System Performance - Still a large(r) contrast

The performance difference between the Snapdragon and Exynos S9’s was among by biggest complaints about the latter variant. Here there’s a stark difference in software quality between what Qualcomm and S.LSI were able to deliver. Let’s see if the Note9 improves this in any way:

PCMark Work 2.0 - Web Browsing 2.0

The Exynos Note9 here unfortunately doesn’t really improve on the S9, and even shows a slight regression.

PCMark Work 2.0 - Video Editing

The video editing test further showcases the same behaviour, with the Snapdragon Note9 being in line with the S9+ result, while the Exynos Note9 is in line with the S9 result.

PCMark Work 2.0 - Writing 2.0

The writing test of PCMark is in my opinion one of the most important tests in our suite, as its results pretty much directly correspond to the actual perceived speed of a device in a lot of every-day scenarios. The test makes heavy usage of common Android APIs to achieve representative usage of common tasks such as text editing and PDF rendering.

The Exynos Note9 here seems again to showcase a slight performance degradation over the S9, but it’s all within margins of error.

PCMark Work 2.0 - Photo Editing 2.0

The photo editing test consists of small bursts of workloads making use of Android’s image processing APIs. This test’s key feature is that it is very sensitive to the responsiveness of the system, in other words, how fast the SoC can ramp up its performance.

PCMark Work 2.0 - Data Manipulation

Finally, the data manipulation test is the most telling one in terms of the differences that Samsung has made on the Exynos model: Here the Note9 performs significantly worse than the Exynos Galaxy S9, coming in with a 34% lower score.

The data manipulation test is characteristic in the way it works in that it has a significant portion of heavy single-threaded processing. What’s actually happening on the Exynos Note9 here is that Samsung is disallowing the SoC to boost to its single-core 2.7GHz mode as often as the S9 originally did, a regression that I also encountered with my custom kernels on the S9.

PCMark Work 2.0 - Performance

In terms of overall result, the Exynos Note9 falls in the ranks by several spots, now scoring even lower than last year’s Exynos 8895 S8, a not too fantastic showing.

Web browsing: less 2.7GHz – more actual performance?

The most evident result of the more prohibitive single-core booster is in the web browsing tests:

Speedometer 2.0 - OS WebView WebXPRT 3 - OS WebView

Both in Speedometer 2.0 and WebXPRT 3, the Exynos Note9 performs better than the S9 with its initial firmware. The result here is directly related to the decreased result of the data manipulation score in PCMark. As explained in our scheduler pieces, one of the reasons the Exynos S9 fared so badly in these tests is the core booster mechanism; boosting to 2.7GHz on a single big core while relegating all other threads to the small cores results in worse performance than simply if there were simply more big cores available, but at a lower clock speed. The latter scenario is what happens on the Note9 as why we see a 10% improvement over the S9.

The most low-effort band-aid

Overall, the actual changes in behaviour of the Exynos chipset in the Note9 represent nothing more than the most low effort changes possible. What Samsung has done here is just slightly change the booster mechanism in order make workloads more difficult to trigger the single-core 2.7GHz boost mode. For performance this is both beneficial as well as a regression, depending on workloads. What is more important is that the severe battery life impact of the 2.7GHz frequency is more significantly reduced through these changes, even though efficiency still doesn't match the Snapdragon 845 variant.

While performance has increased in the web benchmarks by around 10% - the overall result is still abysmal. Comparing the speed of the Snapdragon Note9 to the Exynos Note9 in just everyday usage, the Exynos still pretty much falls behind in every aspect. Samsung had a chance to improve things more drastically with the release of the new phone, but to me it just looks like another disappointment.

The Snapdragon Note9 is pretty much in line with other S845 devices: performance is a non-issue. While there are now more contrasting devices out there such as Huawei’s Mate 20’s – the Snapdragon Note9 is still a great device to use when it comes to its performance.

Introduction & Battery Life GPU Performance & Device Thermals
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  • Andrei Frumusanu - Monday, November 26, 2018 - link

    > Please kindly do mention the workings of them.

    It's a bit too much to cover as it goes into the actual registers of the fuelgauge and the battery drivers. In general you can just read up on Maxim's ModelGauge algos.

    https://www.maximintegrated.com/en/design/partners...

    > To add my OP3 fuel gauge chip also blocks installing the 3Ts higher spec battery (3000 vs 3300)

    In general kernels can't do anything because the PMIC/FG is initialised by the bootloader, which is again a whole other topic.
    Reply
  • Quantumz0d - Monday, November 26, 2018 - link

    Thanks, that should help. Yes, OnePlus patched it with a firmware update iirc. Reply
  • eastcoast_pete - Monday, November 26, 2018 - link

    @Andrei: Thanks for this review and the analysis. I know you wouldn't write this w/o strong, more direct evidence, but would you care to speculate on how the strange behavior of the snapdragon Note 9 in the graphics benchmark (allowing temp to rise quite high) might affect battery longevity (actual useful lifetime, as in number of charges before it degrades)? I for one am concerned whenever a Li-ion device is allowing itself to get quite toasty. Lastly, there is also the suspicion that Samsung has massaged the SoC software to recognize GFx and Aztec and allow a "performance mode" when these are detected.

    Regarding Samsung's insistence of using its S-LSI in-house Exynos whenever possible: I am not even sure that it ends up costing Samsung that much less than using QC's 845. I believe it's a case of what in banking is called throwing good money after bad, i.e. the reluctance to say "well, this (Exynos/Mongoose) didn't work out", and move one. Until the most recent Kirin, the Android mobile SoC landscape really had two players: QC and Samsung. If you lived in a country that only gets the Exynos, there were few competitive non-Exynos handsets to have at the higher end. However, the competitive landscape has changed, with the newest A-76 Kirin designs giving Samsung a run for its money. I wonder if the desire to move $ 800 - $1100 handsets will overcome Samsung's reluctance to use QC flagship SoCs for Europe and Asia also. Otherwise, they're in for a world of hurt. I would be surprised if Huawei isn't working on a pen-input device based on its P 20 Pro to go after the upcoming Note 10.
    Reply
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Monday, November 26, 2018 - link

    > I know you wouldn't write this w/o strong, more direct evidence, but would you care to speculate on how the strange behavior of the snapdragon Note 9 in the graphics benchmark (allowing temp to rise quite high) might affect battery longevity (actual useful lifetime, as in number of charges before it degrades)?

    As you say, I don't have any data on this and can't say anything other than it gets hotter than it should be allowed to. In most games it's not an issue but that's besides the point.
    Reply
  • eastcoast_pete - Tuesday, November 27, 2018 - link

    Thanks Andrei! I was really surprised by Samsung's apparent willingness to have the 845 Note heat up to levels that one usually wants to avoid when dealing with Li-ion batteries. Especially given the debacle they had with the battery malfunction in their Note 8. At least for here in the US, they have just opened themselves up for a class-action lawsuit if Note 9s have battery issues also. It can now be argued that any damages to the battery are due to defective software that allows overly high temperatures, resulting in premature failure. Reply
  • HStewart - Monday, November 26, 2018 - link

    I am curious about Note 8 compared to Note 9 on your comparison list.

    With my Note 8 the OS detects which applications use the batter. One thing is sure, when I switch iPhone 6 to Note 8, I used my phone a lot more.
    Reply
  • HStewart - Monday, November 26, 2018 - link

    Just to be clear - not on specs which was listed - but on performance battery life and …

    For me the phone is fast enough - how much performances does one need - battery life is different story

    But the battery life on Galaxy Watch is a total different story, I get almost a week on it.
    Reply
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Monday, November 26, 2018 - link

    We never had a Note8 to test. Reply
  • FrankSchwab - Monday, November 26, 2018 - link

    Probably because, as long as they have a viable second-source, they can beat up on QC to keep the price of the Snapdragon low. "You want how much for 50 million Snapdragons? That's too much. We'll buy a few at that price - say, 20 million - just to keep our relationship intact, and use our Exynos for the other 30 million". Reply
  • Iczeman - Monday, November 26, 2018 - link

    Wow, what a disappointment of Exynos performance of S9. Really pity that on European market is not Snapdragon version available as much worth for the same money. Hopefully with S10 will get difference smaller but it's only wish for several years already. Reply

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