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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  • cha0z_ - Wednesday, November 28, 2018 - link

    When note 9 was in preorder, all the reviews were the snapdragon 845 variant, draw the conclusions for yourself, but for me it's obvious what samsung did. :)
  • Tams80 - Monday, December 3, 2018 - link

    You might have a case with the consumer ombudsman.
    The UK also has class action lawsuits, but as it's still relatively new to the UK, it'll probably be even more troublesome.
  • Sjokoprins - Wednesday, November 28, 2018 - link

    If there's a new apple device then there would be a very thorough in depth review, as for a new samsung flagship: they do not mind it seems.
    And that is really apple biased.
    The know very well at anandtech how to avoid exposure to samsung phones and how to generate a lot of attention to apple phones......
  • Meteor2 - Monday, November 26, 2018 - link

    I would think the 20-minute limit on max GPU performance is because that’s the typical maximum length of time people play games on mobile phones for. The designers are letting temperatures reach battery-damaging levels to secure performance — but only briefly.
  • jaju123 - Monday, November 26, 2018 - link

    When you read this and realise you just ordered the 512gb Exynos Note 9. :O

    Are there custom kernels out there that somewhat mitigate these issues?
  • lmcd - Monday, November 26, 2018 - link

    The "issues" are bad custom CPU core designs out of Samsung. Kernels don't solve that.

    It's not "fall on its face" horrible, Samsung's cores still wipe the floor with A53s and A55s. Just not flagship level.
  • multicorn - Tuesday, November 27, 2018 - link

    There are no issues. I have the 128 GB Exynos Note 9. It's absolutely perfect. So, e.g. when I go to bed, I usually have 50% of battery left. Maybe with the QC model I would have 55%. Do I care? Nope. Same with performance. Everything works flawlessly. Maybe the QC model scores higher in benchmarks, so what? In real world usage you won't notice any difference. Would I notice the difference between the Exynos models DAC vs. the inferior DAC in the QC model? Maybe..
  • Spunjji - Tuesday, November 27, 2018 - link

    As someone who's owned a few generations of Exynos Samsung devices, I'd warn you away from messing with custom kernels. They tend to be flaky, unreliably supported and more hassle to implement than they're worth in terms of performance. Try out the device, see if the performance suits you and buy accordingly. You won't get the full set of Note 9 features from anyone else so it should really be about what you want from the phone rather than its absolute performance (within acceptable boundaries).
  • cha0z_ - Wednesday, November 28, 2018 - link

    Not really, only one kernel and it's not that active in development. That part of the forums is so dead that I can't believe it... and this for the best phone samsung offers currently. Can understand the devs tho, why buy, keep and spend time on device with such a massive failure of a SOC. The phone is good in real world usage tho, I have one, but everyone who tested both exynos and sd variants said that the difference is a lot bigger than they was prepared to be and kept the sd. :)
  • Quantumz0d - Monday, November 26, 2018 - link

    Excellent piece Andrei, thanks.
    Especially the battery part and fuel gauge. Please kindly do mention the workings of them. Very much interested in this aspect especially how the iPhone does and their "manual throttle switch". I read your post on how Samsung caps the battery charging to keep more lifetime, on XDA, this confuses me about the battery longevity discrepancy that you mentioned. To add my OP3 fuel gauge chip also blocks installing the 3Ts higher spec battery (3000 vs 3300) and voltages, though a developer managed to get the reading of cycles from it (Sultanxda) and the mentioning of the GPU and thermals is really fantastic coverage, I believe the S.LSI and Samsung Mobile have bureaucracy issues like Intel and lost their direction, just like how LG is doing badly with marketing and their drastic change after Exec shakeup after failed Quarter results. Its unfortunate that they dropped their unique design with V40 and G7, even the marketing is bad and going mainstream like camera game on their site " 5 cameras". Your point is definitely valid with Huawei execution but that phone is against user control with EMUI and rollback bricks and BL unlock and total copypasta design.

    I wanted to import a Note 9 but the ebay and price where I wanted to import are too expensive. And the LTE bands issues with carrier aggregation in US LTE Network. And the 9810 issues with perf and battery issues, though the Custom ROM scene is excellent with Exynos devices, Note 9.

    I picked up a V30S instead for 500 bucks, US warranty and has fairly good battery life and underrated specs it has Qnovo Adaptive charging technology which saves the battery from over doing its cycles and reduce the fatigue. Maybe you can look at them, Sony also does this Qnovo technology.

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