5 from LPDDR4 and it supports speeds up to 2750MHz. Also, in Exynos 990 memory type is upgraded to LPDDR5 from LPDDR4X and the speed is the same as Snapdragon 865 SoC. So the users will gain speed improvement as well as better power efficiency from this change. So in terms of memory, it’s a tie between these two flagships SOCs.
In AI performance we can see a clear winner here with its raw performance. With Hexagon 698 DSP, Hexagon Vector eXtensions and new Hexagon Tensor Accelerator, the 5th generation AI Engine of Snapdragon 865 can perform over 15 trillion operations per second (TOPS). Compared to Snapdragon 865; Exynos 990 with its dual-core NPU and improved DSP can perform over 10 trillion operations per second. So we can clearly see Snapdragon 865 is 50% faster in AI performance.
With the launch of the Snapdragon 865, we have entered a new height of high refresh rate mobile displays. We have seen many smartphones this year with 90Hz or 120Hz displays but the year 2020 will be different where we will see 144Hz smartphone displays. Qualcomm said Snapdragon 865 is capable to push QHD+ resolution to 144Hz. But Samsung’s flagship SoC is still stuck at a 120Hz refresh rate. Exynos 990 can support resolution up to WQUXGA (3840×2400). So in this field also Qualcomm’s flagship SoC is the winner because of the addition of 144 Hz refresh rate support.
Snapdragon 865 with its new ISP Spectra 480 made few improvements compared to the last-gen flagship 855. The new ISP can process image upto 200MP in size also 64MP images with zero shutter lag. It can shoot 4K HDR video and 64MP burst images simultaneously and for slow-mo video lovers good news now you will be able to record 960fps slow-mo video at 720p resolution without any time limit. If we talk about the resolution field of the camera Exynos 990 is far behind Snapdragon 865. Exynos 990’s ISP can support images upto 108MP in size (from a single sensor) and 24.8MP+24.8MP in size (from dual sensors).
For connectivity, both Snapdragon 865 and Exynos 990 uses external modems dubbed as X55 5G modem-RF system and 5G Exynos Modem 5123 respectively. For LTE Exynos 990 claims 3Gbps DL (download link) speed and 0.422Gbps UL speed where for 5G it promises 5.1Gbps DL for Sub-6 5G NR and 7.35Gbps DL for mmWave 5G NR speeds. But for 5G networks, Samsung doesn’t share their UL (Upload link). Whereas Snapdragon 865 claims 7.5Gbps DL and 3Gbps UL which is slightly better compared to Exynos 990. But these are theoretical numbers, real-world performance will be varying depending upon various factor for connectivity.
Specifications That Matter
Here’s the specifications comparison table to find out differences and similarities.
|SoC||Snapdragon 865||Exynos 990|
|CPU||1x Kryo 585 (Cortex A77) @ 2.84GHz|
3x Kryo 585 (Cortex A77) @ 2.4GHz
4x Kryo 385 (Cortex A55) @ 1.8GHz
|2x Exynos M5|
2x Cortex A76
4x Cortex A55
|GPU||Adreno 650||Mali-G77 MP11|
|Process||TSMC's 7nm N7P||Samsung's 7nm EUV|
|AI||Dual NPU, DSP|
|5th generation AI Engine|
|RAM||LPDDR5 @ 2750MHz||LPDDR5 @ 2750MHz|
|Storage||UFS 3.0, UFS 2.1||UFS 3.0, UFS 2.1|
|Display||4K UHD @ 60Hz, QHD+ @ 144Hz||WQUXGA (3840x2400)|
4K UHD (4096x2160)
Dual: Up to 25MP; ZSL
|Modem||2nd Gen Snapdragon X55 Modem(External)|
Downlink: 7.5Gbps (5G), 2.5Gbps (4G LTE)
Uplink: 3Gbps (5G), 316Mbps (4G LTE)
|Exynos Modem 5123(External)|
DownLink = 3000 Mbps (LTE Category 24/22)
Uplink = 422 Mbps (LTE Category 24/22)
DownLink = 5100 Mbps (5G NR Sub-6)
DownLink = 7350 Mbps (5G NR mmWave)
Which one is better between Snapdragon 865 and Exynos 990?
Above we discussed all the key points related to both processors but we can’t clearly predict a winner without seeing the real-world performance of these two processors. Because specs are just numbers and how device manufacturer use those numbers to their advantage to make an outstanding device that a whole new story. And also we can’t expect all these specs in future smartphones, for example, Snapdragon 855 was able to process 192MP size images but we never saw any smartphone with 192MP camera in 2019.
If we see the benchmarking score of both processors we don’t see much difference. If we look at single-core results Exynos 990 is slightly ahead of Snapdragon 865 whereas in multi-core score Qualcomm’s 865 outranks Samsung’s 990 by a far higher margin.
In Geekbench 5.1 Snapdragon 865 powered Galaxy S20 scores 923 in single-core and 3267 in multi-core test respectively whereas Exynos 990 powered Galaxy S20 scores 938 in single-core and 2726 in multi-core test respectively.
So by looking at the benchmarking scores, we can say overall Snapdragon 865 is a better SoC compared to Exynos 990.