And on paper, fans should be pleased. Samsung’s presentation was light on specific benchmark results, but touted a 33% improvement in multi-core CPU performance compared to the Exynos 990 found in last year's Galaxy S20 (the chip’s particular weak spot) with a more modest 19% boost to single-core performance.
Throw in an over 40% increase in GPU performance and a 20% improvement to power efficiency thanks to the use of the new 5nm process, and you can see why Samsung might feel confident this time around.
Of course, Samsung isn’t just competing with itself – it's also up against Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888, launched in December last year, which will itself likely power the S21 phones in the US and select other markets, as Samsung tends to use both Exynos and Snapdragon chips in differing regions.
On paper at least, the two chips are similar, but surprisingly the Exynos has a slight edge at least on CPU performance. It uses the same triple cluster architecture, with a custom ARM-X1 prime core supported by three A78 performance cores and four A55 efficiency cores.
However Samsung has tuned the prime core to 2.9GHz, compared to Qualcomm’s 2.84GHz, with similar clock speed gaps across the other cores. The result is that on a base level the Exynos 2100 should deliver stronger raw processing power than the 888, which we've already seen in leaked Geekbench results that show the 2100 pipping the 888 – though it’s close.
Elsewhere the two chips are also eerily similar. Both deliver 26 TOPS (trillion operations per second) of AI processing power, both use a 5nm architecture, both support up to 200Mp camera sensors.
Samsung may have the edge elsewhere in image processing however, touting support for four simultaneous sensors (compared to Qualcomm’s three) and boasting that it can now handle recording 8K video at 60 frames per second - a significant jump on the 24fps that last year’s S20 series capped at, and double the 30fps that the 888 is limited to.
Of course, artificial benchmarks and spec sheets are one thing, but real-world performance is another entirely. We haven’t tested any 888 phones yet – the only two so far, the Xiaomi Mi 11 and Vivo iQOO 7, remain China-only for now – so this Thursday’s S21 launch will represent our best chance to compare the two chips directly and see how the US Snapdragon models stack up against Europe’s Exynos phones.
Perhaps most excitingly, this looks like it’s only the beginning of the Exynos comeback. Samsung confirmed during the presentation that it will feature a custom AMD GPU in its “next flagship product” - presumably next year’s flagship Exynos chip – as a strategic partnership between the two companies finally bears fruit. It looks like this might be a new ARM-based laptop processor, which looks set to power the next generation of Samsung PCs.