With MWC 2020 just two weeks away and the Samsung Galaxy S20 launch days away, let's look at what we have in store for 2020.
2020 is going to be all about 5G whether you like it or not. All the chipsets launched in the flagship and upper mid-range should be 5G only. With 5G everything we do online will be faster, including gaming on mobile casinos that became one of the trends in the recent few years and is predicted to gain even more players on the new decade. As mobile casinos and gaming websites, in general, are requiring better hardware than they used to require, the phone companies have to catch up and provide the user needs.
It will likely be one of them things where you don’t feel the benefit immediately, but everything will gradually improve and the decision to include 5G in almost all flagship and mid-range phones for 2020 will speed this process up.
For the sake of this roundup, I have temporarily excluded Huawei, as they have not launched the Mate 30 in the UK and there has been no sign on any Kirin 810 devices for the mid-end of the market. I hope this will change with the Huawei P40 launch even if we have to get used to life without Google Services.
Qualcomm Snapdragon 865
Qualcomm dominates the mobile chipset market for Android phones, and you will see the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 feature on the vast majority of phones this year.
Qualcomm uses custom CPU cores, but they are based on the latest Arm Cortex A77 designs, with one core clocked at 2.84GHz then three additional cores clocks at 2.42GHz.
You then get the small efficiency cores which are Cortex A55@ 1.80GHz.
Qualcomm uses their own Adreno 650 which is supposed to have a 25% performance improvement and is 35% more power-efficient than the previous Snapdragon 855.
The SD865 lacks a built-in modem but requires an X55 5G modem so any phone launched with this chipset will be 5G.
Samsung Exynos 990
Samsung has developed its own flagship chipset for years, but bizarrely never fully committed to it, opting to use it only in certain territories for their flagship devices. So here in the UK, when the Samsung Galaxy S20 launches, we will have the Exynos 990.
Samsung has always designed their own fully custom M cores which they are coy about revealing specific details, so this year there is two Exynos M5 running at an undisclosed speed, combined with two Cortex A76 cores, also at an undisclosed speed.
This is then combined with four Cortex-A55 cores like Qualcomm.
It may come as no surprise, that the use of two Coretex A76 cores has meant that initial benchmarks of the Exynos 990 vs Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 indicate Qualcomm comfortably in the lead for multicore performance.
Samsung then pairs the CPU with a Mali G77 GPU which has 11 cores.
The Samsung also lacks a built-in modem and should be paired with the 5G equipped Exynos Modem 5123. However, recent leaks indicate there may be a 4G Samsung Galaxy S20 model, in this case, I would assume it has to be for Exynos 990 models only.
MediaTek Dimensity 1000 (and maybe 1000L)
MediaTek is the surprise contender this year announcing a flagship chipset of their own that can easily compete with the two more well-known names.
They have adopted a more traditional design using four Cortex A77 cores @ 2.6GHz then a further four Cortex A55 @ 2.0GHz. The four A77 cores should, in theory, give them a lead over Samsung.
The GPU is not quite as well-specced, it uses the same Mali-G77 but only has 9 cores.
To makes things more confusing MediaTek also have the 1000L which is a lower clocked version of the 1000 running at 2.2GHz for the A77 cores. This is technically a mid-range chipset, but it is only used on the OPPO Reno3 so far.
MediaTek is the only company to integrate a 5G modem inside their chipset, and they are also the only company to offer hardware AV1 codec support which is the next-gen video codec most streaming companies are looking to roll out.
The Samsung Galaxy S20 launches tomorrow, and we will finally see how great the latest flagship chipsets this year are. It is probably going to be a long time before we see the true benefits of 5G but I am excited that chipset makers are aggressively pushing this forward by including it on most high-end phones for 2020.
MediaTek is the dark horse in this race, there are no phones announced with the Dimensity 1000 but initial benchmarks looks promising, but it will be difficult to tell how good this new flagship chipset is until we see final retail products. Battery life and 5G performance could be a big factor if this chipset is any good or not.