Apple A11 Bionic vs Qualcomm Snapdragon 845: How Different are They?

When the Apple A11 Bionic processor debuted along with the iPhone X, there was much hullabaloo about this new processor. Considered one of the most powerful processors to be built by Apple, the A11 Bionic boasts of many firsts in the world of Apple-NAMRATA GOGOI

A11 Bionic Chip Vs Snapdragon 845

While at the time of the launch, the Snapdragon 835 chipset was the only worthy contender from Qualcomm. However, a few months down the line, we see another front-runner from the house of Qualcomm and that being the Snapdragon 845 mobile platform.

SPECIFICATIONS OF A11 BIONIC AND SNAPDRAGON 845

The Snapdragon 845 features on Samsung’s flagship for 2018 — Galaxy S9/S9+. That, however, is just the beginning. This flagship processor is expected to feature in a number of the upcoming Android flagships such as the Xiaomi Mi MIX 2S, HTC U12, OnePlus 6 and the Google Pixel 3/3 XL. So, how does the new Snapdragon 845 match up against the all powerful A11 Bionic processor? Well, let’s find out!

Manufacturing Process 10-nm FinFET Process 10-nm FinFET Process
Architecture 64-bit 64-bit
CPU 8 x Kryo 385 CPU up to 2.8GHz 6-core processor (2x Monsoon + 4x Mistral) up to 2.53GHz.
GPU Qualcomm Adreno 630 Visual Processing Subsystem Apple Designed 3-core GPU
RAM Dual-Channel LPDDR4x LPDDR4x
Display Support Up to 4K Ultra HD @60 FPS Up to 2436×1125
Camera Dual 14-bit ISP up to 32MP (single) and 16MP (dual) Apple’s ISP for faster auto-focus in low-light scenarios
Video Capture and Playback 4K Video Capture 4K Video Capture
Charging Qualcomm Quick Charge™ 4+ Wireless charging, Normal Charging via USB
Security Fingerprint, Iris, Voice, Face Neural Engine for Face ID

PERFORMANCE IMPROVEMENTS

Quite naturally, the A11 Bionic and the Snapdragon 845 feature some significant improvements over their predecessors. Starting with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, the new flagship processor is a 64-bit octa-core chip similar to the Qualcomm 835 and uses Samsung’s 10-nm design process.

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If we’re to compare it to the Snapdragon 835, the new chip provides a 25% boost in the performance. This can be attributed to the new Kryo 385. The Kryo 385 uses a combination of 64-bit ARM semi-custom performance Cortex-A75 clocked at 2.8GHz and efficiency Cortex-A55 cores clocked at 1.7GHz. This cluster of cores thus offers low latency and improved task-sharing capacities. Plus, these cores boasts of an L2 cache and a shared 2MB L3 per-core cache based on ARM’s DynamicIQ controller.

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ICYMI, ARM’s DynamicIQ technology is a step-up from the big.LITTLE technology. In layman’s terms, this tech engages the right processor for the right task, providing optimal control. Interestingly, Apple’s fifth-generation CPU – A11 Bionic – is 25% faster than the A10. It’s also manufactured using the 10nm FinFET fabrication process and thus it’s around 70% more energy efficient.

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The performance boost can be attributed to the CPU cores codenamed Monsoon and Mistral. What’s interesting about this chipset is that it has two additional cores and is capable of handling asymmetric multi-processing, meaning that it can use all the six cores at the same time. Performance-wise, the performance core (Monsoon) is now 25% faster while the high-efficiency core (Mistral) is around 70% faster than A10.

IMPROVEMENTS IN THE CAMERA FIELD

Given that Apple iPhones captures some of the best pictures, let’s explore its camera improvements first. For one, the new processor comes with an updated image signalling processor (ISP), which helps the new portrait mode. The ISP also includes a Neural Engine to help process the image reference points.

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In fact, the chip derives the term ‘Bionic’ from this Neural Engine. The two-parallel cores of the can handle up to 600 billion operations/second and can give effects even on live videos (apart from still pictures).  Plus, the adorable animojis are made possible by this advanced neural engine. Other than that, the A11 Bionic chip naturally has better colour and low-light performance.

Moving on to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 camera improvements, it debuts with the Qualcomm Spectra 280 ISP. The Spectra 280 ISP will be responsible for improved colour, pixel quality, and accuracy.  In other words, it’ll bring forth superior clarity in phones sporting this new mobile platform. Interestingly, the Snapdragon 845 is the first chipset to support 4K HDR video capability.

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However, at the end of the day, it all depends on how smartphone companies are able to utilize this chip for its camera.  On the other hand, the scenario is quite different for Apple who manufactures their chips solely keeping a particular series of phones or rather a particular phone in mind.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

When it comes to Artificial Intelligence, the Apple A11 Bionic combines both neural networks and machine learning. This means that instead of explicitly programming the chip on how to perceive data, Machine Learning powers the device to read and learn from data.

Artificial Intelligence

For instance, this data is used to unlock the phone (Face ID), image recognition, in recognizing voice and speech or, as we mentioned above, in transferring facial information into an animated animoji.

In fact, this capability can even be extended to the health department by analyzing the feeds from Apple Watches in determining the heart condition. ICYMI, Qualcomm isn’t new to AI processing. The Snapdragon 845 is the third-generation mobile AI platform. The difference between the two chips lies in the fact how they are using the AI frameworks to get work done.

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For now, Qualcomm is focusing on core optimizations, meaning that the processor will be able to choose which core it’ll utilize for a particular work. This would mainly depend on what type of power is needed to execute the task at hand.

The Snapdragon 845 executes tasks 3X times faster.

If we talk numbers, the Snapdragon 845 executes tasks 3X times faster compared to its older cousins. Overall, these capabilities transform into a better voice recognition system, great camera features, longer battery life among others.

The difference between the two leading chips of 2018, in terms of AI, ultimately lies in the fact how they can fast they perform while keeping the energy efficiency in mind.

WHY THE A11 BIONIC PROCESSOR IS STILL FASTER

Technical jargons aside, the A11 Bionic is a super-powerful processor and though the Snapdragon 845 is one of the best mobile platforms out there, sadly, it can’t reach up to the heights of the A11 Bionic. This can be attributed to many reasons.

The Apple chips are almost twice the size of the high-end non-Apple chips.

One of the main reasons is the size of the chip. Apple uses bigger silicon chips. Comparison-wise, the Apple chips are almost twice the size of the high-end non-Apple chips.  While this essentially increases the price of the chipset, as we mentioned above, Apple develops chips for their own phones and hence the price is included in the device costs.

Cortex A75

Qualcomm, on the other hand, doesn’t enjoy this liberty, mainly from the price point of view. If we were to talk from the cache point of view, the Qualcomm Snapdragon boasts of a new 2MB L3 cache, courtesy the Cortex A75. This could mean that the new Qualcomm chip will have faster turnaround times.

However, when it comes to practical usage (read, benchmarking scores), Apple’s A11 Bionic processor scored a massive 10,375 points on Geekbench 4. When it came to measuring a Snapdragon 845-powered device, clocked an 8,409 score on multi-core.

WHICH ONE IS THE ULTIMATE WINNER?

So, these were some of the notable differences between both the processors — Apple’s A11 Bionic and the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845. It’s clear that the A11 Bionic races ahead when it comes to the overall processing, and that can be attributed to the fact that Apple can design chips based on needs of one phone. 

Whereas, the true power of the Snapdragon 845 can only be unleashed by how the smartphone company deems fit.

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