In the world of flagship smartphones, the chipset industry plays a crucial role in determining device performance and user experience. In 2022, while Apple continued to improve its Bionic chipset, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 failed to impress with its terrible thermal performance. However, Qualcomm managed to turn things around with the updated A Plus Gen 1 later in the year by switching production from Samsung to TSMC. On the other hand, MediaTek’s Diamond City 9000 chip looked promising on paper but did not make it to many smartphones.
However, 2023 promises to be a year of change for Android flagships with both Qualcomm and MediaTek releasing their latest processors. These processors promise incredible performance alongside incredible power efficiency. So, we will compare the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 and Diamond City 9200 against Apple’s new A16 Bionic to see how well they compete.
Let’s start with the specs of the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 2. It is manufactured under TSMC’s 4nm process and has a unique CPU cluster with a one-plus-two-plus-two-plus-three CPU structure mostly populated by second-gen RV9 cores, including one high-performance Cortex X3, mid-tier Cortex A715, and three efficiency-centric Cortex A510. Qualcomm also used two Cortex A710 cores based on the older RV9 architecture. With this setup, Qualcomm promises a 35% faster performance alongside 40% better power efficiency over the HN1. The new Adreno 740 GPU follows the same route with 25% faster performance and 45% more power savings.
Moving on to MediaTek’s Diamond City 9200, it goes all-in on the second-gen ARM V9 with a single Cortex X3, three Cortex A715, and four Cortex A510 cores. It is also fabbed with a 4nm process, but MediaTek has used TSMC’s second-gen 4nm process called N4P instead of N4 that Qualcomm went with on the Edge into. According to TSMC, N4P is refined in four nodes that manage roughly six percent better performance. Unlike Qualcomm, MediaTek does not design its own GPUs, but Arm’s Immortalist G715 GPU on this chip is no joke, managing 15% better energy efficiency than its predecessor.
Finally, there’s Apple’s A16 Bionic. Unlike the competition, Apple is still sticking with the older RV8 architecture. However, it is Apple’s first 4nm chip built on TSMC’s N4 process, just like the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2. The A16 is not much of an upgrade over last year’s A15 Bionic. It has a similar hexacore CPU with two performance and two energy efficiency cores, but Apple says A16 high-performance scores now use 20% less power. Similarly, its 5-core GPU features 50% higher memory bandwidth, which should help with graphics-intensive games.
Now, let’s jump straight into the benchmarks. We tested the IQ00 11 with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, the Vivo X90 Pro with the Diamond City 9200, and the iPhone 14 Pro Max with the A16 Bionic. We toggled the maximum performance mode on all three phones to extract the absolute best performance from these chips.
Starting with Geekbench, a benchmark that measures CPU performance, Apple’s A16 Bionic takes the lead with an impressive single-core score of 1873. The A16 Bionic’s score is at least 26% higher than its competitors, the Dimensity 9200 and Snapdragon 8 Gen 2. However, when it comes to multi-core scores, the Dimensity 9200 and Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 are not far behind. Even so, Apple’s A16 Bionic still leads the pack in overall CPU performance.
Antutu, another benchmark that provides a more holistic view of a system’s potential, paints a different picture. Both the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 and Dimensity 9200 post significantly higher scores compared to the A16 Bionic, with the IQ 11 logging over 1.27 million in the first run, followed by the Vivo X90 Pro’s 1.2 million, and over 932,000 from the iPhone 14 Pro Max. Despite this, all three processors demonstrated sustained performance under moderate stress, with the A16 Bionic losing only around 5% performance between the first and 10th runs.
Thermal performance is also an important factor to consider, as excessive heat can degrade performance and damage a device. During testing, the iPhone 14 Pro Max maintained the lowest temperatures, with the front and back of the phone reaching a maximum of 36 and 38 degrees Celsius, respectively. In contrast, the Dimensity 9200-powered Vivo X90 Pro reached a peak surface temperature of 42 degrees Celsius. While it’s difficult to compare the thermal performance of these processors directly, it’s still a good point of reference to understand their thermal characteristics.
In the 3D Mark Wildlife stress test, which measures a system’s performance under stress, the Dimensity 9200 demonstrated the most stable results despite its higher temperature, while the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 had the highest individual score. In the GFX Bench graphics rendering benchmarks, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 came out on top in all three tests, with stable performance in each run. The iPhone 14 Pro Max, on the other hand, finished dead last in each test.
Gaming is an area where mobile processors are pushed to their limits and a key metric for consumers looking for high-performance devices. For this reason, we tested the three processors in several gaming benchmarks, including 3D Mark Wildlife stress tests, GFX Bench graphics rendering benchmarks, and popular mobile games such as PUBG Mobile and Genshin Impact.
When it comes to gaming, the iPhone 14 Pro Max, Dimensity 9200, and Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 all manage steady 60 FPS gameplay on PUBG Mobile, even at the highest settings with HDR graphics and extreme frame rates. However, the iPhone 14 Pro Max did get hotter than the other two devices during gameplay.
It seems that Qualcomm and MediaTek have taken the lead, leaving Apple behind. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 and the Dimensity 9200 are now the most impressive smartphone chipsets available in the market.
Overall, the competition between these three chipsets is tight, and it’s difficult to say which one is the absolute best. However, what we do know is that the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 and the Dimensity 9200 are impressive contenders that have pushed the boundaries of smartphone performance. We hope to see more Android OEMs use the Dimensity 9200 on their phones and launch them in the international market, which would undoubtedly shake up the competition even more.
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