Last week we took a look at the single core performance of today and tomorrow's mobile chipsets, encompassing the Apple A9, Samsung Exynos 8890, Qualcomm Snapdragon 820, HiSilicon Kirin 950 and MediaTek Helio X20. In single core performance, the Apple A9 is showing as the most powerful processor, followed by the Samsung Exynos 8890 and Snapdragon 820. These three processors all use custom designed application processor cores. The remaining chipsets, the HiSilicon Kirin 950 and MediaTek Helio X20, use ARM's reference and stock Cortex-A72 core and show slightly lower benchmark scores.
We have now seen the multi-core benchmarks and in these tests, the Samsung Exynos 8890 outperforms the rest of the competition by quite some margin. The 8890 is based around eight application cores: for are ARM Cortex-A53s, ARM's current low power application core and form the "LITTLE" cluster of the chipset. The other four cores form the "big" cluster and are Samsung's custom M1 core design. Samsung have used big.LITLE chipsets for some considerable time and this helps the chipset benchmark at 7,400 in the multi-core test, showing a clean pair of heels to the next chipset in the benchmark, the MediaTek Helio X20, with 6,500 points. MediaTek's chipset contains ten processor cores; two are ARM's Cortex-A72 and the remaining are Cortex-A53s. The Kirin 950 is next, scoring 6,400 points: this processor is based around two quad core clusters, one of the ARM Cortex-A53 and the other of the Cortex-A72.
Where does that leave the Apple A9 and Qualcomm Snapdragon 820? The Apple A9 is trailing the back with just over 4,400: still a creditable score when we consider that the A9 is a dual core processor. The Snapdragon 820's performance shows as 5,300: the 820 consists of a big.LITTLE arrangement of the same custom core type, called Kyro, with a dual core lower clocked cluster working in conjunction with a higher clock speed dual core cluster.
As you can see from the table, today's chipsets are showing a steady improvement over older chipsets, but the situation is cloudy when it comes to multi-core benchmarks because the vast majority of applications and operating system functions use one or two processor cores. For those chipsets that contain clusters of four application cores, most of the time these are sitting idle. Although the Apple and Qualcomm chipsets might show the lowest benchmark scores, their dual core (and two dual core) designs may show the strongest real world blend of performance with power efficiency. However, it is difficult to compare the Apple iPhone with Android smartphones as there are many variables - and we will have to wait until the first Qualcomm Snapdragon 820-powered devices make it into the hands of customers before we know how well the chipset performs.