First of all, let's start with what you have to know before you buy a smartphone:
The mobile platform refers to System on Chip, as a system-level chip. It refers to a systematic solution that integrates CPU, GPU, RAM, communication baseband, GPS module, etc.
Now Qualcomm, MTK, and the likes offer great solutions. Generally, when you buy a CPU from a mobile phone manufacturer, it comes with GPU and other hardware.
2. CPU and GPU
In general, when we talk about the performance of a mobile phone, we focus on the CPU. The CPU determines the speed of the mobile phone and the speed of software start-up time to a certain extent.
GPU determines the settings you can have while playing heavier mobile games.
Why would I talk about them together? Unlike for desktops and laptops, CPU and GPU for smartphones are sold together since they have to be integrated. In most cases, a powerful CPU won’t come with an under-performing GPU. For example, one of the strongest CPU, Snapdragon 845 in the current Android phones, is coupled with Adreno 630, which is the most powerful GPU.
At present, the mainstream SoC manufacturers are Qualcomm, MTK, Samsung, Huawei Hisilicon. However, Samsung and MTK are less prevalent in 2019. MTK SoC chipsets are used in some low-end flagships for Nokia and Xiaomi. Some copycats also use the MTK scheme.
Except for Meizu, it seems that no brands use Samsung SoCs. Huawei Hisilicon and Kirin series are only for Huawei and Honor mobile phones.
Let's talk about the most widely used Qualcomm series:
Snapdragon 450: In fact, Snapdragon 625 low-frequency version is good at saving power, but it is less satisfying for playing games due to the Adreno 506 GPU. It’s commonly used in smartphones under $180. Personally, if you want to buy a smartphone for seniors, the chipset is perfect. After all, it drains less from your battery and offers you fair performance. Moreover, as a young person, you can only use it for chatting and playing lighter games.
Snapdragon 625: Although the performance is not attractive, it is the classic generation. Like Snapdragon 450, the performance is inadequate and unrecommended for young people.
Snapdragon 630: The upgraded version of Snapdragon 625, features 25% uplift in performance thanks to Adreno 508. The architecture of the CPU has been changed, but there is still a slight regression in performance, and therefore, it’s not recommended.
Snapdragon 636: It’s the budget version of Snapdragon 660, which uses Adreno 512 GPU, comes with an inferior GPU, Adreno 509, whereas, other configurations are basically the same as Snapdragon 660. It is widely used in smartphones over $200. It is worth recommending, although its GPU is weak, in contrast, the CPU performance is impressive. In the next three years, its performance will be far from weak. It is an excellent choice for those who use smartphones to chat and log in some websites, but not for those who like to play mobile games.
Snapdragon 660: The mid-range Qualcomm processor, the classic 14nm chipset, although a little outdated but impressive in performance. Even though the chipset was released two years ago, its GPU and CPU don’t fall behind, and they are used in smartphones ranging from $200 to $300. You won’t have any problem when using Snapdragon 660 to play games. But given the release date, the GPU (Adreno 512) may not be competent to process massive games that will be released or updated next year and after.
Snapdragon 670: Since Snapdragon 670, the 10nm chipsets come into use. 10 nm and 14 nm are entirely different. The power consumption of 10nm CPU has been improved. In short, the power consumption is lower, and the performance is stronger. It is like a horse which runs faster but eats less food. I strongly recommend that students whose budget is over $320 but less than $400 to buy a 10nm CPU. The mobile phone performance will not be unsatisfying in the next few years.
Snapdragon 670 includes two large cores and six small cores. The architecture is consistent with Snapdragon 710. The performance of Snapdragon 670 is about 20% higher than Snapdragon 660. However, the performance of Snapdragon 670 is not much worse than that of Snapdragon 710, so it can be regarded as the low-frequency version of Snapdragon 710 with an inferior GPU.
Since the price between Snapdragon 670 and Snapdragon 710 is not that big, mobile phones powered by Snapdragon 670 costs about $320 and those powered by Snapdragon 710 costs around $380. I prefer buying a Snapdragon 710 smartphone due to the fact that Snapdragon 670 doesn’t support 2K display, and the baseband is X12 rather than X15. These two aspects slightly impact the daily experience.
Snapdragon 675: Qualcomm is so skillful. The 11nm Snapdragon 675 has been developed based on the 16nm chipset which includes two Cortex A76 cores, also used in Snapdragon 855, and small cores common in Snapdragon 710. Just look at the benchmarks of big cores which are comparable to those of Snapdragon 835. The GPU however, is Adreno 612, and the performance is not so satisfying. In other words, when you’re using Apps or surfing the web, you will enjoy smooth performance, but you won’t be able to play games at high settings.
Snapdragon 710: I believe that the chipset is legendary and the most attractive among 10nm chipsets. Snapdragon 710 is energy-saving but powerful. The balance in performance and power consumption is incredible. Also, compared to Snapdragon 845 which was released at the same time, it features lower CPU and GPU performance, a worse baseband, whereas, other functions such as Bluetooth 5.0, QC4.0 fast charging, etc. are all supported (It depends whether the manufacturer is willing to offer these functions). In other words, if your budget is about $350, I strongly recommend you to buy a Snapdragon 710 smartphone.
Snapdragon 712: It is a high-frequency version of Snapdragon 710, needless to say, in 2019 Qualcomm released it for a niche.
Snapdragon 835: It's also a 10nm chipset, but due to being a 2017 release, it was designed with the second generation Kryo architecture, namely, four A73 2.4GHz big cores and four small cores A53 1.9GHz. Compared with Qualcomm's flagship 845 in 2018, its performance and power consumption are lower. However, compared to Snapdragon 710, it's multicore and GPU performance are superior, but 710 scores higher at the single core performance. A Snapdragon 835 smartphone is also worth buying, but since the Snapdragon 710 was mostly used in flagship phones in 2017, I haven't seen it used in smartphones released in 2018. If your budget is so limited that you want to buy the previous flagship, you should consider this chipset. After all, if you are a gamer, Adreno 540 which comes with Snapdragon 835 can still be counted as a top GPU. At least it is a rival to the Adreno 616 of Snapdragon 710.
Snapdragon 845: It’s the top CPU chip in 2018, with four A75 (2.8GHz) cores, four A55 (1.8GHz) cores, and Adreno 630 top GPU chip. The chip is one of the kings of top-performing Android phones. Please note that because the main frequency is too high, the energy consumption of this processor is also a little high, and the battery life of smartphone will not be as good as that of a Snapdragon 835 smartphone. Apart from the high power consumption and heat generation, the Snapdragon 845 has minimal defects.
Snapdragon 855: Equipped with 7nm process technology, Octa-core architecture with 1 Kryo485 Gold (2.84GHz) cores, three Kryo485 Gold (2.41GHz) core, and four Kryo485 Silver (1.78GHz) cores, it’s one the best CPUs. The CPU uses the flagship GPU, Adreno 640, includes two 256 arithmetic logic units and processes 7 trillion times per second. The 2019 flagship outperforms Kirin 980. However, according to users, energy consumption is a little higher than expected, thus affecting battery life severely.
Now that I’m done with Qualcomm chipsets, let’s discuss Huawei Hisilicon and Kirin series. Because I am not familiar with the mid-range chipsets of Hisilicon and Kirin series, I will focus on two top-notch processors.
Kirin 980: the Hisilicon flagship in 2018 and the world's first ARM 7nm chipset for commercial use. The performance of Mali-G76 GPU is about 10% lower than that of Snapdragon 845, but the CPU is much powerful than Snapdragon 845, merely weaker than the Snapdragon 855 (Qualcomm flagship in 2019).
If you only take into account the single-core performance and GPU performance, Kirin 980 is worth considering indeed, whereas, Kirin Series is exclusive to Huawei and Honor smartphones. The downside of the Huawei chipset is the EMUI operating system, which is far from an optimization.
Kirin 970: China's first commercial ARM chip that can achieve top ranking in the world. Both CPU and GPU win Qualcomm’s flagship Snapdragon 835 hands down when tested in the lab. However, there is a defect of heat generation, and the frequency will be reduced in daily use, making it unbearable. Huawei relied on the chipset to get rid of the used continuously K3V2, and SOC launched in 2017. It was a landmark that greatly influenced the Chinese mobile phone market.
We’ve finished talking about chipsets for Android phones. Let's talk about those for iPhone.
Let’s dive into everything you should know about Apple’s chipsets in a few minutes.
By January 2019, there was not a processor comparable with the A11, Apple's product in 2017 for iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X. Even the Snapdragon 855 sold in 2019, could not match up to the level of A11.
Two years ago, Apple's A11 got more credit compared to flagship processors for Android smartphones in 2018. It is still more powerful than those of Android flagship smartphones of 2019. Don't forget that Apple's mobile phones are backed by the closed source iOS system, which is the reason why the iPhone 5S released six years ago is still smoother than the low-end Android smartphones.
We’ve done with SoC. Let’s talk about another thing that affects the performance of the phone: ROM.
Currently, there are two mainstream ROM specifications, UFS, and eMMC. I won’t explain the technical differences between these two in detail, but the difference in performance between them: UFS 2.1 reads and writes about three times as fast as eMMC 5.1.
This difference in speed is reflected in performance when installing applications, especially CPU and GPU intensive games and software. UFS 2.1 takes less time than eMMC and opens applications faster.
As expected, the cost of UFS2.1 is higher. Smartphones under $500 rarely use UFS. In 2018, only Xiaomi Mi 8, Meizu 16 and some in Huawei Honor Series used UFS2.1 ROM.
Also, there is RAM, Random Access Memory. The bigger the RAM, the more you can open other apps and allow them to run on the background, and the more programs you can execute. Just remember that the size of RAM plays a significant role. As for Android smartphones, 4GB RAM is barely enough for gaming, and it's better to get a phone with 6GB RAM.
Wrapping it up, that’s all I wanted you to know. I will introduce some cost-effective smartphones to you according to the price ranges in the next article.