Samsung flagship smartphone processors – South Africa vs the US

South Africans looking to buy top-of-the range Samsung smartphones should be aware that these may not perform as well as their US equivalents.

This is because Samsung uses two different types of chips for the flagship smartphones it sells across the world.

Most regions – including South Africa, Europe, and the majority of Asia – get models fitted with Samsung’s own Exynos processors.

In the US, Canada, and South Korea, however, these flagships boast Qualcomm’s superior Snapdragon processors.

The S20 range in the US comes with the Snapdragon 865, for example, while the model sold in South Africa features the Exynos 990 processor.

Although the Exynos chips rank among the better-performing smartphone processors according to Notebookcheck benchmarks, their performance does not match that of the Snapdragon processors.

The latter often trades blows with the top chips used in Huawei and Apple’s flagships.

Several independent tech reviewers have also shown that there are significant differences in performance, heat management, and battery life between these chips, which could greatly affect the overall experience in use.

Hands-on tests

One example of a useful comparison of these chip is provided by popular and reputed tech YouTuber Mrwhosetheboss.

He compared the performance, heat management, and battery life of the Snapdragon and Exynos models of the Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G.

According to his assessment, the differences in performance were at times so significant that the Snapdragon smartphone felt like a different phone.

To come to this conclusion, he had run his own benchmark tests on both smartphones using AnTuTu, and the results were noteworthy.

The Snapdragon version posted a score of 551,822 as opposed to the 509,333 on the Exynos 990, which equates to around a 10% increase.

“That’s half a generational leap in performance,” he noted.

Heat management also differed vastly, with the Exynos getting much hotter than the Snapdragon after multiple benchmarks.
After four benchmark runs, the Snapdragon 865 was at 39 degrees Celsius, compared with 66 degrees on the Exynos 990.
This resulted in substantial thermal throttling of the Exynos chip’s GPU, dropping its benchmark score further to 20% below the Snapdragon model.
In the end, the Snapdragon variant performed better in a variety of real-life use-cases, offering:
  • Higher frame rates in resource-heavy mobile gaming
  • Better responsiveness in the camera UI
  • Sharper photos
  • Longer-lasting battery life

Comparisons by The Tech Chap and Android Authority confirmed similar differences between the different models of the Galaxy S20 and Galaxy S20 Plus, while Unbox Therapy’s

Samsung responds

We asked Samsung South Africa to confirm whether there were any significant performance differences between these chips and if this is taken into consideration when pricing the smartphones locally.

Despite the hands-on experiences of the reviewers above, Samsung claimed “both the Exynos and Snapdragon processors go through the same strict and rigorous, real-life testing scenarios in order to deliver a consistent and optimal performance over the entire lifecycle of the smartphone”.

It did not divulge further information on why South Africa gets these processors or if pricing is adjusted.

The problem with importing

The performance differences may be enough to convince some South Africans to import a Snapdragon-powered flagship, but as Connected Devices founder Blake Levitan explains, this presents a problem.

Levitan said that the online store – which specialises in importing smartphones from other countries – had seen an increasing amount of interest from customers in the Snapdragon-based Samsung flagships from the US.

However, he explained that Connected Devices does not import them primarily due to the challenges one would face when it comes to the LTE bands the devices are pre-configured with.

This disparity is caused by the fact that many of Qualcomm’s flagship chips are built for CDMA-based networks, which is used by several carriers in the US – including Sprint and Verizon.

The rest of the world – including South Africa – primarily relies on GSM for converting data to radio network waves, which means that CDMA-based smartphones will not work on their networks.

“In my experience, the devices that are most suitable for use in our local environment are those sourced in Europe, followed by Hong Kong. The other major territories such as the US and China often do not have the common overlap of LTE bands that we require,” Levitan advised.

Now read: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra could have a penta-lens camera

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Samsung flagship smartphone processors – South Africa vs the US