If you are looking for which is the best processor for mobile phones, or conversely which is the most powerful mobile processor today, you have come to the right place. Today’s smartphone market is saturated with multitudes of smartphone manufacturers and an even greater variety of smartphone models. Each manufacturer tries to be unique and reflect their design philosophy in their smartphones in an attempt to separate themselves from the rest of the competition.
While some models have a small camera notch, others feature a hole punch design, while a few eliminate the hole punch or notch entirely to opt for a pop-up camera system. Similarly, while most smartphones have a 60 Hz screen, many feature one with a 90 Hz refresh rate, while it is not uncommon to see flagship phones having 120 Hz screens. However, the processor undeniably makes the greatest difference in a smartphone when it comes to its overall performance.
In this article, we have ranked the 5 best smartphone processors in 2021.
Apple A14 Bionic
- Single-core: – 1570
- Multi-core: – 3916
Launched back in October 2020, the Apple iPhone 12 series of smartphones are perhaps the best all-rounders money can buy. Delivering phenomenal performance as well as a simple and intuitive UI, the latest and the greatest iPhone is powered by none other than the A14 Bionic SoC developed by Apple, especially for the iPhone 12 and iPad Air (2020).
The in-house development of the chip as well as the software running on the chip ensures that every operation is most efficiently executed, leading to relatively strong battery life vs. battery capacity. At the same time, a fantastic image signal processor enables excellent photography on the device. The glaring downside, however, is the A14’s Apple-only exclusivity, warranting a steep entry price inherent to the Apple ecosystem.
Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
- Single-core: – 1100
- Multi-core: – 3437
If you are looking into the best smartphone processor running Android, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 is, hands down, the fastest and the most powerful SoC currently present in the market. With the phenomenal performance offered by the Snapdragon 888 and Qualcomm’s dominance in the smartphone processor industry, OEM’s and manufacturers all over the world have gravitated towards this chip for their flagship smartphone devices. Even a company such as Samsung, which designs and fabricates their own processors- Exynos SoCs, have a Snapdragon 888 variant of their latest and greatest Galaxy S21 Ultra.
The Snapdragon 888 also has a powerhouse of an Image Signal Processor which is responsible for the most consistent and low-noise image reproduction possible in a smartphone. The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, featuring the 888 chip has been regarded as one the best phones for photography, although one must note the S21 packs in far superior camera hardware as compared to the iPhone 12 series.
The best smartphones featuring the 888 chip available today include, but are not limited to the aforementioned Samsung Galaxy S21 series, Asus ROG Phone 5, Xiaomi Mi 11 series, OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro, Sony Xperia 1 III and 5 III and the Redmi K40 series.
Apple A13 Bionic
- Single-core: – 1308
- Multi-core: – 3258
The Apple A13 Bionic is an older chip featured in the previous-gen Apple iPhone 11 series smartphones. Yet, it still remains an extremely capable chip and maintains its lead, even above current-gen Snapdragon chips such as the Snapdragon 870. In single-core performance, it still beats out the current fastest Android chip- the Snapdragon 888 by a respectable 18% margin.
Just like the A14 Bionic, the A13 Bionic also has a fantastic image signal processor and Apple’s in-house software makes sure the chip is utilized to its utmost capability. Also, as previously mentioned for the A14 Bionic, the A13’s downside remains the steep price of owning an Apple device as well.
Samsung Exynos 2100
- Single-core: – 953
- Multi-core: – 3128
After a blunder of a launch with the previous-gen Exynos 990 chip and Samsung coming very close to shutting down their chip division following the fallout from the same, they finally made an excellent comeback in the form of the Exynos 2100. The 2100 has been successful in making up most of the performance delta when compared to the flagship Qualcomm Snapdragon 888, which is no mean feat, especially since Samsung launches the same model, with different processors for different regions, but at the same price.
Thus, customers in Europe and Asia, receiving the Exynos variants, can finally expect comparable performance as the customers in the US, Japan, China, etc. receiving the Snapdragon variant of the “same” phone. Having said so, the Exynos 2100 is still not strictly at par with the 888, especially when it comes to maintaining consistent performance in sustained workloads such as long gaming sessions. The 2100 tends to run hotter and lose performance faster as compared to the 888 in such workloads. However, under everyday circumstances, the 2100 is plenty fast and you would have to really stretch to notice a difference.
The Samsung Exynos 2100 processors are featured in the Galaxy S21, S21+ and S21 Ultra series of smartphones.
Qualcomm Snapdragon 870
- Single-core: – 952
- Multi-core: – 3005
Under the hood, the Snapdragon 870 is closer to a Snapdragon 865 rather than a processor from the current generation of which the 888 is a part. The 870 actually features mostly previous-gen technology, both in terms of CPU architecture as well as the included GPU. This means that the 870 features Cortex-A77 cores instead of the cutting-edge Cortex-X1 and A78 found in the Snapdragon 888. At the same time, it uses the previous-gen Adreno 650 GPU instead of the Adreno 660 found in the Snapdragon 888. The Image Signal Processor is also inferior when compared to the cutting edge Spectra ISP utilized by the 888.
Having said so, the 870 is, by no means, a slouch. It is rather competitive as an alternative flagship processor for smartphones which sit comfortably between a high-mid range phone and a flagship in terms of price. A good example is the OnePlus 9R which is priced at ~ 38,000 INR, positioned comfortably between the OnePlus Nord (29,000 INR) and the flagship OnePlus 9 (49,000 INR).