Processors in mobile gadgets – which are and which is better

In the market of desktop processors, everything is quite clear – here the leadership is shared by Intel and AMD. If we talk about mobile processors, then everything is somewhat more complicated. Each of the brands offers its own models, and some of them are exclusive to specific gadgets. We will tell you about the leading manufacturers of mobile processors and consider their range.

What’s the difference between mobile and desktop processors?
Without going into the numerous technical features, the main difference is architecture.

Architecture is a set of design principles, a general layout of elements on a chip and a scheme for the interaction of software with a chip.

The desktop models use the x86 / x64 architecture, but the engineers have not been able to achieve the required energy efficiency, despite all attempts. Processors consumed too much power due to the need for additional transformations, so they were not suitable for mobile technology. As a result, the developers proposed to use a new architecture – RISC (reduced instruction set computer) instead of the existing CISC (complex instruction set computing).

In the CISC architecture, each instruction has its own format and length, which causes the processor to take more time and resources to process. In RISC architecture, commands have not only overall length but also format. This makes RISC processors more energy efficient, processing instructions faster and requiring less RAM, making them an almost ideal candidate for mobile electronics.

RISC was developed by ARM Limited, which introduced an improved architecture called ARM. It is worth noting that this company not only creates its own variations of processors, but also grants licenses for its developments. As a result, on the basis of the cores provided by ARM, large brands create their own topologies and proprietary processors, which we will talk about further.

Apple began to develop processors with its own topology only in 2010, presenting its first iPad. The A4 processor model is built on the ARM Cortex-A8 core and was the beginning of the entire line, which continues to this day. By the way, in smartphones of the first generation before the iPhone 4, Apple used microprocessors from Samsung.

Since 2010, Apple has released more than 15 models in the line, each subsequent was an improvement on the previous one and, as a rule, was installed in the new iPhone or iPad model.

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Apple was one of the first to understand the full benefits of RISC architecture in the mobile segment. Together with the OS of their own design, the engineers managed to produce some of the most powerful models, which were 50-100% faster than the top-end products of other brands in performance.

On average, with each new generation of Apple processors, it was able to increase performance from 1.3 times up to 2 times.

Moreover, in certain tests, A-series processors are not inferior in performance to desktop models, showing similar or even better results. The most powerful breakthrough can be called the Apple M1 – a system-on-a-chip ARM architecture, which is already used not only in the iPad Pro, but also in the latest MacBooks.

PowerVR accelerators were responsible for graphics in mobile processors before the A11, and starting with the A11, Apple engineers installed their own GPU, but using licensed software.

Apple, without exaggeration, can be called one of the leaders in the field of mobile processors. Years of experience and customizing the hardware for the operating system allow you to get the highest results. However, processors from Apple are installed exclusively in the equipment of this brand.The competition “Cupertinos” are engineers from Qualcomm – one of the largest firms in the development and research of wireless communications and systems on a chip. In particular, the company is known for its Snapdragon line of processors. The firm began production of the first SoCs in 2007, providing processors for HTC, Acer, Asus, LG, Huawei and other brands. In the period from 2007 to 2012, four generations of S1 – S4 models were created using the 28 nm process technology and more.

In generations up to S4, the architecture was developed based on its own cores, which are modified versions of ARM-Cortex.

Since 2013, the company has introduced five main lines of its processors aimed at different classes of devices:

Chipset Appointment Kernels Technical process Processors in the line
Tech Centurion has tested the current models, assessing their relative performance.

A series of proprietary accelerators called Adreno is used as a GPU. The latest model supports APIs such as Vulkan, OpenGL ES (3.2), OpenVG (1.1), OpenCL (2.0), OpenGL (WIP), and Direct3D (12). The latest Adreno accelerators provide 60+ FPS in almost all major mobile games.

Snapdragon processors can be found in gadgets from Vivo, Sony, OnePlus, Google, Motorola, Xiaomi, Oppo, Realme, as well as some Samsung and Asus. This chipset is the most widespread in the android gadgets market due to the large selection and high performance of the 8xx line.The latest top model in mid-2021, the Snapdragon 888+, outperforms even Apple’s A14 in some tests (we’ll talk about that later). It is also worth noting that all ten of the most powerful android smartphones are built on Snapdragon 888, which makes the SoC from Qualcomm the undisputed leader in the segment of android devices.

The South Korean brand is one of the leading microelectronics manufacturers. Until 2009, the company developed ARM processors up to 65 nm, not only for its smartphones, but also for gadgets from other brands, including the first generations of the iPhone.

Since 2010, Samsung engineers have begun to integrate Exynos microprocessors into their equipment. Most models use off-the-shelf ARM-Cortex cores, but some processors have built in their own cores, codenamed Mongoose. The solution was not the most successful, since smartphones with these cores had problems with heat dissipation and energy efficiency.

Now Samsung has completely abandoned Mongoose, disbanding the development team. However, some sources claim that the company still has work on the M6 ​​core. At the same time, it is assumed that the new core will bypass both Apple and the ready-made ARM Cortex cores in many respects.

By 2021, the company has released nine generations of Exynos processors, with the last two lines having only one model each. The Exynos 1080 processor can only be found in the Vivo X60 (Pro), while Samsung’s latest Exynos 2100 is only found in the Galaxy S21 / S21 + / S21Ultra.