Smartphones are more powerful today than they have ever been. This is due in large part to the increase in processing power at the heart of every phone.
Increased processing power in phones has changed the way we interact with our devices. Whether it’s powerful camera features, multitasking on the go, or playing console-quality games, faster processors have allowed phones to become the all-in-one devices that they are.
Determining the power of mobile chips is a lot like judging a desktop chip but on a smaller scale. That said, some of the chips on this list do edge ever closer to full desktop chips in terms of power.
Here are the top 5 most powerful mobile chips on the market today.
Best iPhone Chip: A15 Bionic
When Apple unveiled the new iPhone 13 lineup, the A15 Bionic was on the list of upgrades. The 6-core 64-bit processor was produced using the ARMv8 architecture. The cores are separated into high-performance Avalanche cores and energy-efficient Blizzard cores. The A15 Bionic has 2 Avalanche cores that run at 3240 MHz and 4 Blizzard cores that run at 1820MHz.
The A15 also includes an integrated GPU on the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max versions. It’s safe to say that this chip isn’t just the most powerful chip that Apple has offered yet, but arguably the best chip of any smartphone. The chip received a GeekBench 5 score of 1752 for single-core performance and a whopping 4823 for multi-core performance.
To put that number into context, that’s only around 10 points lower than Intel’s i7 12700 (1763) in the single-core category. So, yeah, pretty damn fast.
Best Android/Qualcomm Chip: Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1
Qualcomm has been gobbling up the market for Android chips since late 2013. It’s no fluke that the San Diego semiconductor giant has risen to the top of the Android industry—they’ve got the goods. That is demonstrated by the Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen1.
The 8-core processor is found at the heart of the top Android phones including the Samsung Galaxy S22 series and the OnePlus 10 Pro. The 8-cores are split into three ARMv9 cores. It has 1 Cortex-X2 core, 3 A710 cores, and 4 A510 cores. X2 cores are high-performance, low-energy cores, while the other 7 are efficiency cores. The A710 is a hybrid performance and efficiency core.
This chip earned a GeekBench 5 score of 1317 single-core and 4179 for multi-core performance. Not as fast as the A15, but still a beast of a chip. In fact, the success of Apple’s nanochips has pushed Qualcomm to raise the bar. But, for now, they will have to settle for second best.
Best MediaTek Chip: Dimensity 9000 Plus
Right on Qualcomm’s heels are MediaTek and the Dimensity 9000 Plus. Actually, this chip has a higher GeekBench 5 rating than the Snapdragon. That said, there are a few glaring drawbacks, including decreased battery life, that keep it just a few steps behind Qualcomm.
The Dimensity 9000 Plus chip has a similar design to the Snapdragon 8. It has three ARMv9 cores, an “Ultra” Cortex-X2 performance core, 3 “Super” Cortex-A710 – Hybrid Cores, and 4 Cortex-A510 efficiency cores. Despite the similar core count, the Dimensity 9000 Plus scored 4355 for multi-thread performance, outpacing Snapdragon 8.
So, why didn’t it rank higher on this list? Well, for starters, it is hard to find in phones right now. The most notable phone to include this chip is the Xiaomi 12 Pro Dimensity edition. It also depletes the battery much faster than Snapdragon. It scored a 93 for battery performance on nanoreview.net.
Still, the performance of this chip is very impressive. Qualcomm might own the android market at the moment, but they’re going to have to push to keep that spot.
Best Samsung Chip: Exynos 2200
Next up is the Samsung Exynos 2200, released in January of 2022. It can be found in all of Samsung’s latest phones in certain regions. While Samsung claims it has the power of the Snapdragon 8, it actually lags pretty far behind the Qualcomm chip.
The Exynos 2200 has the same core configuration as the previous two chips. One X2 performance core, three A710 hybrid cores, and 4 A510 efficiency cores. The big difference between it and the Snapdragon 8 is the GPU integrated into the chips.
The Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 uses the proprietary Adreno integrated GPU. The Exynos 2200 uses Samsung’s proprietary Xclipse 920 GPU. The difference between the two is pretty substantial, according to a 3DMark test done by Android Authority. In the test, Snapdragon scored 9841 in the Samsung S22 Ultra while the Exynos scored 7548 in the same phone.
It is by no means a bad chip but the Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 leaves it in the dust.
Best Google Chip: Google Tensor
This list just wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the Google Tensor chip. As you probably know, the Google Tensor chip was introduced along with the Pixel 6. It is the first homemade chip that Google has made for its smartphone lineup. So, how does it stack up against competitors?
The Tensor Processing Unit, or TPU, is made with the 5nm manufacturing process. It has 8 cores that are configured in a 2+2+4 layout. There are 2 Cortex-X1 performance cores, 2 Cortex-A76 hybrid cores, and 4 Cortex A55 cores. All with impressive clock speeds.
Despite a good first showing, Google’s first in-house chip lags far behind the crowd. It scored only 2847 for multi-threaded performance. It is also outpaced in nearly every other category as well. Gaming, battery life, and benchmarks all put the Google Tensor chip much lower than its counterparts from other companies.
So, why is it on this list? Well, because of the message it sends. If you didn’t notice, there is a pattern in core layouts in this list. With Tensor, Google is experimenting with a new layout and manufacturing process. However, only time will tell if they can enter the conversation in earnest.
How to Pick the Right Phone Processor: A Step-by-Step Guide
If you’re shopping for a new smartphone, it can get pretty confusing, especially if you are looking for something with the best performance. Let’s run down some of the ways that you can find the right phone, and processor, for you.
So, we’ve talked a lot about benchmarks in this article, but how does that translate to actual user experience? Well, first off, it determines the speed of your phone overall. Apps load more quickly, processes are completed faster, and the phone generally feels smoother to use.
The other way you can feel it is in multitasking. Most people use their smartphones for work, and they can get bogged down with tons of apps open. While clock speeds might seem nice, they really only amount to load speeds. For multitasking, finding a smartphone with powerful multi-threaded performance is key.
Having a powerful processor in your smartphone is great, but more power means more energy usage. Many chips are designed for efficiency as well as high performance to avoid draining battery life.
If battery life is important to you, which it probably is, finding a chip that can run efficiently can be a major boon.
What to Know About Smartphone Chips
It seems intense to look at specs for smartphones, and companies like Samsung or Google can be purposefully vague about what’s actually under the hood. It is important to get a second opinion on anything you read or hear in the phone store.
Companies will often try to spin slight upgrades and major or weaker chips as the most powerful. Take, for instance, Google and the decision to use Cortex-X1 performance cores rather than the superior Cortex-X2. This is a business decision that companies will try to spin as a decision for the consumer.
Make sure you know what you need, and what is going to get you there. You don’t have to be an expert on nanochips, just know what’s best for what you need.
Using a Powerful Smartphone: What It’s Like
Smartphones with powerful performance can elevate a user’s experience. Gaming is smoother and more responsive. You can also play much more graphically intense games than ever before. Not to mention the exciting field of machine learning, which is finding its way into more and more consumer chips.
As nanochips continue to edge ever closer toward the power found in desktop chips, it will be interesting to see what the future holds.