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Review Andrei's Snapdragon 888 + Exynos 2100 review

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moinmoin

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We have to take this info with the usual grain of salt, but reports say TSMC's N5 production is not at full capacity, but at around 80%. If Qualcomm had a mask ready to go it could have used that and N5 could well have been at full capacity. Or something. Who knows with all the shortages from all possible directions right now (the widely mentioned ABF shortage only affects assembling though, not foundries).
 

eek2121

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We have to take this info with the usual grain of salt, but reports say TSMC's N5 production is not at full capacity, but at around 80%. If Qualcomm had a mask ready to go it could have used that and N5 could well have been at full capacity. Or something. Who knows with all the shortages from all possible directions right now (the widely mentioned ABF shortage only affects assembling though, not foundries).
It was a cost thing for Qualcomm. My working theory is that they charged too much for last gen (Snapdragon 865) and received a ton of complaints. Rather than taking a hit to margins, they moved to Samsung to save on production costs. They charge less, but get away with higher margins to make up for it.

EDIT: Rumor is TSMC wants something like $18,000 per wafer for 5nm. I haven't found any Samsung numbers, but I bet they charge less.
 

Ajay

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We have to take this info with the usual grain of salt, but reports say TSMC's N5 production is not at full capacity, but at around 80%. If Qualcomm had a mask ready to go it could have used that and N5 could well have been at full capacity. Or something. Who knows with all the shortages from all possible directions right now (the widely mentioned ABF shortage only affects assembling though, not foundries).
And, Apple, from what I've read, is staying on N5 for it's next SoC (A15?). Geez, what happens next year when AMD moves to N5P chiplets? Is TSMC doing any capacity expansions?
 

moinmoin

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And, Apple, from what I've read, is staying on N5 for it's next SoC (A15?). Geez, what happens next year when AMD moves to N5P chiplets? Is TSMC doing any capacity expansions?
Of course TSMC is doing capacity expansions, that's the usual phases I posted about before in other threads. For N5 TSMC appears to want to expand capacity by 70% to 120k wpm by the end of this year.

The big question is how much this expansion is being hampered by the scarcity of EUV machines by ASML.
 
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Doug S

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And, Apple, from what I've read, is staying on N5 for it's next SoC (A15?). Geez, what happens next year when AMD moves to N5P chiplets? Is TSMC doing any capacity expansions?
Of course Apple is staying on N5 (well N5P for the A15) because N3 won't be ready until next year.
 

Doug S

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That was also my suspicion . . . I just have to wonder: did Qualcomm know it would end up this way? I could see dual-sourcing Snapdragon 888 at TSMC and Samsung to take advantage of the deals and use the "bad" 888 chips in certain devices where Qualcomm might feel they can get away with it. But going entirely with Samsung? That's ballsy or just plain stupid.
Why? Maybe they could get slightly better performance with TSMC's N5, but how does that benefit them? Who is the competition that is going to hurt them by selling better performing SoCs made on TSMC N5? And no, Apple is not their competition, anyone who is going to switch from Android to iPhone over SoC performance did so long ago.
 
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moinmoin

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Who is the competition that is going to hurt them by selling better performing SoCs made on TSMC N5?
MediaTek? Though aside a couple daring products now and then it seems to be content to be mainly a commodity ARM chip manufacturer, unlike Qualcomm. (MediaTek's 5G chip series Dimensity 2000 is expected to use N5, though the rumored launch date switches between Q1 2021, Q2 2021 and early 2022 so who knows what it will end up at. The current Dimensity 1100 and 1200 use N6.)
 
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DrMrLordX

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Why? Maybe they could get slightly better performance with TSMC's N5, but how does that benefit them?
Depends on how many customer complaints they get from overheating phones, poor battery life, poor performance, or whatever actual consumer-level problems result from their choices. It looks like Samsung will have more problems than Qualcomm (Exynos throttles too much). If customers do not care then maybe they can get away with it. Assuming consumers do not notice that A14, which is several months old, opened up a wider gap between it and Qualcomm's latest in both raw performance and performance per watt (compared to A13 vs. A77).

I am only one customer, but I am still on a Snapdragon 855+ phone (ROG Phone II) and Qualcomm's decision-making this generation is making me question when or if I will replace the phone with something newer.
 
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Doug S

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Depends on how many customer complaints they get from overheating phones, poor battery life, poor performance, or whatever actual consumer-level problems result from their choices. It looks like Samsung will have more problems than Qualcomm (Exynos throttles too much). If customers do not care then maybe they can get away with it. Assuming consumers do not notice that A14, which is several months old, opened up a wider gap between it and Qualcomm's latest in both raw performance and performance per watt (compared to A13 vs. A77).

I am only one customer, but I am still on a Snapdragon 855+ phone (ROG Phone II) and Qualcomm's decision-making this generation is making me question when or if I will replace the phone with something newer.
Qualcomm doesn't get customer complaints, because they don't make phones. It is up to the phone OEMs to choose an appropriate clock rate to avoid overheating phones based on how well the phone's form factor can dissipate heat. There are always some that clock too high and get hot, and that would be true whether SD888 was 1/3 the performance of iPhone or 3x the performance, because they are looking to score a "win" in reviews like Anandtech's against other Android phones using the same SoC. They've been behind Apple for years, another 5-10% doesn't matter. And hey, who knows, maybe Samsung's 3nm will turn out better than TSMC's so going with Samsung could be wrong today but right a couple years from now.

If there was a credible threat to Qualcomm's high end SoCs that made them worry that the 888 not being quite as fast as it could be if it was made on TSMC N5 would shift OEMs to choose someone else's SoC next time maybe it would be worth spending $100 million to tape out a separate design to offer a "higher end" version of the 888 made on TSMC. But no such threat exists - Mediatek's stuff probably doesn't even support all the US LTE/5G bands. Given the whining from some people when Apple used "inferior" Intel modems instead of Qualcomm, I can't imagine it would be any better if an Android OEM tried to sell people phones with Mediatek modems instead of Qualcomm.
 
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DrMrLordX

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Qualcomm doesn't get customer complaints, because they don't make phones.
The phone manufacturers do. And if it's Qualcomm's SoC that's at the heart of the problem - one the phone OEMs can't engineer around - then you'd best believe it will affect Qualcomm's future contract negotiations.
 

Mopetar

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Assuming consumers do not notice that A14, which is several months old, opened up a wider gap between it and Qualcomm's latest in both raw performance and performance per watt (compared to A13 vs. A77).
The only people who will notice this are those who hang out on tech sites and forums like these. Many won't care or switch because they don't like the way Apple handles their ecosystem or any number of other reasons that prevent someone from switching. Since most brands ultimately use the same SoC and even those that don't still ultimately use the same underlying ARM core added to a chip manufactured at the same fab there's little competitive edge to be had within the Android world.

The phone manufacturers do. And if it's Qualcomm's SoC that's at the heart of the problem - one the phone OEMs can't engineer around - then you'd best believe it will affect Qualcomm's future contract negotiations.
Is Samsung going to sell Exynos chips to LG? Is anyone outside of Samsung or Qualcomm using the newest ARM cores right now? I guess MediaTek has some based on the newest designs that are coming out soon, but most of the Chinese manufacturers are still basing designs around the older cores. Never mind that even if you don't go with Qualcomm for the SoC, you're going to need to buy a modem from them. Not even Apple could manage to get away from Qualcomm and that should tell you something.
 

Doug S

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The phone manufacturers do. And if it's Qualcomm's SoC that's at the heart of the problem - one the phone OEMs can't engineer around - then you'd best believe it will affect Qualcomm's future contract negotiations.
They have to have an alternative. They can complain to Qualcomm all they want, but if they don't have a credible alternative to take their business to complaining is all they can do.

You don't think they have issues with some of the stuff Google does with tightening the screws for Android licensees with each new release? They can complain, but they don't have a credible alternative to switch to so as with Qualcomm all they can do is complain.
 

DrMrLordX

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They have to have an alternative.
That is a problem. Right now Qualcomm is making the best Android SoCs on the market. Huawei/HiSilicon have taken a back seat. Samsung's Exynos 2100 throttles too much. Mediatek goes for cheaper, less-performant products.

The only people who will notice this are those who hang out on tech sites and forums like these.
I'm not sure I 100% agree with that. It's going to come down to how the user experience for Snapdragon 888 users compares to Snapdragon 870 and 865+. Not everyone was happy with the 865's external modem, and there were some non-techy types that noticed the difference in power draw and battery life..
 

Mopetar

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How many non-techie types blamed that difference on the SoC as opposed to the phone or manufacturer?

People here will make that distinction and be a bit more discerning when it comes to using that information for future purchasing decisions, but the average person won't.

Unless they had a real lemon or there's something new and significantly better, people will generally stick with whatever brand they've been using.
 

Doug S

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I'm not sure I 100% agree with that. It's going to come down to how the user experience for Snapdragon 888 users compares to Snapdragon 870 and 865+. Not everyone was happy with the 865's external modem, and there were some non-techy types that noticed the difference in power draw and battery life..
First/second gen modems for a new cellular standard are always pretty power hungry. Having it integrated wouldn't have helped all that much.

Remember how hot the first phones to get LTE ran when using LTE? It took until the 3rd generation to get that under control (and even then, it is still pretty easy today to tell if your phone is running on LTE or wifi by how warm it feels)
 

soresu

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Dec 19, 2014
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Remember how hot the first phones to get LTE ran when using LTE? It took until the 3rd generation to get that under control (and even then, it is still pretty easy today to tell if your phone is running on LTE or wifi by how warm it feels)
I hate to break it to you but a phone getting warm during use was not a new thing to LTE/4G, or even 3G.

I can remember having a long conversation with my dad on my 2G Nokia while in university in the mid 00s, and it was getting uncomfortably toasty against my face to the point that I was holding it slightly at a distance toward the end.
 

soresu

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That is a problem. Right now Qualcomm is making the best Android SoCs on the market. Huawei/HiSilicon have taken a back seat.
Correction, Huawei/HiSilicon had no choice but to resign from the game completely for the time being.

I seriously hope that changes in the future, competition on the smartphone front is important when prices were already reaching stratospheric even before Huawei got hit with sanctions and various other side attacks impeding Kirin SoC development and production.
Samsung's Exynos 2100 throttles too much.
Samsung have been out of the off the shelf CPU IP game for too long coupled with being tied to their own fabs which are not really punching at quite the same weight as the TSMC N5 node that Qualcomm is using.

Hopefully with some refinements and ULV RDNA gfx IP to liven up the game we should see sparks fly once again between Samsung and Qualcomm.
 

soresu

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Is Samsung going to sell Exynos chips to LG?
Wasn't LG rumoured to be pulling out of the smartphone game?

It's been a long time since any of their phone products really made an impression.

The last I remember peaking my attention was actually a VR glasses accessory rather than the phone itself, which doesn't inspire confidence.
 

DrMrLordX

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@Doug S

Point being is that people buying the latest Samsung S21 phones may just not want them if they have the same problems with it that they did 865-based products. Samsung has moved past the x55 first gen modem and has no real excuse for continued high power consumption of the SoC or modem. Both the Snapdragon 888 and Exynos 2100 drawing that much power is going to be an issue. If there is no alternative (and let's face it, there isn't), they may just stay on their old phones for longer. One of the good things about advanced phone SoCs is that you can improve phone performance (which is important in some Asian markets) or extend battery life. When new gens don't accomplish that goal then it's harder to upsell new phones.

@soresu

Yeah Huawei is locked out right now. It would be nice if there were something else credible on the Android phone market than Qualcomm and Samsung.
 

naukkis

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Samsung have been out of the off the shelf CPU IP game for too long coupled with being tied to their own fabs which are not really punching at quite the same weight as the TSMC N5 node that Qualcomm is using.
But Qualcomm isn't using TSMC N5, at least Snapdragon 888 is also built using Samsung 5LPE process just like Exonys 2100.
 
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DrMrLordX

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But Qualcomm isn't using TSMC N5, at least Snapdragon 888 is also built using Samsung 5LPE process just like Exonys 2100.
Indeed. The Snapdragon 888 and Exynos 2100 are on the same process using the same core alignment (X1, 3x A78, 4x A55). The Exynos even sports higher clockspeeds on most of their cores. It has less L2 cache than the Snapdragon 888 though. That Exynos 2100 throttles more tells an odd story.
 
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Doug S

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I hate to break it to you but a phone getting warm during use was not a new thing to LTE/4G, or even 3G.

I can remember having a long conversation with my dad on my 2G Nokia while in university in the mid 00s, and it was getting uncomfortably toasty against my face to the point that I was holding it slightly at a distance toward the end.
You're agreeing with my point. The first gen of every new "G" runs hot the first few years, and by the time that's under control some phone buyers start dreaming about (n+1)G.
 

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