Learning how to compare smartphone processors in today’s world is no longer the abstract science that it once was. Smartphones are now very much a part of our everyday lives. These pieces of technology which ensure that phones run smoothly, often pop up in our daily conversations these days.
Knowing how to compare smartphone processors is a good skill to have. This is especially important when choosing a new phone.
Why? Well because there are many options on the market and everyone would like to get their money’s worth. It also pops up in arguments, as people tend to argue online or offline that their favorite phones have the best SoCs.
There are also instances where you may want to educate a friend about SoCs. At some point in that conversation, they will need to be taught about how to compare smartphone processors.
The parameters used in comparing smartphone processors are of the utmost importance. They include the architecture, microarchitecture, and size.
There are also GPUs, RAM, Storage, ISP, connectivity (modems and radios), and other peripherals.
The brand names also matter in some instances but not always. The smartphone SoC brands include Qualcomm Snapdragon, Apple Bionic, HiSilicon Kirin, Samsung Exynos, Mediatek, and Unisoc.
Instruction Set Architecture
This is the list of commands that the processor can support. You can read the full details in the link below (https://inquisitiveuniverse.com/2020/09/02/instruction-set-architecture-vs-clock-speed/). As computing evolves and improves, newer commands are added to existing ones. This leads to more improvement and greater functionality in apps, games, and other software.
Instruction Set Architecture versions are ARMv8.A, ARMv8.1-A, ARMv8.2-A, ARMv8.3-A, ARMv8.4-A, ARMv8.5-A, ARMv8.6-A, ARMv9A and ARMv9.2. The current standard is ARMv9.2. The newer architecture is always better.
This is the arrangement of the types of processor cores used on the processor/SoC. This subject has also been treated here.
Generally, there are two classes of cores: ‘big and small’ cores. The “big” cores handle heavy tasks like gaming, IG filters, virtual and augmented reality, etc. The “small” cores handle the lighter tasks like calls, watching videos, and the like.
If you are purchasing a low entry-level or budget device, A53s clocked at 2.0GHz should be okay. A midrange SoC should have at the very least, an A73 + A53 arrangement. If you can afford it, an SoC with A76 + A55 is ideal in this day and age. So when comparing, A76 is always better than A73 and A55 is always better than A53.
Finally, there is core count. When in doubt, always go for a processor with 8 cores (octa-core). Except for Apple Bionic, the higher the cores, the better the performance.
The sizes of SoCs are measured in nanometers (nm). Smartphone processors have come a long way from the 90nm die size used in the original iPhone. It passed through 65nm, 45nm, 32nm, 28nm, and 20nm. Further revisions reduced the sizes to 16nm, 14nm, 12nm, 11nm, 10nm, 8nm, 7nm and now 5nm. When comparing, the smaller nanometer is always better. This is because smaller SoCs are cooler, faster, and more efficient. Bigger SoCs tend to heat pretty quickly. They are also slower and less efficient.
All you need to know about GPUs is written in the link below (What is a GPU?). Adreno GPUs have a slight edge because developers tend to optimize games to run better on them.
RAM & Storage
It is very easy to say that a 6GB RAM device is better than a 4GB RAM device. More RAM is always good but…there are different types of RAM as written in the link below (Storage on smartphones explained ). Newer RAM types like LPDDR5 and LPDDR4x will perform better than LPDDR3 and below.
As for storage, emmc 5.1 and UFS2.1 should be the standard.
These parameters determine how well your device will connect to the internet, cellular networks, and other devices. They have been discussed over here (LTE and 5G modems on smartphones).
The higher the Bluetooth or Wi-Fi version, the better the connectivity. If it is a cellular network, then always go for the SoC with the higher LTE category. Read about LTE categories in this link 4g LTE Categories explained ).
These include GPS navigation, accelerometers, gyroscopes, infrared blasters, NFC, etc. Always ensure that they are included on the SoC you are about to buy or you will be missing out on some much-needed functionality.
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