At the iPhone 13 series launch, Apple introduced its flagship A15 Bionic chipset that’s going to redefine the boundary in the smartphone world once again. Naturally, users are excited to pit the latest A15 Bionic against the Snapdragon 888 and Exynos 2100, the two close competitors in the Android world. While Apple has maintained its pole position in the silicon market for some time, let’s find out if the A15 Bionic is just an iterative upgrade or leap-frogged the competition. So without wasting any more time, let’s find out who wins the battle between the A15 Bionic vs Snapdragon 888 vs Exynos 2100.
A15 Bionic vs Snapdragon 888 vs Exynos 2100: In-depth Comparison (2021)
We have compared Apple’s A15 Bionic, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888, and Samsung’s Exynos 2100 in terms of CPU performance, GPU, AI, ML, and more front in this article. You can expand the table below and move to any relevant section with ease.
Before we do a deep dive into the specifics of each chipset, here’s a specifications comparison table for the A15 Bionic vs Snapdragon 888 vs Exynos 2100. Check it out:
|A15 Bionic||Snapdragon 888||Exynos 2100|
|CPU||Hexa-core CPU||Kryo 680, Octa-core CPU||Octa-core CPU|
|CPU Cores||2× Avalanche (High-performance)|
4× Blizzard (Energy-efficient)
|1x 2.84GHz (Cortex-X1)|
3x 2.4GHz (Cortex A78)
4x 1.8GHz (Cortex A55)
|1x 2.9GHz (Cortex-X1)
3x 2.8GHz (Cortex-A78)
4x 2.2GHz (Cortex-A55)
|Process Technology||TSMC's 2nd-gen 5nm process||Samsung’s 5nm process||Samsung’s 5nm process|
|GPU||Apple-designed five-core GPU||Adreno 660||Mali-G78 (14-core)|
|Machine Learning and AI||16-core Neural Engine; 15.8 TOPS||6th-gen AI accelerator featuring Hexagon 780 DSP; 26 TOPS||AI Engine with Triple-core NPU and DSP; 26 TOPS|
|ISP||Apple-designed New Image Signal Processor||Spectra 580||Samsung-designed ISP|
|Camera Capability||N/A||Up to 200 MP ; 28 MP triple camera with Zero Shutter Lag ; Triple 14-bit ISPs||Single-camera Up to 200MP,
|Video Capability||4K HDR Dolby Vision @ 60FPS||8K @ 30 FPS, 4K HDR Dolby @ 60FPS, 720p @ 960FPS||8K @ 30 FPS
4K @ 60FPS
|Modem||Qualcomm X60 5G Modem (Speculated)|
7.5 Gbps Peak Download
3 Gbps Peak Upload
|Qualcomm X60 5G Modem |
7.5 Gbps Peak Download
3 Gbps Peak Upload
|Exynos' Integrated 5G Modem
7.3 Gbps Peak Download
3.6 Gbps Peak Upload
|WiFi Support||Wi-Fi 6-ready||Wi-Fi 6E-ready||Wi-Fi 6E-ready|
|Bluetooth||Bluetooth 5.0||Bluetooth 5.2||Bluetooth 5.2|
Beginning with the A15 Bionic’s CPU architecture, it uses the traditional hexa-core CPU design and is built on TSMC’s 2nd-gen 5nm process node (N5P). The CPU has two high-performant cores and four power-efficient cores. Currently, we don’t have any information about the core frequencies. But going by last year’s specs, it should sustain the 3GHz frequency for a longer time. Apple has also doubled the system cache, which means the SoC now has access to 32MB SLC. That should result in much better performance.
On the other hand, we have the Snapdragon 888, which has an octa-core CPU featuring the powerful new Cortex-X1 core clocked at 2.84GHz. The flagship Qualcomm chipset is also built on the 5nm process and has been manufactured by Samsung. Apart from that, we know that last year’s A14 Bionic already had a lead of 30% to 40% over the Snapdragon 888. Now, with the new A15 Bionic, Apple claims that its latest processor is 50% faster than the leading competition. We need to wait for the benchmark numbers and more intensive tests to find the actual gap between A15 Bionic and Snapdragon 888.
Finally, talking about Samsung’s Exynos 2100 in respect to A15 Bionic and Snapdragon 888, it’s also built on the 5nm process and features an octa-core CPU. The CPU architecture of the Exynos 2100 is similar to Snapdragon 888, and the benchmark numbers prove that both are almost on the same level, as far as the CPU is concerned. The GeekBench score of Exynos 2100 hovers around 1107 (single-core) and 3518 (multi-core), whereas the Snapdragon 888 benchmark scores are close to 1109 (single-core) and 3244 (multi-core). Basically, we can say that both Snapdragon 888 and Exynos 2100 SoC have identical CPU performance, and Apple A15 Bionic is still a generation ahead of both the processors.
One interesting thing to note here is that during the iPhone event this year, Apple kept comparing its processor against the next-best competitor rather than the company’s last-gen processor, which is so unlike Apple. According to Andrei Frumusanu of AnandTech, it seems Apple has not been able to pull off a beefy CPU overhead this year. Hence, it has forced Apple to compare its flagship A-series processor against the competition. In a SPECint2017 test, the last-gen A14 Bionic was already 41% faster than Snapdragon 888. Now, with Apple claiming that the A15 Bionic is 50% faster than the leading competition, the difference between A14 and A15 comes down to just 9%.
Sure, the A15 Bionic is still a generation ahead of the Snapdragon 888 or Exynos 2100, but it’s fascinating to see that Apple is no longer getting a healthy 20-25% performance jump YoY. Perhaps, this is the time for Qualcomm and Samsung to reduce the performance gap against the upcoming A-series chips.
Talking about the GPU, the A15 Bionic comes with a newly-designed 4-core GPU (on the non-Pro variants). It is said to bring 30% performance gains against the best competition across the aisle. If we talk about the last-gen A14 Bionic’s graphics performance, it scored around 132 in the GFX Manhattan ES 3.1 test, and Snapdragon 888-powered devices could squeeze in around 122.
It’s a marginal difference of around 10%, and with the 30% bump this year, it’s safe to say that A15 Bionic has seen an improvement of around 20%, which is iterative and not a meaty upgrade over its last-gen GPU. Note that we are talking about the 4-core GPU, which is present on the non-Pro iPhone 13 variants in this case. The iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max flagships released this year come with a 5-core GPU, and it is said to have a 50% performance jump over the competition.
To put things into perspective, the Snapdragon 888 chipset saw an improvement of 35% in the GPU department last year. When the new Snapdragon chip drops in December later this year, I think it will get close to A15 Bionic in terms of GPU performance. Not to mention, the 14-core Mali GPU on Exynos 2100 has gone through a massive upgrade and scores near close to the Adreno 660 GPU on Snapdragon 888.
For example, both the processors have almost identical scores in both GFX Manhattan and 3D Mark tests. And if we go by recent reports, it seems the upcoming Exynos 2200 with AMD GPU has dethroned the A14 Bionic in intensive GPU tests by a healthy margin. It means when the new GPUs arrive on Snapdragon and Exynos chipsets, A15 Bionic will have to face a lot of competition.
Generally, Apple does not talk much about its ISP, but the company has said that the A15 Bionic comes with a newly-designed ISP that does a great job with Apple’s computational photography, the new Cinematic Mode feature, live filters, and more. The ISP is also capable of shooting 4K HDR Dolby Vision videos at 60FPS, which is just amazing. Not to mention, the ISP can also handle ProRes RAW footage at 4K 30FPS.
Coming to Snapdragon 888, well, the Spectra 580 ISP supports concurrent HDR operations on its triple-cluster ISP architecture. This allows the ISP to collect more light and create an image stack quickly for a better shot. The Spectra 580 ISP can shoot images up to 200MP and record videos up to 8K at 30FPS.
Similarly, the Samsung-designed ISP on the Exynos 2100 lets you capture up to 200MP images and two 32MP images while using a dual-camera system. As far as the image signal processor is concerned, sure, the hardware is essential and all three chipsets have capable ISPs. However, of late, the secret sauce to smartphone photography has become computational photography and advancement in AI and ML technologies. So yeah, in terms of hardware, we can’t say for sure which one has a better ISP than the other.
AI & ML
Last year’s A14 Bionic was capable of doing 11 trillion operations per second (TOPS), and the new 16-core Neural Engine on A15 Bionic has seen a healthy improvement, and it can perform 15.8 TOPS. By no means, it’s a small number, but when you compare Apple silicon’s prowess on AI & ML against Qualcomm and Samsung, the figure falls short.
The 6th-gen AI accelerator, along with the Hexagon 780 DSP, on Snapdragon 888 can deliver up to 26 TOPS. And the new flagship chip by Qualcomm, possibly the Snapdragon 895 or Snapdragon 898, will increase the capability once again. Samsung is also on the top of this game. With the AI Engine, Triple-core NPU, and DSP, the Exynos 2100 can perform 26 TOPS without breaking a sweat. It’s safe to say that the Snapdragon 888 and Exynos 2100 are much ahead of the A15 Bionic when it comes to AI and ML operations.
Modem and Wireless Technologies
When it comes to radios and 5G, Qualcomm leads the industry. Since last year, Apple has been using Qualcomm’s modem. And this year too, it’s being speculated that Apple has utilized Qualcomm’s X60 5G modem, the same modem available on Snapdragon 888. We will have to wait for a teardown to confirm the presence of Qualcomm’s modem inside the iPhone 13 series.
Do note that it’s a discrete modem rather than an integrated one. By the way, Apple has been working on its own 5G modem for some time, but it seems the in-house modem is not ready for prime time yet. As for other wireless technologies, the A15 Bionic supports Bluetooth 5.0 and Wi-Fi 6.
Talking about the Snapdragon 888, it comes with an integrated X60 5G modem that has a peak download speed of 7.5Gbps and a peak upload speed of 3Gbps. It supports both mmWave and sub-6GHz bands along with Carrier Aggregation. You also get the latest Bluetooth 5.2 and WiFi 6E technology support with Snapdragon 888. Finally, Samsung has developed its in-house 5G modem, and it is also integrated right into the Exynos 2100 chipset. It can theoretically go up to 7.3Gbps while downloading and 3.6Gbps while uploading data. And similar to Snapdragon 888, Exynos 2100 also offers WiFi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2 support.
A15 Bionic vs Snapdragon 888 vs Exynos 2100: Which Mobile Chipset Wins the War?
So that was our in-depth comparison between A15 Bionic, Snapdragon 888, and Exynos 2100. As we went through the article, it’s clear that Apple is still the king of smartphone chipsets despite an iterative upgrade over the last-gen processor. Whereas the Snapdragon 888 and Exynos 2100 chipsets are putting up a fight against Apple’s dominance in the mobile silicon market. I am hopeful that 2022 will be the year the performance gap in CPU and GPU will be considerably reduced between Apple and Android devices. So those are my thoughts. But what do you think? Let us know your opinion in the comment section below.