Conclusion - More of the same

While we never reviewed the Note9, and this piece isn’t meant to be a full review, we can still put out a few sentences about the phone as a whole. Here Samsung is able to build a fantastic device, and there’s very little to criticize the Note9 on. The screen is large, bright, sharp and accurate. The camera is leading edge, even though by now there are devices out in the market which manage to compete quite well with Samsung’s best, especially in low light. Samsung makes no compromises in features, and the Note9 has everything: a 3.5mm headphone jack, wireless charging, IP68 rating, and naturally its key feature, the S-Pen.

While on the outside, the Note9 impresses in all aspects regardless where you purchase it from, on the inside things are again quite different as we again see the usage of two very contrasting SoCs.

I think the following picture sums things up quite well:

Like on the Galaxy S9, the Note9’s Exynos variant is just an overall inferior device. Battery life was one aspect that the Exynos S9s fared quite terribly in, and this time around Samsung did manage to somewhat improve the difference to the Snapdragon 845. Unfortunately it’s not enough as the Snapdragon variant still leads.

While the battery disadvantage has somewhat decreased, Samsung has done nothing to improve the performance of the chipset. Here the Snapdragon 845’s software is still leagues ahead of what the Exynos is able to offer, with the latter still not being able to differentiate itself much from the Exynos 8895 in system performance. The benchmark differences are very much also representative of the real-world performance difference of both variants.

In our recent quarterly smartphone guide, I’ve recommended the Snapdragon Note9 alongside the S9s as among the best Android devices you can buy this holiday. The Exynos Note9 in my opinion again doesn’t really make the cut as you’re paying flagship prices for a device that offers less battery life and performance not much better than last year’s phones.

Having finally gotten these results out, I hope to finally turn the page on the topic, as I’m feeling like a broken record and the coverage is akin keeping on beating a dead horse. The situation is eerily similar to the Galaxy S4 SoC situation from a few years back, only that I feel the differences this year were much worse. Huawei’s vertical integration here is pushing the company to make great strides with every generation, and Apple’s silicon is now so well ahead that we’re not really expecting Android vendors to catch up any time soon.

Samsung as a whole needs to decide where they want to go forward with this dual-sourcing strategy as I currently see it as a lose-lose situation for both the smartphone division as well as their chipset business. Hopefully the Exynos 9820 manages to be competitive chipset and S.LSI manages to finally get serious about execution as a SoC vendor, as otherwise the next few years are just going to a rough ride.

GPU Performance & Device Thermals
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  • mfaisalkemal - Friday, November 23, 2018 - link

    hi andrei, as always a great in depth analysis!

    i have two question,

    1. would you tell me the avg. power consumption peak of A9 until A10 on t-rex and manhattan 3.1? because i curious about development of apple in term of gpu efficiency and how apple A9-A11 compare with other gpu like adreno and mali.

    2. Any plan in review ipad pro 2018?
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Monday, November 26, 2018 - link

    1. I don't have an accurate way to measure power on those devices and won't be investing time to get back to them.

    2. Brett is working on a review.
  • Barilla - Monday, November 26, 2018 - link

    Why is Samsung even still trying to make Exynos work? Is it just because Apple has their own SoC and they want to belong to the club? Because purely on performance Qualcomm is clearly the superior choice for couple of generations now.
  • A5 - Monday, November 26, 2018 - link

    The R&D + manufacturing cost is probably less than what QC sells them a Snapdragon package for.

    They probably do the SD variant for the US because the CDMA patent royalties tip the equation the other way in that market.
  • goatfajitas - Monday, November 26, 2018 - link

    "Why is Samsung even still trying to make Exynos work?"

    I would imagine it is because the last time that Qualcomm stumbled they had the fastest chip available. The SD810 was a disaster. If that happens again they need an alternative. But... yeah, this looks very poor today.
  • peterfares - Tuesday, November 27, 2018 - link

    Yup, the 810 generation Samsung did what they hadn't done in a long time and used an Exynos CPU in all versions, worldwide. They had to buy an external modem from Qualcomm to use for the NAM variants too for CDMA support, which cost them much more money than just buying a SD810, but the SD810 was garbage and they had a good alternative. Every other phone that generation was horribly slow, especially my BlackBerry Priv.
  • Targon - Monday, November 26, 2018 - link

    Samsung uses Exynos for more than just some phones, they use it in their TVs and probably some other products as well. Continued work will help, but also, lower cost compared to buying from Qualcomm.
  • ph00ny - Tuesday, November 27, 2018 - link

    1. They need SoC for not only their mobile devices, they also have footprint in smart home devices, smart TVs, smart appliances, automotive, etc
    2. They've only been behind in two generations and they just started custom core soc. Give it some time.
  • nico_mach - Thursday, November 29, 2018 - link

    Personally, I would love to see them support exynos models for more years than the Quallcomm chips, even if it means a performance hit. Phone performance is more than good enough imo so that would be a good tradeoff, and I presume that Samsung would make more money that way long term (keeping components in-house and creating loyal customers).
  • Tams80 - Monday, December 3, 2018 - link

    To decrease reliance on other companies if they need to, and also keep pressure on the companies they do work with.

    It's the same with Tizen. They don't need it, but it's a good backup and good leverage. As they are so huge, they can afford to keep developing their own solutions even if few of their products use them.

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