GPU Performance

We’re shortly also recapping the GPU and gaming performance of the new S21 Ultras. We investigate that this new generation of SoCs isn’t quite as power efficient as we would have hoped for, meaning the increased peak performance the new chips are advertising comes at a great cost in power consumption.

Generally, any contemporary phone is only able to continuously dissipate between 4 and 5W of power through radiation and convection (42 to 50°C peak skin temperatures at 22°C ambient), and once it reaches that peak thermal envelope, it will have to throttle performance.

Basemark GPU 1.2 - Medium 1440p - Off-Screen / Blit GFXBench Aztec Ruins - High - Vulkan/Metal - Off-screen GFXBench Aztec Ruins - Normal - Vulkan/Metal - Off-screen GFXBench Manhattan 3.1 Off-screen GFXBench T-Rex 2.7 Off-screen

A Stand-Still Year for GPU Performance

This year’s Galaxy S21 devices look quite unimpressive when it comes to their gaming performance.

For the Snapdragon S21, I think Samsung here can do better in terms of thermal management, as the phones currently throttle down to 3W even though the device could in theory supports more. Xiaomi’s Mi 11 with the same chip showcases much better performance (we’ll have a review of that device soon), so it’s an area of improvement which could very well be achieved with future firmware updates.

For the Exynos S21, it’s a large generational boost for Samsung, however the absolute numbers are still lagging behind Snapdragon 865 devices. This is important to note for devices such as the S21+ - the S20 FE 5G actually features a Snapdragon 865 SoC in traditional Exynos markets, and if gaming performance is an important aspect for your, that device might be the more interesting purchase.

System Performance Display Measurement
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  • Andrei Frumusanu - Monday, February 22, 2021 - link

    It's not, the software rendering part is extremely minor and has never had any significant impact on battery life.
  • snowdrop - Monday, February 22, 2021 - link

    So s21/s21+ > s21u for camera experience and s888 > e2100 for image quality. This strongly implies that the s21/s21+ with s888 would offer the best overall camera implementation of all the variants, but unfortunately this combination isn't featured in the article.

    Any hope of adding some shots from a s21/s21+ with s888 to the comparison?
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Monday, February 22, 2021 - link

    The SD888 isn't definitive in having the better image quality.

    And no, I'm in Europe so getting Snapdragon Galaxies is hard, I have no plans to further attempt anything beyond the S21U.
  • snowdrop - Tuesday, February 23, 2021 - link

    To me the s888 ultra shots all looked notably better (sharper, better shadow / mid / highlight detail, improved lens correction) with the occasional exception of better highlight detail when the e2100 chose a darker exposure and the one shot where the s21u s888 wasn't in focus. The grass / foliage processing on the e2100 is particularly terrible so it could just be that the scenes you chose exaggerated the e2100's weak spots.

    It looks like samsung used the stock qualcomm image processing stack for s888 models and is testing beta internal software on the e2100 ones.

    I enjoy your excellent commentary on the computational photography capabilities of phone camera systems in your phone reviews. Have you considered including supplementary commentary from someone who has done dslr / lens reviews though to add a more photographer centric perspective though?
  • s.yu - Wednesday, February 24, 2021 - link

    Uh pretty much from the first sample the Exynos was doing better, far better texture, though the SD caught up in a few subsequent samples, so this generation I say the processing is too close to call. Generally the SD variants had a better track record though.
  • JoeDuarte - Monday, February 22, 2021 - link

    Can anyone confirm whether the S21 with the Snapdragon has dual frequency GPS? Sorry if I missed it in the article. Dual frequency GPS is supposed to yield a huge accuracy boost, and maybe time to positioning too.
  • JoeDuarte - Monday, February 22, 2021 - link

    All the benchmark graphs are missing the S21, but Andrei is talking as though they include the S21. The graphs only show variations of the S21 Ultra, not the regular S21. Can we get the S21 results included?
  • JoeDuarte - Monday, February 22, 2021 - link

    Does Arm plan to succeed the A55 low power cores with a credible upgrade? Experts here have talked about this before, how the A55 is hopelessly outclassed by several generations of Apple low power counterparts at this point. Why have they iterated the A7x cores but not the A5x?

    Does anyone have insight into why Samsung's SoCs are so bad? It doesn't make sense for a company that owns the fabs, gets to develop the process nodes, and design the SoCs to be so far behind, spanning maybe a decade now. Is there no advantage, no synergies or co-optimization opportunities, in such complete vertical integration? It's supposed to be an advantage for Apple to design its own SoCs and cores. Why is it not an advantage for Samsung to do that and to*also* have the fabs and node development? Is there a talent issue? I wonder if maybe there just aren't enough engineers operating at the necessary level of skill to populate all these companies. The actual human cognitive science of how these teams do what they do is a black box, and apparently TSMC and Apple are able to do things that Samsung, Intel, and GF are not, and the difference is surprising.
  • nandnandnand - Thursday, February 25, 2021 - link

    I think the Cortex-R82 points to further improvements to the efficiency cores being possible. Or Apple's own take on efficiency cores.

    Maybe we'll find out about an A55 successor within the next few months, before TSMC 3nm kicks off.
  • nandnandnand - Thursday, February 25, 2021 - link

    Also, I think the "Helios" Neoverse E1 is better than A55, even discounting its SMT capability.

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