Samsung uses Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 SoC for three new flagship models, Galaxy S20, S20+ and S20 Ultra 5G, except for consumers in Europe. In Europe, these devices are equipped with Samsung’s own Exynos 990 mobile platform. Performance issues of Exynos 990 has resulted in a petition demanding that Snapdragon 865 should be used for all Galaxy S20 versions, regardless of the target markets. Samsung issued a response in SamMobile, saying that both the Snapdragon 865 and Exynos 990 already went through rigorous and struct tests for real-life scenarios. The petition was added on the Change.org to urge Samsung to stop selling any Galaxy S20 models with the purportedly inferior Exynos 990. Samsung claims that both platforms deliver optimal and consistent performance. Samsung customers in Europe are arguing that they are paying too much for a mediocre product. Based on some indicators, it appears that Snapdragon 865 outperforms the Exynos 990. As an example, the Exynos 990 often throttles the GPU causing noticeable drop in frame rate and choppy gameplay.
On paper, the Snapdragon 865 with Cortex-A77 cores is 20 percent faster than the Exynos 990 that still uses the earlier Cortex-A76 cores. The ARM Mali G77 GPU of Exynos 990 is also slower than the Adreno 650, which is paired with Snapdragon 865. Both platforms are based on 7nm manufacturing technology. TSMC manufactures the Snapdragon 865 with N7P process, while the Exynos 990 is made using the 7nm LPP technology. Samsung is leading the way with EUV solution that ensures more efficient, faster and smaller designs. On the other hand, TSMC uses deep ultraviolet lithography (DUV) technology. Both designs don’t have integrated 5G data connectivity, so the Snapdragon 865 is paired with Snapdragon X55 5G modem and Exynos 5G 5123 modem for Exynos 990.
It is arguable whether Exynos 990 is really noticeably slower than the Snapdragon 865. PCMark Work 2.0 is a good benchmarking tool to emulate real-world situations, unlike other synthetic benchmarks. With this benchmarking tool, Samsung Galaxy S20 with Exynos 990 is marginally faster over the version with Snapdragon 865. The Exynos 990 has A55 cores with maximum boost clock of 2GHz. The A55 cores of Snapdragon 865 could reach only 1.8GHz. In video editing test based on OpenGL ES 2.0 and video playbacks, scores are quite identical across all variants, In fact, Galaxy S20 with Snapdragon 865 fared worse in 60Hz mode. In writing stress tests, Snapdragon 865 pulled ahead of the Exynos 990 versions.
Historically, Exynos designs have issues with battery life. The Samsung Galaxy S9 with Exynos 9810 was so bad that a software update deliberately throttled the processor to improve battery life. The Galaxy S10 with Exynos 9820 was also plagued by battery life woes. Samsung are making amends with Exynos 990 to an extent. With 120Hz refresh rate enabled and regular usages, Galaxy S20 with Exynos 990 could manage more than five hours of battery life on a single charge. Snapdragon 865 may still be a better platform over the Exynos 990 SoC, but not by a significant margin.