System Performance - Still a large(r) contrast

The performance difference between the Snapdragon and Exynos S9’s was among by biggest complaints about the latter variant. Here there’s a stark difference in software quality between what Qualcomm and S.LSI were able to deliver. Let’s see if the Note9 improves this in any way:

PCMark Work 2.0 - Web Browsing 2.0

The Exynos Note9 here unfortunately doesn’t really improve on the S9, and even shows a slight regression.

PCMark Work 2.0 - Video Editing

The video editing test further showcases the same behaviour, with the Snapdragon Note9 being in line with the S9+ result, while the Exynos Note9 is in line with the S9 result.

PCMark Work 2.0 - Writing 2.0

The writing test of PCMark is in my opinion one of the most important tests in our suite, as its results pretty much directly correspond to the actual perceived speed of a device in a lot of every-day scenarios. The test makes heavy usage of common Android APIs to achieve representative usage of common tasks such as text editing and PDF rendering.

The Exynos Note9 here seems again to showcase a slight performance degradation over the S9, but it’s all within margins of error.

PCMark Work 2.0 - Photo Editing 2.0

The photo editing test consists of small bursts of workloads making use of Android’s image processing APIs. This test’s key feature is that it is very sensitive to the responsiveness of the system, in other words, how fast the SoC can ramp up its performance.

PCMark Work 2.0 - Data Manipulation

Finally, the data manipulation test is the most telling one in terms of the differences that Samsung has made on the Exynos model: Here the Note9 performs significantly worse than the Exynos Galaxy S9, coming in with a 34% lower score.

The data manipulation test is characteristic in the way it works in that it has a significant portion of heavy single-threaded processing. What’s actually happening on the Exynos Note9 here is that Samsung is disallowing the SoC to boost to its single-core 2.7GHz mode as often as the S9 originally did, a regression that I also encountered with my custom kernels on the S9.

PCMark Work 2.0 - Performance

In terms of overall result, the Exynos Note9 falls in the ranks by several spots, now scoring even lower than last year’s Exynos 8895 S8, a not too fantastic showing.

Web browsing: less 2.7GHz – more actual performance?

The most evident result of the more prohibitive single-core booster is in the web browsing tests:

Speedometer 2.0 - OS WebView WebXPRT 3 - OS WebView

Both in Speedometer 2.0 and WebXPRT 3, the Exynos Note9 performs better than the S9 with its initial firmware. The result here is directly related to the decreased result of the data manipulation score in PCMark. As explained in our scheduler pieces, one of the reasons the Exynos S9 fared so badly in these tests is the core booster mechanism; boosting to 2.7GHz on a single big core while relegating all other threads to the small cores results in worse performance than simply if there were simply more big cores available, but at a lower clock speed. The latter scenario is what happens on the Note9 as why we see a 10% improvement over the S9.

The most low-effort band-aid

Overall, the actual changes in behaviour of the Exynos chipset in the Note9 represent nothing more than the most low effort changes possible. What Samsung has done here is just slightly change the booster mechanism in order make workloads more difficult to trigger the single-core 2.7GHz boost mode. For performance this is both beneficial as well as a regression, depending on workloads. What is more important is that the severe battery life impact of the 2.7GHz frequency is more significantly reduced through these changes, even though efficiency still doesn't match the Snapdragon 845 variant.

While performance has increased in the web benchmarks by around 10% - the overall result is still abysmal. Comparing the speed of the Snapdragon Note9 to the Exynos Note9 in just everyday usage, the Exynos still pretty much falls behind in every aspect. Samsung had a chance to improve things more drastically with the release of the new phone, but to me it just looks like another disappointment.

The Snapdragon Note9 is pretty much in line with other S845 devices: performance is a non-issue. While there are now more contrasting devices out there such as Huawei’s Mate 20’s – the Snapdragon Note9 is still a great device to use when it comes to its performance.

Introduction & Battery Life GPU Performance & Device Thermals
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  • Lau_Tech - Monday, November 26, 2018 - link

    Hi Andrei, obvious question, why no explicit note 9 review?

    You have the hardware, have already done extensive analysis and testing, it would seem that all that remains is to put it into words. (in fact you did abit of it here)

    So why not?
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Monday, November 26, 2018 - link

    I got the devices quite late as we weren't sampled. The Note9 is very similar to the S9+ which we reviewed earlier in the year besides the S-Pen. Screen is as you'd expect from Samsung (very good) and camera of the Note9 (besides it being same setup as the S9+) has been also tested in the Pixel 3 and Mate 20 reviews:

    I wanted to get this piece out instead with the relevant bits of into that people were expecting to see instead of lingering on on a full review, as I have also other articles to get out as well.
  • Meteor2 - Monday, November 26, 2018 - link

    I don’t think the same camera hardware in different phones equates to the same camera performance in today’s age of computational photography.
  • shabby - Monday, November 26, 2018 - link

    That makes no sense, the note 9 is an s9 with an s-pen, nothing more.
  • cha0z_ - Wednesday, November 28, 2018 - link

    Having used both s7 edge and note 9, I can confidently state that the note is more than the s variant with a pen. There are differences and features that adds up to different experience.
  • levizx - Friday, November 30, 2018 - link

    What difference beyond the customisation for the S-Pen?
  • Lau_Tech - Monday, November 26, 2018 - link

    As always, what and how you choose to cover is your prerogative. however, my two cents.

    1) Samsung note series is one of the tech keynotes of a year, and always worthy of a review, so long as the hardware is available.

    2)note series is especially worthy of review because of its technical contrasts from all other flagships. anandtech has been inexplicably reluctant to analyze the s pen. You could do a comparison between the S pen, apple pencil and Microsoft surface stylus for example. Or compare the speed of the micro-sd storage to on board memory. (or with previous Notes). You could even compare the internal audio jack vs that of the dongle-brigade. Point being, the notes unique traits make for many interesting angles of analysis. I see no reason to shy away from them year after year.

    3) A Note 9 review 'in pieces' doesn't show up in Google search. A person typing 'note 9 review' is unlikely to come across your excellent camera comparison article for example. A note 9 review, even one that posts links to other articles you've done, is preferable for your page hits.

    All comments with respect to your quality work and time/material constraints.
  • id4andrei - Monday, November 26, 2018 - link

    Don't forget DEX.
  • Spunjji - Tuesday, November 27, 2018 - link

    Just wanted to add a voice here - I feel like Lau_Tech's comment is fair, and worth bearing in mind for future prioritization of reviews. It feels like Samsung is the last manufacturer consistently offering one "true flagship" phone with everything but the kitchen sink included. It's a decent halo product that, as was mentioned, allows you to critique the value prospects of other manufacturers who have dropped or are dropping many of the features the Note series retains.

    Aside from that, thanks for your dedication to providing quality analysis even when it's not "up-to-the-minute". I'll always show up for it.
  • philehidiot - Tuesday, November 27, 2018 - link

    Samsung aren't sampling them to Anandtech for a reason and that's because they'll get torn to shreds for things like this. I probably wouldn't have known the performance gap was so horrific until this article came out. The remainder is often well covered in the less indepth media and so repeating it late isn't going to pull in as many views which is what this business is all about. I'd rather see them spend the significant amount of time doing reviews on things which are sampled early enough to compete with other media and therefore keep the site well funded and able to attract good writers.

    I do feel this is a good compromise in that they are doing the analysis of some very important aspects of this phone that most people will be overlooking but not wasting the time doing a full review and focussing instead on something else.

    This is actually something that is really going to put me off Samsung. I'm pretty happy with my S8 despite the bloatware (some of it is actually useful, a lot of it is just turned off) but I have the misfortune to live in the UK. As a result, seeing I'm going to be paying a similar amount for a phone that is marketed and named as being the same as the SD model, I don't expect the performance to be HALF what everyone else gets on the more performance critical benches. There is a huge difference between a face paced game moving at a sustained 25FPS and a sustained 50FPS. One is very playable whilst the other is frankly borderline not and if this is an average FPS then I suspect there will be periods of frame rates too low for decent playability. This is not acceptable for a full price flagship. This is worse than Nvidia having different models of GTX1060 - at least they're vaguely similar in performance.

    My advice to people wanting a good value but good performing phone has been to get an S7 or S8. The S9 is not a contender and I think the E9810 needs to tank to convince Samsung to stop rolling out chips which are just plain awful and pretending they're in any way comparable to a SD model of the same phone. It's frankly a con in my book. I wonder how this compares to recent mid range SD models like the 6 series? That would be very interesting if QC could produce SoCs going into phones a third of the price which are competitive on performance.....

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