The performance of the latest Galaxy flagship smartphones being sold in South Africa should no longer differ as much from their US counterparts from previous generations.

Samsung uses a dual-SoC approach for its Galaxy S and Galaxy Note flagship line-ups, which means different regions get models featuring either the company’s own latest Exynos chip or a top-end Snapdragon processor made by Qualcomm.

While most of the world – including South Africa – get models which boast the former, customers in the US and South Korea receive the Snapdragon-based models.

Although historically differences in performance between these two chipsets were more negligible, Samsung’s 2020 flagship showed substantial performance differences.

Multiple tests of the Samsung Galaxy S20 range found that the Snapdragon 865 versions were far superior to the Exynos 990 variants.

One example was in the AnTuTu 8 benchmarks performed by Nanoreview in 2020.

The results showed the Snapdragon 865 beating the Exynos 990 in every category, including CPU, GPU, memory, and UX performance.

Overall, Qualcomm’s chip recorded a score of 601,459 compared to the Exynos’s 536,171. This translated to a performance difference of around 12%.

GeekBench 5 benchmarks showed the Exynos had the slightest edge of 2% in terms of single-core performance.

However, the Snapdragon 865 crushed it in multi-core tests, with a 27% better score.

Like buying an older smartphone

Several other users, including popular YouTube tech reviewer Mrwhosetheboss, recorded similar performance discrepancies.

He pointed out that these types of differences are what can be expected between two generations of the same smartphone brand.

This would effectively mean buyers of the Samsung Galaxy S20 in South Africa are getting the same level of performance as a Galaxy S10 sold in the US.

Samsung’s chip also performed worse when it came to endurance, showing higher temperatures and weaker performance over multiple benchmark tests.

The video below shows Mrwhosetheboss’s assessment of the differences and the possible reasons why Samsung is shipping its flagships with two chips.

Exynos 2100 aims to change the game

Enter the Exynos 2100, Samsung’s latest top-end mobile processor manufactured using a 5nm process.

During its unveiling at Exynos On 2021, Samsung claimed the new chip would bring several improvements over its 7nm predecessor, including 10% higher overall performance and 20% lower power consumption.

The new chip boasts an octa-core CPU with one Arm Cortex-X1 2.9GHz core, three 2.8GHz Cortex-A78 cores and four efficient 2.2GHz  Cortex-A55 cores.

It comes paired with a Mali G78 MP14 GPU, which Samsung also said improves graphics performance by more than 40%.

The Exynos 2100 is offered in all three models of the recently-launched Galaxy S21 range.

The good and bad news

Based on early reports, it appears that the company has come through on its claims with this new processor, albeit with some caveats.

Nanoreview’s more recent comparison of the Exynos 2100 and Snapdragon 888 showed the former’s CPU outpacing Qualcomm’s by around 2.7%.

Notebookcheck has claimed this difference is likely due to the fact that the Exynos 2100’s main core runs at a higher clock speed than the Snapdragon 888.

Samsung’s chip also posted the best score in terms of memory performance – hitting 123,685 as opposed to the 111,279 of the Snapdragon 888.

However, the latter’s Adreno 660 GPU was around 7.3% faster than the Mali G78 on the Exynos 2100.

This means that those users who often use apps which require better graphics processing – like mobile games – will benefit most from the Snapdragon 888 variant.

Overall, the Exynos 2100 scored 5% lower than the Snapdragon 888 – which means Samsung has started to close the gap in performance between these two chipsets.

The graph below shows the AnTuTu 8 scores as measured by Nanoreview.

AnTuTu 8 benchmarks - Exynos 2100 vs Snapdragon 888

Samsung appears to have made big gains in performance when comparing the Exynos 2100 to the Exynos 990 as well.

Its overall score of 687,679 is 28% higher than the 536,171 recorded by last year’s chip.

Qualcomm’s gains were more muted, with the Snapdragon 888 performing just under 20% faster than the Snapdragon 865.

Sustained performance and battery life

While the benchmarks provide an idea of differences at peak power usage, sustained performance and battery life are different matters altogether.

Fortunately, Gary Sims from Speed Test G pitted two Galaxy S21 Ultra smartphones with the different chips against each other in a test measuring exactly this.

His test indicated while the Snapdragon 888 would perform better over time in intensive use, the Exynos 2100 achieved a longer total battery life – with 220 minutes compared to 199.

More comparisons are likely to hit the web in the weeks after the Galaxy S21 officially ships on 29 January 2021.

Below is the video of the test performed by Speed Test G.