Samsung again claims 'leadership by following' with Exynos 8, its new Apple A9 rival

Posted:
in iPhone edited November 2015
Samsung Electronics has unveiled its new Exynos 8 Octa chip, combining its first custom 64-bit ARMv8 CPU core with the company's proprietary mobile baseband in the same package. But while claiming leadership, the new chip trails Apple in performance.




Samsung's existing high end chip, Exynos 7 Octa (as in 8 core), is already in use in the company's flagship Galaxy 6S Edge. Clocked at 1.66 GHz and equipped with 3GB of RAM, it turns in benchmark scores nearly as good as Apple's A9 powered iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, at least in multicore scores.

In single core scores, Samsung's current chip falls down considerably. A9 delivers single core performance that makes Apple's entry level iPhone 6s over 90 percent faster than Samsung's fastest Exynos 7 chip used in its premium-priced, limited availability Galaxy S6 Edge.

Multicore performance is exploited most often only in benchmark tests; most of the time, phones are riding on single core performance. That makes too many cores a liability, as they either have to be left idle or activated at the expense of battery life. Apple's two core chips provide faster performance when only one is in use, while also peaking to provide similar or better scores to 8 core chips on the market. Apple also has an easier time extending battery life, even when using smaller, lighter battery packages.

One small leap for Exynos 8, one giant leap for A9


Samsung isn't shipping products using its next Exynos 8 yet, but it has delivered a press release touting the upcoming chip as "a leading-edge application processor for next-generation mobile devices."Rather than advertising a 30 percent jump in performance, Apple states its A9 delivers 70 percent faster CPU performance and a 90 percent faster GPU

However, even the press release notes that Samsung expects only a "30 percent improvement in performance" over its existing Exynos 7 Octa architecture, despite incorporating the company's first generation of in-house 64-bit cores.

Samsung has previously used stock core designs created by ARM, just like Qualcomm. Apple introduced its first 64-bit cores in 2012 [correction: 2013] with the A7, catching the industry off guard. It's now on its third generation 64-bit architecture.

And rather than advertising a 30 percent jump in performance, Apple states its A9 delivers 70 percent faster CPU performance and a 90 percent faster GPU than its previous chip.

"We, as a market leader, are following the market trend"

Last year, Samsung executive Rhee In-jong bizarrely claimed to the Wall Street Journal that at Samsung, "we, as a market leader, are following the market trend" in delivering catch up technology that claimed to somehow also be first to market. He was speaking about Samsung's efforts to catch up with Apple's Touch ID.

A year earlier in 2013, Samsung's System LSI president Dr. Namsung Stephen Woo also presented a strange interpretation of time and sequence when claiming leadership in 64-bit mobile chips.

He was directly addressing the company's investors over the issue of Samsung's notable lack of 64-bit Application Processors, a year [correction: a few months] after Apple had introduced its A7.

"Many people were thinking 'why do we need 64-bit for mobile devices?'" Woo said, before outlining Samsung's two part strategy for catching up. It involved first using ARM's generic core reference design, before delivering a chip using its own custom 64-bit cores.

"We are marching ahead with the 64-bit offering, and even though it's a little too early, I think we are at the leader group in terms of 64-bit offerings," he claimed. However, his second step toward 64-bit is only now being readied for production in 2015, two years later--and three years [correction: over 2 years] behind the A7.




Even with a 30 percent improvement in processing power, the Exynos 8 Octa would conceptually deliver Geekbench scores that left existing iPhone 6s models about 48 percent faster in single core performance, even if Samsung retains the same higher clock speed and more RAM.

However, Apple also has a showoff chip of its own: A9X. It has single core performance that would be almost twice that of Exynos 8 Octa, and that chip (powering iPad Pro) has only two cores. It's gaining attention, not just for being faster than Samsung's mobile chips, but faster than some of Intel's processors designed for mobile hybrid tablet-laptops.

Some other problems for Samsung

Of course, Samsung hasn't even actually delivered its latest chip yet. Intending to meet certain goals and functionality aren't the same as delivering upon those plans. Samsung experienced this with its first attempt to take on Touch ID using inferior fingerprint scanning on the Galaxy S5 that reviews lambasted as problematic and quirky. That was the feature Samsung delivered alongside the line that the company was "leading by following" in biometric sensors.




But specific to its own chip designs, Samsung has also suffered through flaws in its processors. For example, Samsung shipped some versions of its Galaxy S4 using in-house Exynos 5 Octa chips (although most used Qualcomm Snapdragon processors).

While the media glowed over Samsung's Exynos 5 press release and analysts claimed that by using its own chips it would save tons of money and be difficult to compete against, the Exynos 5 suffered what AnandTech described as "a broken implementation of the CCI-400 coherent bus interface," with "implications [that] are serious from a power consumption (and performance) standpoint."

The news didn't get much attention, in part because "neither ARM nor Samsung LSI will talk about the bug publicly, and Samsung didn't fess up to the problem at first either - leaving end users to discover it on their own."

It also turned out that Samsung's Galaxy S4 models with the chip were more expensive to build, not less, even before including the costs involved with fixing the hardware bugs.

Samsung's latest flagship, the Galaxy S6 Edge, appears to have transitioned to Exynos chips exclusively. However, that was actually caused by another chip debacle: Qualcomm's own inability to deliver its first 64-bit chips without serious flaws and delays. Given Qualcomm's stature in the chip industry, that doesn't exactly bode well for Samsung's prospects of having a flawless launch.

Samsung also has other problems riding on top of its phone chip. Even if it were to develop and ship a chip as fast as Apple's A-series, it would still be hamstrung by the phone maker's dependence upon Android, which is notorious for hogging memory and processing resources.

Samsung's Galaxy S6 (and most other Android phones) shipped with full disk encryption turned off, because FDE under Android significantly taxes memory performance by 50 to 80 percent. Most modern Android phones still aren't fast enough to handle the encryption that iPhone 3GS had in 2008 [correction: 2009], partially the fault of hardware and party the fault of Google's software.Most modern Android phones still aren't fast enough to handle the encryption that iPhone 3GS had in 2009

A detailed review of video gaming on mobile platforms also noted that "iPhone games use around a quarter of the RAM of the Android games we tested," while Samsung's own contributions, including the use of ultra high resolution displays, tax the processor further without delivering real benefits, particularly in video games, which often simply downscale to a lower resolution to remain playable.

On top of the problems of Android, Samsung is also adding its own services and apps with serious, easy to exploit security flaws. Google volunteered to help clean up Samsung's latest Galaxy S6 Edge, and found 11 exploitable holes including "a substantial number of high-severity issues" within a week.

Of course, the biggest problem for Samsung is that it is competing against two fronts, with Apple taking up an increasing majority of the high end, while regional players in China displace its volume shipments and drive down prices in the mid and low end. That market position makes focusing on high performance chips like Exynos 8 Octa virtually irrelevant, because Samsung is having a very hard time selling many of the expensive phones that use them.

In contrast, the majority of iPhones that Apple sells are its newest model, creating vast economies of scale that drive down their cost and finance the next generation of ever faster and more sophisticated A-series processors.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 39
    They only way they can appear to be competing is by adding cores and increasing the clock rate. I wonder how well they would do if the metrics were equalized.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 39
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 8,437member

    Apple is just killing it on the CPU & GPU front lately. Present day iPhones and iPads are pretty damn powerful, can you imagine how powerful iPhones and iPads will be next year and the following year?<img class=" src="http://forums-files.appleinsider.com/images/smilies//lol.gif" />

     

    And no, not even an ignorant and delusional Fandroid holding their brand new pathetic 8 core Android phone will change that fact. Everybody else should just throw in the towel. They are no match for Apple.:smokey:

    watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 39

    The only way Samsung can compete with Apple is by cheating on benchmark scores like they have in the past. Speaking of Samsung, it sounds like they took a page out of Volkswagen's cheating handbook.  Apparently Samsung has been using software to cheat on power consumption tests on their TV's. 

    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 39
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Apple ][ View Post

     

    Apple is just killing it on the CPU & GPU front lately. Present day iPhones and iPads are pretty damn powerful, can you imagine how powerful iPhones and iPads will be next year and the following year?<img class=" src="http://forums-files.appleinsider.com/images/smilies//lol.gif" />

     

    And no, not even an ignorant and delusional Fandroid holding their brand new pathetic 8 core Android phone will change that fact. Everybody else should just throw in the towel. They are no match for Apple.:smokey:


     

    I imagine the baton will keep passing from phone to phone, chip to chip in terms of what is 'best' performance wise (benchmark or real world). That's only natural. Lack of competition = stagnation.

  • Reply 5 of 39
    Samsung's actions remind me of how insecure people behave. To be a participant in the conversation of the moment, Samsung announced a new chip. When the chip is put under the early microscope, the chip is found lacking. Apple's A9X chip is the chip of conversation versus Intel chips. Samsung is in the conversation because of its rushed announcement. The inclusion will fade quickly.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 39
    boredumbboredumb Posts: 1,414member

    Samsung - the OctaMom of tech...

    watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 39
    tmaytmay Posts: 3,568member

    The Exynos 8 and the Snapdragon 820 would seem to bely Google's need for its own processor design, seeing as though both of these are Android OS targeted. Even if they aren't at the performance of the A series, these are still "good enough" for Android OS premium phones, though low to mid range tablets likely won't compete with the iPad Pro anyway.

    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 39

    Back when the iPhone 4S came out with the A5 everyone was using 2 core processors. This is when the smartphone/mobile processor wars really took off and we saw significant gains every year. The difference is the path companies took when they encountered the "fork in the road".

     

    - Apple decided to stay with 2 cores for their processors and worked at making more powerful cores.

    - Everyone else (Samsung & Qualcomm) started on a race to add more cores and crank up the clock speeds.

     

    So here we are today and Apple has the fastest phone/tablet mobile ARM processors with the A9/A9X while still using 2 cores. Competitors have their 8 core processors that can barely keep up in very limited scenarios and get smoked in real world use.

     

     

    The question is, where do they go next? Look at Intel as an example. They have so finely tuned and optimized their x86 architecture that new processors are only seeing small gains from one generation to the next. Short of some miracle technology breakthrough we won't be seeing Intel ever release anything that's 70-90% faster than last years model.

     

    I think Apple is close to the limits of what they can extract out of a single core, with the A10 probably being the last jump in performance while still using 2 cores. Likewise Samsung and Qualcomm can't keep adding cores and they can't keep cranking the clock speeds. This is where Apple has a HUGE advantage over everyone else.

     

    Apple was very smart to spend years designing their own cores/microarchitecture. This represent a significant investment in money & resources. Nvidia made their own custom 64bit cores in the Denver, but shortly after they dropped it and started using regular ARM cores instead. Now Qualcomm is making a custom 64bit processor, but early benchmarks show it's still significantly behind Apple. Same with the Samsung Exynos 8890. It will take these companies a long time to get their cores as optimized as Apple (that is, IF they can even get there).

     

    Meanwhile, Apple, with their high performance cores has lots of options. They can go to 3 or 4 core processors. They can bump clock speeds. Or do a mix of both. Apple could keep the existing A9 core without doing a single thing to modify it, and by adding cores/playing with clock speeds can stay well ahead of Samsung and Qualcomm.

     

     

    Bottom line: Apple did the hard work first and it's paying off now. Samsung & Qualcomm were lazy and took the easy way out (using ARM designs and adding cores/cranking the clock) at the beginning and now they're looking at a very high brick wall that's going to be very difficult to get over.

    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 39
    tmaytmay Posts: 3,568member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by EricTheHalfBee View Post

     

    Back when the iPhone 4S came out with the A5 everyone was using 2 core processors. This is when the smartphone/mobile processor wars really took off and we saw significant gains every year. The difference is the path companies took when they encountered the "fork in the road".

     

    - Apple decided to stay with 2 cores for their processors and worked at making more powerful cores.

    - Everyone else (Samsung & Qualcomm) started on a race to add more cores and crank up the clock speeds.

     

    So here we are today and Apple has the fastest phone/tablet mobile ARM processors with the A9/A9X while still using 2 cores. Competitors have their 8 core processors that can barely keep up in very limited scenarios and get smoked in real world use.

     

     

    The question is, where do they go next? Look at Intel as an example. They have so finely tuned and optimized their x86 architecture that new processors are only seeing small gains from one generation to the next. Short of some miracle technology breakthrough we won't be seeing Intel ever release anything that's 70-90% faster than last years model.

     

    I think Apple is close to the limits of what they can extract out of a single core, with the A10 probably being the last jump in performance while still using 2 cores. Likewise Samsung and Qualcomm can't keep adding cores and they can't keep cranking the clock speeds. This is where Apple has a HUGE advantage over everyone else.

     

    Apple was very smart to spend years designing their own cores/microarchitecture. This represent a significant investment in money & resources. Nvidia made their own custom 64bit cores in the Denver, but shortly after they dropped it and started using regular ARM cores instead. Now Qualcomm is making a custom 64bit processor, but early benchmarks show it's still significantly behind Apple. Same with the Samsung Exynos 8890. It will take these companies a long time to get their cores as optimized as Apple (that is, IF they can even get there).

     

    Meanwhile, Apple, with their high performance cores has lots of options. They can go to 3 or 4 core processors. They can bump clock speeds. Or do a mix of both. Apple could keep the existing A9 core without doing a single thing to modify it, and by adding cores/playing with clock speeds can stay well ahead of Samsung and Qualcomm.

     

     

    Bottom line: Apple did the hard work first and it's paying off now. Samsung & Qualcomm were lazy and took the easy way out (using ARM designs and adding cores/cranking the clock) at the beginning and now they're looking at a very high brick wall that's going to be very difficult to get over.


    Apple can certainly afford larger die if needed, so would they add more and higher level cache, more registers, wider data paths to memory (especially if they go with a system on a package, and split of more functionality off to M coprocessors? I suspect that there is more fine tuning that Apple will do to the architecture

  • Reply 10 of 39
    chadbagchadbag Posts: 1,076member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Boltsfan17 View Post

     

    The only way Samsung can compete with Apple is by cheating on benchmark scores like they have in the past. Speaking of Samsung, it sounds like they took a page out of Volkswagen's cheating handbook.  Apparently Samsung has been using software to cheat on power consumption tests on their TV's. 




    I would guess it is convergent evolution...

  • Reply 11 of 39
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by EricTheHalfBee View Post

     

    The question is, where do they go next? Look at Intel as an example. They have so finely tuned and optimized their x86 architecture that new processors are only seeing small gains from one generation to the next. Short of some miracle technology breakthrough we won't be seeing Intel ever release anything that's 70-90% faster than last years model.


     

    Efficiency. There was a huge leap from the only Conroe to Nehalam cores, again to Sandy Bridge and then everything else has been much more incremental, but they've made huge leaps in terms of power efficiency and shrinking the die size.

     

    We'll probably see another fabrication shrink, down to 10nm this time but I'm guessing that won't be until iPhone 7S-era phones - both Samsung and TSMC have demonstrated this technology and Intel isn't due to release 10nm until 2017 with Cannonlake. I don't it's close to consumer sale.

     

    But yea, power efficiency. We're at quite a good peak with smartphone performance across the board, and I'd like to see devices that would last multiple days if not weeks with a single charge. Far flung dream perhaps, but I'd be happy if smartphones stayed at current performance levels and doubled battery life next year rather than continue a frankly misbegotten horsepower race.

  • Reply 12 of 39

    Samsung competing with Apple--is that an oxymoron?

  • Reply 13 of 39
    8 Octa? Seems redundant.
  • Reply 14 of 39
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 3,013moderator
    Minor correction to the article. The A7 shipped in 2013, with the 5S, not in 2012.
  • Reply 15 of 39

    Quote:


    He was directly addressing the company's investors over the issue of Samsung's notable lack of 64-bit Application Processors, a year after Apple had introduced its A7.




     

    Quote:


    However, his second step toward 64-bit is only now being readied for production in 2015, two years later—and three years behind the A7.


    Quote:


    Samsung has previously used stock core designs created by ARM, just like Qualcomm. Apple introduced its first 64-bit cores in 2012 with the A7, catching the industry off guard. It's now on its third generation 64-bit architecture.


     

    The A7 (1st gen 64-bit SoC) came out in 2013. The A8 (2nd gen 64-bit SoC) came out in 2014. The A9 (3rd gen 64-bit SoC) came out in 2015. 

     

    Samsung got caught with its pants down when the A7 came out, and there was no way that they could let a whole year slide by without making any promises about 64-bit. That presentation that you cite occurred less than two months after the iPhone 5s came out. The date on your own article confirms this.

     

    http://appleinsider.com/articles/13/11/07/samsung-tempers-expectations-for-a-64-bit-android-answer-to-apples-a7

  • Reply 16 of 39

    Wow.

     

    9 links in this article linking back to his own articles. 

     

    That's gotta be a record.

  • Reply 17 of 39
    freerangefreerange Posts: 1,585member
    techlover wrote: »
    Wow.

    9 links in this article linking back to his own articles. 

    That's gotta be a record.

    So what!
  • Reply 18 of 39

    Quote:


    Originally Posted by leavingthebigG View Post



    Samsung's actions remind me of how insecure people behave. To be a participant in the conversation of the moment, Samsung announced a new chip. When the chip is put under the early microscope, the chip is found lacking. Apple's A9X chip is the chip of conversation versus Intel chips. Samsung is in the conversation because of its rushed announcement. The inclusion will fade quickly.

     

    Apple caught the entire industry by surprise when the came out with the A7. At that point, 64-bit was still about two years away on most competing product roadmaps. It wasn't just Samsung. Qualcomm and Nvidia were equally shell shocked. Recall that (now former) Qualcomm marketing exec who called 64-bit a marketing gimmick.

     

    Given how Samsung panders to spec geeks, they had no choice but to announce that they too would come out with a 64-bit SoC. But, it was consequential in more ways than just a rushed announcement. Samsung, Qualcomm, and Nvidia had to introduce their 64-bit chips using  ARM reference designs for the CPU. This put them at a disadvantage because they could not include much in the way of optimizations.

     

    Meanwhile, Apple started with a custom implementation of the ARM 64-bit instruction sets, and has been optimizing various parts of the chip since then. Qualcomm and Samsung are only now rolling out their own 64-bit custom cores, while Apple is on its 3rd generation with major architectural upgrades on the A9.

     

    The A9X serves as an indicator of how confidently Apple views its chip designs. With the A8X, Apple went to a triple-core CPU. On the A9X, they went back to dual-core. They still have any number of optimizations available to further bump up the performance.

  • Reply 19 of 39
    I would be really curious if Apple's chips could out perform intel's higher end desktop CPUs down the road. They can take some of the lower end ones now, but I wonder if Apple chips could ever reach a point where they would be a serious performance threat to the big boy CPUs. Probably won't happen, but it would be cool for Apple to succeed where AMD could not.
  • Reply 20 of 39

    Quote:


    Bottom line: Apple did the hard work first and it's paying off now. Samsung & Qualcomm were lazy and took the easy way out (using ARM designs and adding cores/cranking the clock) at the beginning and now they're looking at a very high brick wall that's going to be very difficult to get over. 


     

    I think this is going too far. Samsung et al. did significant work to optimize their SoC for more cores, and heterogeneous ones at that. Building a clever architectures that can spin cores up and down quickly, manage cache contention and so on is its own kind of engineering work, and several generations in, they've significantly improved their power consumption and ability to keep the cores properly fed under load.



    Having said that, I do still agree with the basic point that Apple is much better positioned to start improving performance by adding cores than Samsung or Qualcomm are to improve performance by improving their cores. There's also absolutely no scope left for adding more than four cores, because few applications even really use three yet. (The Exynos SoCs are really a quad-heavyweight CPU set and a quad-flyweight set for two totally different roles.)

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