Often while buying your brand new smartphone you come across a lot of different mobile processors, different clock speeds, core count etc.
While the instruction set or the processor architecture used in desktop chips is x86, mobile processors use the ARM architecture.
Have you ever wondered what is the difference between Snapdragon, MediaTek, Exynos, Broadcom, HiSilicon Kirin and many other ARM-based processors?
If yes then you are at the right place to find out!
ARM and its differences with x86:
When you hear the term CPU, you probably think of a microprocessor from Intel or AMD. While the PC processors have long been dominated by chips using an instruction set called x86, which was originally developed by Intel and only fully licensed out to a couple of other manufacturers including AMD.
Though x86 is much faster as compared to ARM for some workloads with high-end complex instructions that tell the processing cores to do a lot of things at once, ARM CPU’s, on the other hand, are optimized for much simpler instructions.
So why do we use ARM even if it’s not as powerful as x86? The answer lies in“POWER CONSUMPTION”. An ARM CPU uses much less energy compared to a typical x86 based processor which is very important for preserving battery life in mobile devices.
While x86 is superior for heavy workloads and it’s continued use till now enables backward compatibility with apps and software’s that were written decades ago while on the other hand, for devices that perform much simpler tasks and whose app development was mostly done in the recent years like smartphones ARM is perfect.
Different ARM based CPU manufacturers:
There are quite a lot of manufacturers that manufacture ARM-based mobile SoC’s (System on chip) including Qualcomm, Intel, Nvidia, Broadcom, Mediatek, Samsungs Exynos, HiSilicon Kirin by Huawei and much more.
In this article, we shall cover and compare some of the major players in this industry Qualcomm Snapdragon, Mediatek, Exynos.
According to a recent report from a research firm Strategy Analytics, Qualcomm Inc. is globally the largest manufacturer of smartphone chipsets – continues to dominate the smartphone applications processor market with its 54% market share in terms of revenues.
As the above analysis would indicate Qualcomm is one of the most popular sellers of mobile chipsets. One of the reasons behind this popular choice is that it is completely open source and Qualcomm releases the kernel source codes which can be very helpful to build stable custom ROM’s, and their well optimized and frequently updated kernel allows the smartphone manufacturers to build and release software updates easily as compared to other chipset manufacturers which do not release the kernel sources(eg.Mediatek).
High-end snapdragon chips are very much capable and powerful of providing a smooth experience like the snapdragon 821 and the newly announced snapdragon 835 which is expected in mobile devices in a month or so.
And now about the mid-range chips, Qualcomm has a great reputation of building efficient mid-range chips like the snapdragon 617, 652 and the newly announced 653.
The other thing that makes snapdragon processers better than their MediaTek counterparts is the fact that unlike MediaTek, Qualcomm doesn’t just buy CPU designs from ARM but they modify and optimize it as well, to give a better performance with a better battery life.
MediaTek is a relatively new chipset manufacturer, and the Taiwanese company is the latest among the previously mentioned ones to join the international scene.
MediaTek processors are very popular in the Asian markets, they are mostly seen in a budget and mid-range phones. The fact that MediaTek is much more focused on just core count and raw CPU clock speed rather than efficiency and real world performance is evident from their product releases from the past couple of years. Their lack of commitment towards open kernel source codes is one of the main reasons that MediaTek is perceived to be behind Qualcomm in this sector. MediaTek sometimes has buggy kernel sources that are neither optimized nor updated regularly. This makes it difficult for smartphone manufacturers to provide updates for newer versions of their OS’s.
Another con is that MediaTek just buys the designs from ARM and starts manufacturing their chips, unlike snapdragon which modifies the designs to improve efficiency. This sometimes leads to thermal throttling of MTK’s chips, also the MALI GPU that comes with the MediaTek chips is not quite as good as snapdragons Adreno GPU, some games do not run well on MALI GPU’s due to its lack of driver updates.
However, in the budget range and sometimes even in the lower mid-range price point MediaTek processors provide the best value for money as compared to their snapdragon counterparts. But in high end and flagship devices snapdragon is the best SoC choice.
Exynos a series of ARM based SoC’s which are developed and manufactured by Samsung and are only seen in smartphones manufactured by Samsung. When comparing to the industry leader snapdragon, Exynos delivers a surprising edge to edge performance.
It is mostly seen in devices launched in the Asian markets like China and India, even the flagships models that Samsung sells in these markets comes with an Exynos SoC. It has a very good performance and these chips work quite well with Samsung devices.
Final Verdict(Long Story Short):
If you are looking for a high-end phone or even mid-range phone then a Snapdragon SoC will provide much reliable performance, if the device is manufactured by Samsung and has their own Exynos chip then too it would provide good performance. On the other hand, if you are looking for a budget or lower mid-range device then a MediaTek SoC will provide a better value of money.