Benchmarking the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: Exynos 2100 vs Snapdragon 888

Exynos 2100 vs Snapdragon 888: Benchmarking the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra versions


For quite some time now Samsung has been releasing two versions of most of its premium smartphones – one with a Qualcomm chipset and another one with its own Exynos chips.

We won’t be delving into the whole story of why that is right now, but one natural consequence has always been comparing the performance and characteristics of the two. Granted, it’s more of a curiosity-driven endeavor since most users won’t really get the option to pick and choose unless they are willing to import units from afar. Most of the world gets the Exynos, with the Snapdragons notably selling in the US and China.

For the S21 generation of Samsung flagships, the battle is between the Snapdragon 888 and the Exynos 2100. It’s a topic many have already explored, but we decided to join in as well, with some of our own benchmark numbers from the Samsung Galaxy S1 Ultra. The more data points, the merrier, we figured.

First off, some specs comparison is in order:











Chipset Samsung Exynos 2100 Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
CPU 1x 2.9 GHz – Cortex-X1, 3x 2.8 GHz – Cortex-A78, 4x 2.2 GHz – Cortex-A55 1x 2.84 GHz – Kryo 680 Prime (Cortex-X1), 3x 2.42 GHz – Kryo 680 Gold (Cortex-A78), 4x 1.8 GHz – Kryo 680 Silver (Cortex-A55)
Manufacturing node 5nm EUV 5nm
GPU Mali-G78 MP14 (14 cores) (Vulkan 1.1, OpenCL 2.0, DirectX 12) Adreno 660 (Vulkan 1.1, OpenCL 2.0, DirectX 12)
Memory support LPDDR5, 3200 MHz, max 50 Gbit/s, max size 16GB LPDDR5, 3200 MHz, max 50 Gbit/s, max size 16GB
Storage UFS 3.1 UFS 3.0, UFS 3.1
Multimedia support Max display res: 4096 x 2160, Video capture: 8K@30fps, 4K@120fps; playbak: 8K@60fps Max display res: 3840 x 2160, Video capture: 8K@30fps, 4K@120fps; playbak: 8K@60fps
Neural processor (NPU) Triple-core NPU (up to 26 TOPS) Hexagon 780 26 TOPS
Modem LTE Cat. 24, up to 3000 Mbps down, 422 Mbps up; 5G SA/NSA/Sub6/mmWave, up to 7.35 Gbps down, 3.67 Gbps up LTE Cat. 22, up to 2500 Mbps down, 316 Mbps up; 5G SA/NSA/Sub6/mmWave, up to 7.5 Gbps down, 3 Gbps up

Starting with GeekBench 5 and its pure-CPU loads, we clearly see the Exynos 2100 has the edge. It’s not a huge edge, but still noticeable, especially in multi-core loads. While both chipsets have the exact same CPU core setup, the ones inside the Exynos 2100 have slightly higher maximum clocks.

GeekBench 5 (multi-core)

Higher is better


  • Galaxy S21 Ultra (Exynos)

    3518

  • Galaxy S21 Ultra (Snapdragon)

    3244

Mind you, this difference really isn’t all that significant – essentially negligible in real-word terms. The simple fact is that the three Cortex-A78 cores inside the Exynos 2100 have around 400MHz of max frequency allowance over the ones in the Snapdragon 888. Same goes for the four Cortex A55 small cores (2.2 GHz vs 1.8 GHz). That’s mostly what seems to stack and shine-through when multiple cores are working simultaneously.

GeekBench 5 (single-core)

Higher is better


  • Galaxy S21 Ultra (Snapdragon)

    1109

  • Galaxy S21 Ultra (Exynos)

    1107

The difference in single-core performance is effectively non-existent in our testing. In fact, as other available benchmark runs have already illustrated despite its lower maximum frequency, the Cortex-X1 inside the Snapdragon 888 scores slightly higher, or in our case identically to the one inside the Exynos 2100.

We can thus agree that the Exynos 2100 has the CPU edge this year, albeit at the expense of less power efficiency or performance per watt. Even so, the Exynos 2100 offers a tangible improvement in this metric over last year’s Exynos 990. Around 34%. You can read more about that here.

AnTuTu 8

Higher is better


  • Galaxy S21 Ultra (Snapdragon)

    657273

  • Galaxy S21 Ultra (Exynos)

    657150

AnTuTu is a compound benchmark that takes into account many aspects of the phone’s hardware, including GPU and storage performance. Our particular scores see the Exynos 2100 and the Snapdragon 888 tied. If there is one thing to take away from this article it should be this – Samsung has always put a lot of effort into unifying the experience between its Exynos and Snapdragon variants of the same handset and with the Galaxy S21 family they really outdid themselves.

Graphics performance comparison between the Snapdragon 888 and Exynos 2100, as experienced on our Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra units turned out to be quite interesting. It is common wisdom at this point that the Adreno 660 inside the Qualcomm chip tends to offer slightly better frame rates in graphic tasks and benchmarks.

GFX Manhattan ES 3.1 (offscreen 1080p)

Higher is better


  • Galaxy S21 Ultra (Snapdragon)

    109

  • Galaxy S21 Ultra (Exynos)

    107

GFX Manhattan ES 3.1 (onscreen)

Higher is better


  • Galaxy S21 Ultra (Exynos)

    58

  • Galaxy S21 Ultra (Snapdragon)

    58

GFX Car Chase ES 3.1 (offscreen 1080p)

Higher is better


  • Galaxy S21 Ultra (Snapdragon)

    66

  • Galaxy S21 Ultra (Exynos)

    64

GFX Car Chase ES 3.1 (onscreen)

Higher is better


  • Galaxy S21 Ultra (Exynos)

    33

  • Galaxy S21 Ultra (Snapdragon)

    33

While we managed to validate that with quite a few of our GFXBench runs, especially with the OpenGL ES API, the two chipsets ended-up neck to neck yet again. Honestly, we saw the two trade blows more than anything else, with the Snapdragon 888 coming up on top more often than not, but only by small margins. Definitely not enough to claim that it offers a noticeably better actual experience.

Aztek Vulkan High (onscreen)

Higher is better


  • Galaxy S21 Ultra (Snapdragon)

    25

  • Galaxy S21 Ultra (Exynos)

    23

GFX Aztek ES 3.1 High (onscreen)

Higher is better


  • Galaxy S21 Ultra (Exynos)

    24

  • Galaxy S21 Ultra (Snapdragon)

    23

GFX Aztek Vulkan High (offscreen 1440p)

Higher is better


  • Galaxy S21 Ultra (Exynos)

    28

  • Galaxy S21 Ultra (Snapdragon)

    25

In fact, our 3DMark runs consistently favored the Exynos 2100 over the Snapdragon 888.

3DMark SSE Vulkan 1.0 (offscreen 1440p)

Higher is better


  • Galaxy S21 Ultra (Exynos)

    6328

  • Galaxy S21 Ultra (Snapdragon)

    6139

3DMark Wild Life Vulkan 1.1 (offscreen 1440p)

Higher is better


  • Galaxy S21 Ultra (Exynos)

    5691

  • Galaxy S21 Ultra (Snapdragon)

    5547

Perhaps Samsung has been fine-tuning performance on the Exynos in recent firmware updates. In any case, looking at our results as a whole, the EU and US variants of the Galaxy S21 Ultra feel virtually and even quantifiably identical. That being said, there are always going to be some real-world differences, if you really want to nitpick. For instance, engine and developer optimization is still overall better on Snapdragon chips. Plus, the Snapdragon 888 also has the edge in terms of power efficiency per watt and hence an ever slightly-better overall battery endurance inside the Galaxy S21 Ultra.

Ultimately, this year the difference seems to be intangible and it doesn’t really matter which version you get. Hopefully, this marks the beginning of a new equality trend in camp Samsung for good.


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