The leading giants of smartphone industry are all doing their best to stay ahead of the never-ending competition. In 2018, we saw extensive implementation and integration of AI in phones. In includes stuff like Scene Optimizer in camera apps, AI Assistance and more. Therefore, in order to stay ahead of the curve, the top mobile manufacturers have to make sure that they get every new piece of technology and there is enough power to fuel these. In 2019, we are going to see phones powered mainly by three chipsets: Snapdragon 855, Apple A12 Bionic and Kirin 980. The common feature among these three main SoC’s is 7nm process design. This new architecture provides significant improvements over previous generations. Moreover, these are coupled with new and powerful GPUs to support the system.
Which phones will have these? Well, one of the first main phones to come with Snapdragon 855 would be Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus. Apple will release next generation iPhone and its variants with A12 Bionic chip under the hood. Kirin 980 however would be handled with the responsibility of powering Huawei flagship devices like Mate 20, Honor Magic 2 and Mate 20 Pro. A very important mention in this list of OnePlus 7. This phone will also sport 7nm Snapdragon 855 SoC. We can be pretty sure about the fact that OP7 would be the cheapest handset with these kind of specs.
Snapdragon 855 Specs vs Apple A12 Specs vs Kirin 980 Specs Comparison
All of these chipsets have adopted the 7nm process design. Mind you, this is a new technology and requires whole new set of tools to build. Therefore, it is not as common. However, since these big companies always want to stay ahead of the curve, it is necessary to build their latest flagships with best possible technology available.
When we go into minor details and and benchmarks, the results can be surprising. Currently, Apple’s A12 Bionic chip seems to be a better performer compared to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 chipset. The performance of Huawei’s chipsets is not always up to the mark. One the paper, it seems pretty good. However, when it comes to real-life scenarios and intensive tasks like gaming, these can fall short of the competition.
Below is a detailed spec comparison for Snapdragon 855, Apple A12 Bionic and Kirin 980. This table lays out the technical configuration of these chipsets. Note that actual performance cannot be predicted from just the numbers. We need to check on benchmarks later on for this.
|Snapdragon 855 Specs||Apple A12 Bionic Specs||Kirin 980 Specs|
|CPU||1 Kryo 485 ‘Prime’ (ARM Cortex-A76-based), up to 2.84GHz
3 Kryo 485 (ARM Cortex-A76-based), up to 2.42GHz
4 Kryo 385 (ARM Cortex-A55-based), up to 1.8GHz
|6-core processor (2x Performance cores + 4x Efficiency cores)||4 ARM Cortex-A76, up to 2.60GHz
2 ARM Cortex-A76, up to 1.92GHz
2 ARM Cortex-A55, up to 1.80GHz
|GPU||Adreno 640||Apple Designed 4-core GPU||Mali-G76MP10|
|Memory||4x 16bit, 2133MHz LPDDR4X||4GB (Geekbench leak)||4x 16-bit, LPDDR4X-4266|
In terms of raw specs, all three of this chipsets seems pretty similar. However, this is not actually the case. Below we are going to discuss the unique details and performance boosts for each of these SoC’s. You’ll be surprised by how unique these all are.
Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 Full Review
Lets be very honest here. SD 855 is going to feature in most of the high-end flagships in 2019. Except of course Huawei and Apple. Qualcomm claims that the CPU performance of Snapdragon 855 is 45% better than Snapdragon 845. Moreover, the GPU performance is improved by 20%. These numbers are quite staggering considering how much difference just one year has made.
Snapdragon 855 ISP (Spectra 380)
Just like GPU and CPU, there is a Image Signal Processor that defines which kind of camera lenses and qualities it can process. Therefore, it is a very important part of the deal and indicates what can we expect in upcoming smartphones. The details of SD 855’s ISP are:
- Dual 14-bit Spectra 380 ISP
- 48MP Single Camera, 22MP Dual Camera
- 4K 60FPS HDR video with real-time object segmentation (portrait mode, background swap)
Now these specs are pretty impressive. Note that these are just the base specs and the actual implementation vary from device to device. It depends on the phone manufacturer to make the most use out of it and produce best possible quality. We can expect crisp and smooth 4K video recording at 60fps alongside very high FPS slow-motion videos in 1080p in upcoming phones.
The new Spectra ISP comes with new fancy features like Bokeh Video and 4K HDR Video Recording in Portrait mode. How crazy is that! Spectra 380 is a CV-ISP. CV here stands for Computer Vision. It is first of its kind for mobile phones. It massively improved object recognition, segmentation and real-time background swapping. Overall, this new addition will make scene recognition and optimization much better than its previous generation.
Snapdragon 855 Modem
Most users do not pay attention to this part of the chipset, and honestly we didn’t either. But this year there is a massive increment in technology. Snapdragon 855 now supports 5G band. Even though this technology is not yet prevalent or available for that matter. It shows that the time is near when we will be using super fast 5G networks on our handheld devices.
The detailed specs of SD 855 Modem are:
- Snapdragon X24 LTE
- 2000Mbps DL (Cat. 20), 316Mbps UL (Cat 20)
- Snapdragon X50 (5G Modem)
- 5000 Mbps DL
It supports top-notch LTE and 5G speeds. According to the spec sheet, this chipset will support 2000Mbps download speed and up to 316Mbps upload speed.
Snapdragon 855 Processor (CPU)
In order to improve the efficiency as well as performance, it sports three main type of cores. The first cluster includes 4 Kyro 385 clocked at 1.8GHz. This cluster will be most used since it is going to handle low power consumption tasks. It makes it possible to have a more efficient use of battery-life.
The 3 core Kyro 485 clocked at 2.42GHz is there for power-hungry tasks. It involves stuff like AI Processing, Neural networks and so on and so forth.
Lastly, we have got one Kyro 845 Prime core clocked at 2.84GHz. This is the most powerful core and it will most likely be activated during benchmark tests and in games like Fortnite and PUBG Mobile (On high settings). These 8 cores make up the new efficient and 45% more power-delivering CPU compared to previous generation.
Snapdragon Elite Gaming Experience
This is the first chipset that will supporte true HDR gaming apparently. By now HDR is a pretty common term. This means that the blacks are as dark as they could get. Basically, the color depth in each scene increases immensely.
The motivation behind gaming optimization is the rise of titles like Fortnite, PUBG Mobile and other Battle Royale games. Unlike regular games, these require faster rendering to avoid frame drops and to have best vision in-game. Therefore, we would love to see how the new gaming optimizations in SD 855 really work out.
Apple A12 Bionic Full Review
The products in Apple’s catalogue are always going to be expensive. It is an argument for another day whether these are worth it or not. However, there are some things that Apple does right. The performance on iPhone always feels buttery smooth. This is because of using optimized chipsets and applications. Unlike Android, its ecosystem is pretty limited and defined, therefore, optimization is more manageable.
Apple’s A12 Bionic chipset is also following the 7nm design trend. Moreover, it is based on 64-bit architecture just like its main competitors. The main points of this chip is improving performance by 15% and more importantly decreasing the power usage by a whopping 50%. Moreover, the GPU used in A12 Bionicc is supposed to be 50% faster than A11 chipset. These are some massive improvement figures.
Hexacore CPU & GPU
Unlike main competitors Snapdragon 855 and Kirin 980, it sports 6 cores in total. While this may sound disappointing to some, note that numbers do not tell whole story. This CPU is actually a good performer and it can outshine others in some cases.
There are no exact numbers available. However, we know that out of 6 cores, only 2 are for performance. These increase the performance by 15% as mentioned before. Rest of the cores are low power consuming cores and massively increase the efficiency. While it is not clear if A12 Bionic is better than 855 or not, it is certainly on par with Snapdragon 845. Considering it has got 6 cores and 4 of these dedicated to power efficiency, this is actually impressive.
It sports a 4-core GPU that delivers impressively. It can easily handle the most demanding mobile titles to date.
Apple’s Face ID is probably the market leader in its genre. This technology is one of the best. The speed and accuracy of Apple’s neural network and real-time machine learning is highly optimized for A12 Bionic chipset.
HiSilicon Kirin 980 Full Review
On the surface, it seems like Kirin 980 will match its top 2 competitors. However, the real-world case is not as expected. It is pretty far behind in terms of performance considering the specs it is rocking. In fact, its performance is even worse than Snapdragon 845.
If we talk about Snapdragon 855 vs Kirin 980, then former chipset is the clear winner by miles. However, we’ll go through the features that it has to offer.
World’s first 7nm Process Design
Even though it is easily outperformed by other chipsets in same league, it was the first to introduce 7nm process design for a mobile chipset. Moreover, it was also the first chipset to offer LTE Cat.21 band.
This chipset is definitely an improvement over its predecessors. To put the performance jump in perspective, lets visit some numbers.
According to Huawei’s official site, its 7nm process is 20% more powerful than 10nm process design. Moreover, it is up to 48% more power efficient. These are impressive numbers. Especially if someone is just a fan of Huawei handsets, this is a major improvement and was much needed.
Its 8 cores are divided into 4 chunks. It includes 2 power cores for power-hungry tasks, 2 large cores for medium to light-heavy tasks and finally 4 small cores for light tasks. Kirin 980 achieves high power efficiency by switching to low power consuming cores when possible.
In 2018, we saw a major increase in AI integration, especially in phone cameras. Therefore, chipset manufacturers have optimized these SoCs for maximum performance boost. Kirin 980 is no different. It delivers amazing performance on tasks like scene recognition, real-time tracking, machine learning and neural network computations.
We initially thought that this is going to be a very tight affair. However, this is not the case. The results are pretty clear. When it comes to Android, Snapdragon 855 is better than Kirin 980. It beats it in raw performance, gaming performance and overall efficiency. Therefore, we have a clear winner here.
When it comes to Snapdragon 855 vs A12 Bionic, there is no definitive answer. If someone is either Android or iPhone fan, then the choice is pretty obvious. However, if someone has to decide between these two, then Snapdragon is definitely better because of some key features like Qualcomm Quick Charge support. However, when it comes to camera quality, A12 Bionic may beat some of the Android handsets. This function however comes down to specific implementation. Google Pixel 3 XL currently has best smartphone camera.
At end of the day, it all boils down to personal preference. In terms of raw power and more features, Snapdragon 855 is the winner. If you want a more device oriented and optimized experience, then use an iPhone with A12 Bionic chip. Kirin 980 is definitely an upgrade for Huawei users but it cannot compete with other two mentioned here.