System Performance: 120Hz Winner

Although the peak CPU performance of the two Galaxy S20 SoCs isn’t all that different, what also matters is how the software decides to use that computing power. We’ve seen in the past that the DVFS and scheduler settings can have a very big impact on everyday performance of a device, sometimes even more so than the actual hardware. We’ve already quickly visited the Snapdragon 865 in the Galaxy S20 Ultra a few weeks ago, and we were very impressed by the performance and efficiency of the device. Now what remains to be seen how the Exynos 990 variant of the phone behaves.

Also at play here is the phone’s 120Hz display refresh mode. Samsung gives the option to choose between 60Hz and 120Hz in the display settings, with the latter naturally giving you more fluidity in applications. Beyond that, there’s also the matter of the device’s battery modes, in particular the difference between the default “Optimized” and “Performance” modes.

On past Samsung devices we’ve always tested the phones in their performance modes, as I hadn’t really noted much of a battery life difference between the two modes – and naturally we want to experience the full performance of a flagship device anyhow. This is still valid for the Snapdragon 865 Galaxy S20s, however the Exynos 990’s Performance mode is behaving weirdly and incurs quite a large power penalty, to the point that I would strongly recommend against using it. So the most practical comparisons for most people will be the Snapdragon Performance mode figures (P) against the default Exynos figures, at least for the S20 and at least for the current firmware versions.

PCMark Work 2.0 - Web Browsing 2.0

Starting off in the web browsing test in PCMark, there’s a very clear performance difference between the two phones, however this isn’t just because the Exynos 990 somehow sucks, but because there’s a weird software configuration on the S20 Ultra.


Exynos 990 - Galaxy S20 Ultra 120Hz vs Galaxy S20+ 120Hz

Oddly enough the web browsing test is the most sensitive to a DVFS, scheduler, or Android task management setting difference between the Exynos S20 Ultra and the S20+. The latter here performs significantly better for some reason.

PCMark Work 2.0 - Video Editing

In the video editing test, the differences are minor, and in general the 120Hz results of the phones are clearly different to the 60Hz results. The test is generally V-sync limited here and isn’t all that representative of workloads anymore as most phones ace it nowadays. It’s again the Exynos in the 60Hz Performance mode which stands out of the crowd, getting better scores due to its extremely aggressive scheduling.

PCMark Work 2.0 - Writing 2.0

The Writing subtest is amongst the most important in the suite and most representative of everyday performance. Here the Snapdragon 865 is ahead of the Exynos by a good margin, and falls in line with the best scores we saw on the QRD865 in Performance mode. The Exynos, generationally, is also posting a good improvement over the Exynos 9820 of the Galaxy S10.

PCMark Work 2.0 - Photo Editing 2.0

It seems SLSI has finally resolved their performance issues of their Renderscript drivers – either that, or the new Mali-G77 GPU is doing significantly better than the G76 in these workloads. Both variants of the S20 phones here clearly ends up with top performance scores, leading the pack ahead of all other Android devices.

PCMark Work 2.0 - Data Manipulation

In the Data Manipulation test, the scores are again quite good for both variants of the phone, however the Snapdragon 865 model does lead here, especially in the 120Hz mode. In fact, in this test it fares quite a lot better than the QRD865.

PCMark Work 2.0 - Performance

In the overall scores, both variants of the S20 Ultra are top performers. As a reminder, the Exynos 990 S20+ fared a bit better than our Ultra unit for some reason, but we’re opting to show the two Ultra scores here for best apples-to-apples between phones.

Web Benchmarks

Speedometer 2.0 - OS WebView

In Speedometer 2.0, performance of the Exynos 990 chip isn’t all that much better than its predecessor, only sporting 12% increase. The Snapdragon variant on the other hand is 31% ahead of its S10 sibling, also posting notably better than what we had measured on the QRD865. It’s still far away from what Apple’s microarchitectures are able to achieve – the combination of strong CPUs along with better optimized browser JS engines is key to the iPhone performance.

WebXPRT 3 - OS WebView

In WebXPRT, the situation again favors the Snapdragon 865 variant of the phone by 17%.

JetStream 2 - OS Webview

Finally, in JetStream 2, the extend its lead to 24% which is quite large. Samsung’s custom CPU cores are particularly weak here and that’s likely due to the high instruction throughput of the test. I had found out their microarchitecture is quite weak with larger code sizes, for example unrolling loops will greatly handicap the performance of the Exynos CPUs whilst the Arm cores essentially see no big differences.

Performance Verdict: Both Winners, 120Hz Overshadows SoC Differences

Overall, I wasn’t disappointed with either variant of the S20. Both phones felt faster than Snapdragon 855 devices, the Snapdragon 865 variant of the S20 Ultra was just a little faster than the Exynos 990 variant.

The biggest improvement is user experience though it’s the 120Hz display mode. It’s just a fantastic addition to the phones, and really makes scrolling content that much more fluid. Along with the 240Hz touch input sampling rate of the phones makes these by far the most responsive and smooth experiences you can get on a mobile phone today.

SPEC2006: Worst Disparity Yet Machine Learning Inference Performance
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  • crimson117 - Friday, April 3, 2020 - link

    $1400 is absurd. There's no way they're worth more than twice as much as a brand new S10. Reply
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Friday, April 3, 2020 - link

    Probably one of the reasons Samsung still continues to sell the S10 series. They're really excellent value right now, and you're not missing out on too much. Reply
  • cha0z_ - Monday, April 6, 2020 - link

    You are literally getting just one more year of software support going for s10 series... samsung software support policy is abysmal with less than two years of real support and from there just security. I got both iphone 11 pro max and exynos note 9, if I put aside the cr*ppy 9810 - it will not receive even the oneUI 2.1 as an update, while samsung will soon release it for s10 line. Enough said, note 9 is year and a half old.

    How can you recommend someone 1000 euro or 1400 euro phone if it will be supported for 1.5 years and from there 1.5 more security updates next to apple with 5 years FULL support with major, minor, day one, betas + security update for old iphones like 4s and 5 (2011 and 2012 respectably)?
    Reply
  • goatfajitas - Monday, April 6, 2020 - link

    You do realize the phone doesn't stop working when it doesn't get an OS update right? TBH, neither Android or IOS has added a whole lot in the past few years, its just a yearly cadence of very minor updates and not getting them means almost zero in actual use. Reply
  • Featherinmycap - Monday, April 6, 2020 - link

    I think there have been a lot of added features to IOS in the last 3 years that I use a great deal. Not saying that Android didnt already have some of these features, but for IOS users we got with IOS 11; a file manager (finally), Messages sync with iCloud, screen recording, useful improvements to Siri and ApplePay. IOS12; lots of performance improvements (lots), Screentime, Shortcuts (scripting), CarPlay, Animoji Memoji, Tracking prevention, IOS13; Single Sign on, external storage, Dark Mode, better support for keyboards, trackpads/mice, etc. Reply
  • Famorcan007 - Tuesday, April 7, 2020 - link

    I think it's because Android mostly has offered those features(file manager,screen recording, external storage,support for mice etc.) since way back compared to iOS' slow but steady trickle of features that's why iOS users feel every OS update is huge and significant. I'm using a Note 4(my backup device) right now to comment which doesn't feel too crippled compared to my Android 9 P20 pro. Reply
  • cha0z_ - Tuesday, April 7, 2020 - link

    Let's not find an excuse - software support is software support. Security is security - some of us keep all their personal info on their device (most of us) + bank accounts and whatnot, risking compromise on your phone is not that innocent compared to what was like back in the days. IOS adds rapidly more features for sure compared to android that recently starts to look more and more like IOS (and I personally totally don't like that), but still added some good stuff under the hood and some new features.

    It's not serious to sell 1400 euro phone that is supported for one year and a half. I own exynos note 9 - it's 1.5 years old and already samsung dropped the support, s10 line received oneUI 2.1, note 9 will not. How is that for my 1000 euro phone + double served with that cr*ppy exynos 9810 in it. Now it's in my GF and I am rolling iphone 11 pro max. I prefer android and love oneUI, but I am tired to be a second hand customer.
    Reply
  • s.yu - Tuesday, April 7, 2020 - link

    Don't know what you're talking about. My Note8 just got another update days ago, one that I preferred not to have because each update comes with a risk of bricking the device while potential changes to the UI are not always welcome either. I also got it ~30% off retail a few months after release, such has always been the state of Samsung, at least for S and Note.
    I'm no longer buying Samsung but the main reason is lack of the 3.5mm port, if I have to name another then it's between the questionable choice of telephoto in the smaller variants or the oversized device with a mediocre battery(I regard 5000mah to be mediocre for the size). I still do like the UI but I'm willing to look around.
    Reply
  • Psyside - Tuesday, April 7, 2020 - link

    "It's not serious to sell 1400 euro phone that is supported for one year and a half. I own exynos note 9 - it's 1.5 years old and already samsung dropped the support, s10 line received oneUI 2.1, note 9 will not. How is that for my 1000 euro phone"

    Very easy, with those "very old software features" Samsung can do what MAC can't, and don't get me start it on the utter crap IOS.

    Also don't spin it, Samsung offer 4 (four) years of security updates, so do your research before you type something.
    Reply
  • cha0z_ - Wednesday, April 8, 2020 - link

    fanboy. Security update hahahahah iphone 4s and 5 still receives security updates - 9 years old phone for 4s. What you will say now?
    iphone receive FULL support with MAJOR ios versions, updates, minor updates, BETA versions, DAY ONE as their newest and most expensive phone - for 5-6 years and you are talking about 4 years of security updates roflmao. Samsung released note 9 with android 8 when android 9 was already released from more than a months. Oooo, it's enough time, because you can dev your skin and features on top of the dev previews, especially the later ones that are closer to final (for the more tricky/deeply integrated code) - so no excuse for what they did. Basically they gave me one major update - android 10 as android 9 should had been on the note 9 from the start. Even if we count 2, how is that next to 5-6 versions of ios?

    And before you talk some more fanboy bs that never used recent years iphones - ios brings a lot more in every new versions (adding features that was missing for no reason, like external USB flash support, file browser for the files on the phone, etc) while android 10 brings you what? More lockdown ios style, iphones gestures and pixel device that is a cheap iphone wannabe.

    Because of people like you samsung don't want to change their software support policy. Why should they? It costs money or now you will start with the argument how the phone hardware is not supporting oneUI 2.1 (for the note 9 that is 1.5 years old, but will not receive it most likely ;) ). Or maybe android 11 will be too much for the phone, right? :D

    Also I agree - my note 9 can do more than my iphone 11 pro max, but everything that the phones do both (and that's 99.9% of what you will end up using constantly) - the iphone 11 pro max makes the exynos note 9 look like a total utter joke - faster, smoother with NOT A SINGLE frame drop no matter what you do, gaming is insanely good with surprise - NOT A SINGLE frame drop, battery life is x3 times better, apps have MORE features and runs super smooth and great, speakers destroys the note 9 one, camera too is times better, materials are a lot better too, faceid is super good and fast - feels like I don't have any security on - never failed or gave me any issue. Fun fact, note 9 came with fortnite and recommended as gaming phone for that game. My exynos variant can't run smoothly the game even with 30fps cap medium settings and !1080p! while iphone XS max runs it 60fps high 2688x1242 without a single frame drop. Same goes for the 11 pro max, obviously.

    As for ios - it improves massively and adds more and more missing features/drops restrictions with every version. ios 14 is already known to drop more. I prefer android, because I can do more + I love oneUI, but that doesn't change the fact that in my country I will receive exynos and 1.5 years of decent support. And in the end of the day - I spend my time in apps, not in the settings menu and apps on ios are better, with more features, smoother, a lot of them exclusive to the platform. Can you play dead cells on your android device? No? Yeah, the port is expected around the end of the year, I have it from June 2019. Full blown civilization 6 on your android device? Yeah, will never come, I have it and it's 1:1 port that runs great. Can go on and on and on. If you spend your time tweaking settings, options, UI - good for you, I spend my time in games and apps.
    Reply

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