Samsung is one of the few smartphone brands able to produce its own processors, with Apple and Huawei being the only other major manufacturers to do so. This allows the company to create chips that precisely suit its needs, while also theoretically allowing them to save a few pennies too.
The Samsung Exynos processor range can be found in everything from cutting-edge 5G flagships to $100 phones. So with that in mind, we put together a guide to these SoCs.
Check out our other SoC guides here:
- What is an SoC? Everything you need to know about smartphone chipsets
- Snapdragon SoC guide: All of Qualcomm’s smartphone processors explained!
- Mediatek chip guide: All you need to know about MediaTek processors
Flagships: Exynos vs Snapdragon
Samsung has long offered two variants of its top-end Galaxy phones, with the primary difference boiling down to chipset. Galaxy flagships in the US, China, and several other markets get a model with a Qualcomm Snapdragon chipset. Meanwhile, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Korea tend to get a version with the in-house Exynos processor.
The latest and greatest Exynos chipset in 2021 is the Exynos 2100, found in the Galaxy S21 family. This processor offers a tri-cluster CPU arrangement, much like we see with flagship chipsets from Qualcomm and Huawei’s HiSilicon. We have one Arm Cortex-X1 CPU core for heavy lifting, three Cortex-A78 CPU cores for mid-weight tasks, and four Cortex-A55 cores to handle simple tasks.
The Exynos 2100 delivers a flagship-level Arm Mali-G78 MP14 GPU, a tri-core neural processing unit (NPU) for machine learning, and a 5nm design. Other noteworthy Exynos 2100 features include 8K recording, up to 200MP cameras, 120Hz screen refresh rate support, and 5G via the bundled modem. The modem supports both mmWave and sub-6Ghz standards, joining Qualcomm’s 5G modems.
This is the first flagship Exynos chipset to use off-the-shelf Arm CPUs since 2015, with everything up to last year’s Exynos 990 in the Galaxy S20 series using the in-house Mongoose CPU series. Unfortunately, Samsung shut its custom CPU division down at the end of 2019.
|Samsung Exynos 2100||Samsung Exynos 990|
|2x Mongoose M5|
|GPU||Arm Mali-G78 MP14||Arm Mali-G77 MP11|
|AI / DSP||Tri-core NPU||Dual-core NPU|
5G sub-6GHz & mmWave
5G sub-6GHz & mmWave
We’ll be putting the Exynos 2100 and Snapdragon 888 through extensive testing to figure out which one reigns supreme in CPU performance, GPU capabilities, and power efficiency. For what it’s worth, last year’s Exynos 990 was generally better in benchmarks than the Snapdragon 865 when it came to single-core CPU tasks. But it lagged behind Qualcomm’s silicon in terms of multi-core CPU capabilities and everything else. We’re expecting more even CPU performance in general given the identical CPU combination but it might be another graphics win for Qualcomm.
Samsung’s previous high-end chipset was the aforementioned Exynos 990, featuring two custom Mongoose M5 cores, two Cortex-A76 medium cores, and four Cortex-A55 cores. The older processor also offered a Mali-G77 MP11 GPU and a 7nm design. The Exynos 990 received some flak due to its increased power consumption and inferior graphics performance compared to Qualcomm’s best at the time. Still, you should expect great performance in general and it should handle many games just fine.
Notable Exynos flagship phones
Mid-range: Powering the Galaxy A series
It used to be the case that Samsung’s mid-tier Exynos processors (generally aimed at Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 700 series) were pretty mediocre, but the firm has raised its game in recent times. The latest and greatest entry in this regard is the Exynos 1080, which actually seems more powerful on paper than last year’s flagship Exynos SoC.
The 5nm Exynos 1080 packs the latest tech from silicon kingpin Arm, such as a powerful tri-cluster CPU (one Cortex-A78 at 2.8GHz, three Cortex-A78 cores at 2.6GHz, and four Cortex-A55 cores at 2GHz), and a Mali-G78 MP10 GPU. But the impressive mid-range features don’t stop here.
Samsung’s new processor also delivers comprehensive 5G capabilities (including mmWave), dedicated machine learning silicon, support for a 200MP camera, 4K/60fps recording, and up to a 144Hz refresh rate.
Vivo is the first manufacturer to use the Exynos 1080, slotting it into the X60 series of upper mid-range devices. But we’re guessing that the chipset will also land in devices like Samsung’s top-tier A-series phones.
The previous star of Samsung’s mid-tier portfolio was 2020’s Exynos 980, and it still seems pretty capable in 2021. The 8nm chipset was Samsung’s first mid-range 5G processor, albeit only offering support for sub-6GHz networks. The rest of the spec sheet is respectable enough, featuring an octa-core CPU (two Cortex-A77 cores and six Cortex-A55 cores), a Mali-G76 MP5 GPU, and an NPU for machine learning tasks.
Samsung also launched the Exynos 880 a few months after the Exynos 980, and they share plenty of features in common. In fact, the Exynos 880 mainly differs by virtue of having a lower CPU clock speed, FHD+ screen support rather than QHD+, 64MP single camera capabilities instead of 108MP, and 4K/30fps recording (rather than 4K/120fps).
Moving down a tier, and we’ve got the significantly less impressive Exynos 9609, 9610, and 9611. These SoCs share a lot in common, such as the CPU layout (four older Cortex-A73 cores and four Cortex-A53 cores), an older GPU (Mali-G72 MP3), 10nm designs and Bluetooth 5 support. The CPU layout in particular is roughly comparable to a flagship CPU from 2017, but the GPU is definitely more budget-focused.
The Exynos 96xx series generally has more in common with Qualcomm’s lower-end Snapdragon 600 series chips (Snapdragon 636/660/662/665), Huawei’s Kirin 710 chipset, and MediaTek’s old Helio P60/P65/P70 chipsets.
|Exynos 980||Exynos 1080||Exynos 880||Exynos 9609/9610/9611|
|GPU||Mali-G76 MP5||Mali-G78 MP10||Mali-G76 MP5||Mali-G72 MP3|
|Modem||2550Mbps down, |
|600Mbps down, |
|Cameras||108MP single, 20+20MP dual||200MP single|
|64MP single, |
|64MP single (48MP for Exynos 9609), 16+16MP dual|
Rounding out Samsung’s mid-range chipsets are the ageing Exynos 7884, 7885, and 7904 processors. These all share 14nm designs, octa-core CPUs (two Cortex-A73 cores and six Cortex-A53 cores), and nigh-on obsolete Mali-G71 MP2 GPUs. These chipsets should deliver a solid basic experience and satisfactory camera performance, but don’t expect anything more than light gaming here. Expect to see the Exynos 96xx series and higher more often these days.
Budget: Aging processors
Samsung’s truly budget processors have largely been unspectacular performers as you’d expect from this segment. The Exynos 850 is the latest chipset in this tier, and it might just be the most power-efficient Exynos chipset around.
The Exynos 850 offers an octa-core Cortex-A55 CPU, making for a mild power and efficiency upgrade from earlier low-end Exynos chipsets, which often pack octa-core or even quad-core Cortex-A53 CPUs. You’re also getting a Mali-G52 MP1 GPU, and 48MP camera support.
But it’s the Exynos 850’s combo of a lightweight, efficient CPU and 8nm design that should deliver notable power-savings over other budget Exynos SoCs. The processor is currently found in the Galaxy A21s, which also offers a 5,000mAh battery, so you can expect this device to last a long time in theory. Just don’t expect to play advanced 3D games at a smooth pace (if at all), and we aren’t expecting fast loading or brisk camera performance either.
|Exynos 850||Exynos 7885||Exynos 7880||Exynos 7570|
|CPU||8x Cortex-A55||4x Cortex-A73|
|8x Cortex-A53||4x Cortex-A53|
|GPU||Mali-G52 MP1||Mali-G71 MP2||Mali-T830 MP3||Mali-T720 MP1|
|Cameras||48MP single, |
|21.7MP single, 16+16MP dual||21.7MP single||13MP single|
The rest of Samsung’s low-end Exynos chipsets are largely much older processors, like the Exynos 7870, and 7880. These SoCs offer octa-core Cortex-A53 CPUs, aging Mali T-series graphics, modest camera specs (no 32MP+ support here), and 14nm designs. These compare pretty favorably to the likes of the Snapdragon 439 and Helio P22 chips.
Finally, the least capable recent chipset in Samsung’s Exynos stable is the Exynos 7570, offering a quad-core Cortex-A53 CPU (halving the core count compared to the aforementioned chips), an ancient Mali-T720 MP1 GPU, and no explicit support for dual-camera setups. Samsung’s low-end chips don’t have the fastest LTE or latest Bluetooth standards either, and the Exynos 7570 is no exception.
- Samsung Galaxy A21s
- Samsung Galaxy A2 Core
- Samsung Galaxy A7 2017
- Samsung Galaxy J2 Core 2020
The future: Samsung and AMD working on custom GPU
Samsung may have ditched its custom CPU division, but the firm is pressing on with a custom GPU in partnership with AMD. It’s believed that the duo will be using AMD’s RDNA technology as the foundation for the smartphone GPU.
Samsung Semiconductor noted at the Exynos 2100 launch event (on January 12 2021) that its “next flagship product” would indeed offer AMD graphics. The company later clarified to Android Authority that it meant the next flagship processor, suggesting that we’ll see a Samsung processor with an AMD GPU by 2022 for the latest.
Presumably the next-generation processor will be powering the Samsung Galaxy S22 family and 2022’s Galaxy Z Fold model. There’s no early indication of graphical prowess just yet, but we’re expecting the chipset to offer a solid foundation for future efforts.
This was our guide to Samsung’s Exynos processors! Got any questions or thoughts on the topic? Then let us know via the comments below.