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

    Excellent work and article.

    One question tho, why the exynos note 9 fail so bad in the GPU sustain performance? The sd845 note 9 shows great gains over the sd845 s9+ variant, why the exynos note doesn't have any gains over the exynos s9? I was expecting that both note phones will have similar benefits over the s9 respectable variants due to the better cooling?
  • kukuhp - Wednesday, November 28, 2018 - link

    Great article Andrei, why not testing the standby drain?

    In my country, only available Exynos version of samsung flagship.
    And i always notice exynos samsung consume more power in standby.

    For example, In the same year-cpu-flagship between exynos and snapdragon, exynos will counsume at least 1% per hour in the night while i sleep, and the snapdragon about 0.3% per hour. And it will be worse in the work hour, exynos need charged in the middle of the day
  • cha0z_ - Thursday, November 29, 2018 - link

    I am getting ~3% in 8-9h sleep on my exynos note 9. Not bad at all.
  • 128bit - Monday, December 10, 2018 - link

    I’m using S9 plus Exyons 9810 and one plus 6 snapdragon 845, 8 gig of ram, 128GB of storage for couple of month now and noticed that snapdragon 845 good in gaming, but still has some overheating issue in heavy use, battrey life of plus still same as S9 plus Exyons, touch latency of one plus 6 in general not as good as S9 plus Exyons and noticed all snapdragon phones has some issue with touch latency including pixel 2xl.
  • zamroni - Wednesday, December 12, 2018 - link

    Conclusion: samsung should give up exynos
  • gregoryzeng - Sunday, December 16, 2018 - link

    Power consumption figures are easy, if you use the same hardware & software test tools on each tested smartphone.

    First charge to battery to 100 %. Then run tests via the input power source: external hardware cable, which will give accurate power use figures.

    Second, use power-use software. These vary imo by brands, versions & models, so are not reliable.

    I've used many in-line USB power devices; many brands, models, types, colors, etc. Only the test-laboratory-calibrated units, checked & used by professionals, will give true results.
  • cha0z_ - Monday, January 14, 2019 - link

    The test should be redone on android pie (or atleast stated it's no longer valid). Massive scores bumps on everything regarding the exynos version atleast. pcmark is from 5200 to 6000 points overall, small bumps on the web and video category and massive bumps in the other 3 (writing, photo, data). GPU is seeing notable performance gains in every test too (guess it's mostly new drivers related) - 3dmark, antutu gpu, renderscript and so on (eager to test in real world, but if approximation is correct, I would guess around 10-14% increase depending on the workload and that's not bad at all given the poor state exynos 9810/mali g72 mp18 sits).

    Not sure how the snapdragon version is doing on android 9 tho, maybe it's also up (but I doubt it will be or atleast by that much as it was really optimised on oreo already).
  • cha0z_ - Saturday, January 19, 2019 - link

    Correcting myself, web score is 6157 - a lot higher vs the android 8. :)
    Sad that this article was published before android 9 release. Not that it really matters+sd845 will always be the better SOC no matter what, but I am curious about the changes and to see scientific data about the current tuning as the exynos 9810 is closer to the sd845 in performance, but I think the battery took a hit even is slight.

    Also the GPU is seeing 15% more fps in tests like gfx high/mid aztec, manhatan is up too, 3dmark too, antutu gpu too, everything. Really curious about the sustain performance and if it's closer to the sd this time as I feel it allows slightly higher heat. Oh, well... I understand this will never happens as it takes a lot of time and the topic is kinda old + getting absolute with new generation of phones around the corner.
  • The_Quantum_Guy - Tuesday, January 29, 2019 - link

    Hey Andrei, I was looking forward to buy a Note 9. So according to you is it worth it to get an imported version from U.S. to India ???

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