A few days before the announcement of the flagships of 2021, Samsung held a presentation of the new generation of the Exynos processor – 2100. The title of the presentation “Exynos is back” hints that the processors disappeared somewhere, but this did not happen. When Samsung first started creating its own line of processors, they had disadvantages compared to the same chipsets from Qualcomm, the difference was noticeable in certain use cases, but in recent years there have been no special differences. Putting aside the aggressive PR and marketing that Snapdragon is unimaginably better than the Exynos in every aspect, and the latter is so bad that it’s impossible to use it. A direct comparison of the same smartphones on Snapdragon and Exynos in most everyday tasks does not reveal any difference, fictions and the creation of consumer fears I will leave on the conscience of those who trade in this. For “knowledgeable” people, the Exynos processor means a very bad processor, especially in the comments how theorists tell the owners of smartphones on these processors about their terrible work – they warm up, turn off, constantly lower the screen brightness and further down the list. Those who have not undergone psychological treatment in the aspect of the terrible Exynos processor are sincerely surprised what they are doing wrong and why everything works for them.
The negative around Exynos is enough, and one of the arguments that the supporters of their “bad” quality cited was the fact that Samsung uses similar Qualcomm processors in many of its smartphones, and not its own design. This argument has been given to me a million times, and they did not even bother to listen to the answer why and why Samsung is doing this.
Well, I will give this answer again so that you can understand where the Snapdragon processors in the Samsung lineup came from and why there are more of them in 2020, and in 2021 it will be noticeably fewer.
One of the key markets for smartphones in the world is the American one, where operators rule the ball. Formally, there are no restrictions on the supply of smartphones on any chipset. Informally, only chipsets that are allowed by the US government are allowed, preference is given only to Qualcomm, it is their solutions that dominate the local market. When US carriers agreed to start selling Huawei smartphones with Kirin processors in the US, the deal caught the attention of officials at the last moment, and it all turned into a full-blown scandal. American operators were simply banned from selling such smartphones; a few hours before Huawei’s presentation, the partners notified the company that the deal would not take place. Rate how important this is to US national security and why the intelligence agencies are so protective of Qualcomm.
Do you want to be in the US market? Kindly buy chipsets from Qualcomm, which makes their cost virtually unrivaled for this market. The company’s pricing policy for America, Europe and China has been different for many years, so the flagship chipset for the Chinese market cost almost half as much as for America. The difference in price was provided by various marketing tools, was skillfully hidden, but the fact that this has always been the policy of the company is beyond doubt. It would be odd if Qualcomm didn’t leverage their competitive edge.
I like Qualcomm’s chipsets, I can’t say that they are bad, something is better than that of competitors, something is worse. The company had unsuccessful developments, in recent years the quality of chipsets has increased (Snapdragon 820 and heating problems can be considered unsuccessful). But it is also impossible to argue that competing solutions are noticeably worse or inferior – these are products of the plus or minus one level. And the reason is that almost everywhere we meet with the development of cores from ARM with small custom inclusions, which are also made by ARM engineers. In the same Samsung, the R&D center responsible for the development of custom ARM cores was closed, it made no sense in this, since the engineers of the British ARM have always done it much better. By the way, at the same time rumors arose that Samsung would abandon Exynos forever, and would use only other people’s processors. It’s utter nonsense, but someone believed in it and scribbled comments about it, not even remotely understanding the meaning of the news: “Closed the Exynos processors.”
Why were there so many Qualcomm processors in Samsung’s lineup in 2020? And they have appeared in many markets, not just the US. The answer can be found in the main event of last year, the development of 5G networks, the need to sell smartphones for them. Samsung did not have its own 5G modem; there was only one way out – to buy such a modem from Qualcomm. And the growth in penetration of solutions from Qualcomm is a consequence of the deal, when the company was forced to purchase chipsets, not just modems. It looks very simple in practice: if you want to get the lowest price for modems – then buy so many more chipsets. Nothing special, a familiar business, in which your own and others’ decisions are chosen based on the need and availability.
What happened in 2021? The first chipset with an integrated 5G modem is the Exynos 2100, which will be used in all Samsung flagships. But along with it, models based on Snapdragon 888 will also be on sale, such devices will go to the American market and any operator who orders them. There is no policy on the part of Samsung, if a major partner wants to buy a smartphone on Snapdragon, then he will be provided with such an opportunity. Another thing is that the cost of models on Snapdragon in 2021 will differ upward. Qualcomm’s 5G licensing alone can run up to $ 80 per device if you use the company’s hardware modem and top-end chipset (even your own! Clipping comes at the cost of the end device).
In 2020, we saw the gradual appearance of 4G models of flagships, the same S20 and other devices in the series. At the beginning of the year, the models came out with a 5G modem (it might not have been activated, but it was physically), then only 4G models appeared for markets where there are no 5G networks, for example, such devices were sold and are being sold in Russia. The reason is in licensing fees, the higher cost of 5G solutions for Samsung in 2020.
The appearance of the Exynos 2100 changes the situation exactly the opposite, its own chipset becomes more affordable in terms of cost, while it does not have any flaws, it can be adapted for any country in the world (there is mmWave, which is important for America, but the question is whether there is an antenna, there will be no universal smartphones). Also, the presence of such a chipset is an important trump card in reducing the cost of chipsets from Qualcomm, year-on-year for Samsung they will differ by 10-15% downward.
In the last days before the announcement, the Exynos 2100 came across several rumors on the net that now Samsung will permanently abandon Snapdragon and will use only its own chipsets. In my opinion, this would be an extremely bad decision for everyone, and the presence of America’s rules for the US market does not allow us to say that this is possible in the coming years.
The architecture of Exynos 2100 is exactly the same as that of other companies, a powerful X1 core, three weaker cores and four conventional cores (1 + 3 + 4).
For 2021, this is the most popular architecture, exactly the same solution in Snapdragon 888. But, despite the external similarity, the processors differ in many aspects, for example, the ISP responsible for working with cameras, Samsung is completely different. It is important for the company to provide simultaneous work with 4K video (60 fps minimum) from three or four modules at once, that is, simultaneously record the stream from different cameras. For Qualcomm, this is not as important as for the company’s partners, plus it can be implemented, in theory, through three separate ISPs, which are in the Snapdragon 888. Samsung used many of its own developments in the field of image processing, as well as a number of know-how from Sony, an interesting solution has turned out that will develop for at least several years. Let me remind you that in 2020 the company introduced a new 108-megapixel module for the main camera, it becomes the basis for further developments and improvements. The new ISP will continue to improve in exactly the same way for several years, but the beginning was laid in 2021 and in Exynos 2100.
The technical specifications of the Exynos 2100 are as follows.
At the beginning of next week we will discuss the performance of the Exynos 2100, at least in synthetic tests, there are many interesting things here, although there were no surprises for me. Flagship chipset without any restrictions and discounts, there are a couple of original solutions.
About the nomenclature of chipsets, which, perhaps, will remain in the future: now the series will be named after two dates of the year, for example, Exynos 2100 is 2021, Exynos 2022 will appear in 2200. Whether this naming system will remain is unclear, as Samsung has many things change, and very quickly.
The trail of “badness” from Exynos will not go anywhere, in the PR aspect Qualcomm is doing its job perfectly well, and we will see dozens, if not hundreds of proofs that the new Exynos 2100 will be terrible (it’s like with screens – turn the brightness by 5 %, go into a dark room and stare at the display, after 20 minutes you will see stripes and your eyes will start to water). Those who are especially impressionable will begin to argue that the Exynos 2100 is terrible, just like all Exynos before, but at least take a look in the comments under this material, for sure there will be such reviews. But for an ordinary, ordinary person who wants a smartphone to work quickly in different modes, has no flaws, all these stories will be incomprehensible. In any case, let’s wait for the flagships with this chipset to come out and see how they work and what they can do. It remains to wait quite a bit.
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