Samsung Exynos processor guide: Everything you need to know

Samsung exynos processor

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:

Flagships: Exynos vs Snapdragon

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra screen in the window 1

Credit: David Imel / Android Authority

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. 2020’s Galaxy S20 series bucked this trend and offered a Snapdragon 865-powered variant in Korea too.

The latest and greatest Exynos chipset in 2020 is the Exynos 990, found in the Galaxy S20 family. This processor offers a tri-cluster CPU arrangement, much like we see with flagship chipsets from Qualcomm and Huawei’s HiSilicon. That means we’ve got two custom-designed CPU cores for heavy lifting, two Cortex-A76 CPU cores for mid-weight tasks, and four Cortex-A55 cores to handle simple, undemanding tasks.

The Exynos 990 also packs a flagship-level Arm Mali-G77 MP11 GPU, a dual-core neural processing unit (NPU) for machine learning, and a 7nm design. Other noteworthy Exynos 990 features include 8K recording, up to 108MP 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.

Read: Snapdragon 865 vs Exynos 990 vs Kirin 990 — How do they compare?

Contrary to rivals Qualcomm, MediaTek, and Huawei, Samsung has been using custom CPUs in its Exynos flagship chipsets since 2016’s Galaxy S7. But the firm shut down the division responsible for these CPUs at the end of 2019. Samsung is expected to use off-the-shelf CPU designs from Arm for its future Exynos chipsets at the high-end, much like the aforementioned chipmakers. However, recent disclosures regarding a new Mongoose M6 CPU leave the door open for at least one more chipset with a custom CPU.

  Exynos 990 Exynos 9825 Snapdragon 865
CPU 2x Mongoose 5th gen
2x Cortex-A76
4x Cortex-A55
2x Mongoose 4th gen
2x Cortex-A75
4x Cortex-A55
1x semi-custom Cortex A77 @ 2.85GHz
3x semi-custom Cortex-A77 @ 2.4GHz
4x semi-custom Cortex-A55 @ 1.8GHz
GPU Mali-G77 MP11 Mali-G76 MP12 Adreno 650
Modem Exynos Modem 5123 (external)
7350 Mbps down
N/A up
4G modem (integrated)
2000Mbps down
316Mbps up
X55 5G & RF system (external)
7500 Mbps down
3000 Mbps up
Cameras 108MP single / 24.8MP and 24.8MP dual 22MP single / 16MP and 16MP dual 200MP snapshots / 64MP single / 64MP and 64MP dual
Process 7nm EUV 7nm EUV 7nm EUV

It’s worth noting that the Exynos 990 is generally better than the Snapdragon 865 in terms of single-core CPU performance, according to our own testing. However, it lags behind Qualcomm’s silicon when it comes to multi-core performance, graphics, and power efficiency. So basically everything else.

Samsung’s previous high-end chipset was 2019’s Exynos 9825 and Exynos 9820 family, featuring older heavy and medium CPU cores and an older GPU among the major downgrades. Nevertheless, phones with these processors still offer plenty of grunt for everyday performance and many advanced games. In fact, they should generally offer comparable if not better performance than many of Samsung’s recent mid-range phones.

Notable phones

Mid-range: Powering the Galaxy A series

Samsung Galaxy A51 performance on table

Credit: David Imel / Android Authority

It used to be the case that Samsung’s mid-tier Exynos processors were pretty mediocre, but the firm has raised its game in the last year or two. Leading the charge is the 8nm Exynos 980 chipset, aimed at the upper bounds of the mid-range segment.

This is the firm’s first mid-range 5G chipset, offering support for sub-6Ghz 5G networks. Unlike the high-end Exynos 990, you aren’t getting mmWave support here. The rest of the spec sheet is very respectable though, 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.

The Exynos 980 generally goes up against Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 765 and 768G series of SoCs, as well as MediaTek’s Dimensity 800 and 820 chipsets.

Related: The Samsung Galaxy A series coming to the US is bigger deal than you may think

There’s a pretty big performance gap to the next major mid-range Samsung chips, the Exynos 9609, 9610 and Exynos 9611. These SoCs share a lot in common, such as the CPU layout (four 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 636/660/665), Huawei’s Kirin 710 chipset, and MediaTek’s Helio P60/P65/P70 chipsets.

  Exynos 980 Exynos 9609/9610/9611 Snapdragon 765/G Snapdragon 665
CPU 2x Cortex-A77
6x Cortex-A55
4x Cortex-A73
4x Cortex-A53
Kryo 475 octa-core
1x semi-custom Cortex-A76 (Prime)
1x semi-custom Cortex-A76 (Performance)
6x semi-custom Cortex-A55 (Efficiency)
Kryo 260 octa-core
4x semi-custom Cortex-A73
4x semi-custom Cortex-A53
GPU Mali-G76 MP5 Mali-G72 MP3 Adreno 620 Adreno 610
Modem 2550Mbps down,
1280Mbps up
Sub-6Ghz 5G
600Mbps down,
150Mbps up
X52 5G modem
3700Mbps down,
1600Mbps up
mmWave 5G
Sub-6Ghz 5G
600Mbps down,
150Mbps up
Cameras 108MP single, 20+20MP dual 64MP single (48MP for Exynos 9609), 16+16MP dual 192MP single
22+22MP dual
48MP single,
16+16MP dual
Process 8nm FinFet 10nm FinFet 7nm EUV 11nm FinFet

Rounding out Samsung’s mid-range chipsets are the older Exynos 7884, 7885, and 7904 processors. These all share 14nm designs, octa-core CPUs (two Cortex-A73 cores and six Cortex-A53 cores), and aging Mali-G71 MP2 GPUs. These chipsets should deliver a relatively smooth basic experience and solid camera performance, but don’t expect anything more than light gaming here. Sa

Notable phones

Budget: Aging processors

Samsung Galaxy A21s

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 make for 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. 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 7880 Exynos 7870 Snapdragon 439 Helio P22
CPU 8x Cortex-A53 @ 1.9GHz 8x Cortex-A53 @ 1.6GHz 8x Cortex-A53 @ 2Ghz 8x Cortex-A53 @ 2Ghz
GPU Mali-T830 MP3 Mali-T830 MP1 Adreno 505 IMG PowerVR GE8320
Modem 300Mbps down,
100Mbps up
300Mbps down,
50Mbps up
300Mbps down,
150Mbps upload,
300Mbps down,
150Mbps upload
Cameras 21.7MP single,
13+13MP dual
16MP single,
8+8MP dual
21MP single,
13+13 dual
21MP single,
13+8MP dual
Process 14nm FinFet 14nm FinFet 12nm FinFet 12nm FinFet

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.

  Exynos 7570 Snapdragon 429 Helio A22
CPU 4x Cortex-A53 @ 1.4GHz 4x Cortex-A53 @ 1.95Ghz 4x Cortex-A53 @
GPU Mali-T720 MP1 Adreno 504 IMG PowerVR GE6300
150Mbps down,
50Mbps up
150Mbps down,
75Mbps up
300Mbps down,
150Mbps up
13MP single 16MP single
8+8MP dual
21MP single,
13+8MP dual
14nm FinFet 12nm FinFet 12nm FinFet

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.

Notable phones

  • 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.

There aren’t any details regarding a future chipset with this technology. Nevertheless, the firm said in 2019 that it’s still “two years down the road� from the launch of the product, pointing to a 2021 launch window.

We’re not sure whether this new GPU will appear in a flagship processor first or in a budget SoC, but this could nevertheless help Samsung take the fight to Qualcomm and Arm GPUs.

This has been our guide to recent Samsung Exynos processors, but we’ve got plenty more Samsung articles worth checking out in the list below.

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