Samsung’s got a new 10nm octa-core chip with gigabit LTE for flagship phones

Samsung logoMobile World Congress is just around the corner, which means news about new mobile processors and modems is flying fast and thick. The latest announcement is from Samsung, which today unveiled its latest flagship Exynos chip for high-end smartphones. The Exynos 9 8895 combines eight CPU cores with an ARM Mali-G71 GPU and a Samsung-designed gigabit LTE modem. The chip is manufactured on Samsung's new 10nm process, which according to Samsung allows for performance increases up to 27 percent while using up to 40 percent less power compared to its 14nm process.

The CPU uses four "big" cores and four "little" ones; the small cores are based on ARM's tried-and-true Cortex A53 CPU architecture, the go-to choice for low-power 64-bit cores. The large cores are based on Samsung's "second-generation custom CPU core," called the Samsung M2. Samsung has said very little about it, aside from the fact that it's a 64-bit ARMv8 core and that it was "designed from scratch."

As for the GPU, ARM detailed the Mali-G71 last year, and it's a major update. It uses ARM's new "Bifrost" GPU architecture, which fully supports the Vulkan graphics API as well as OpenGL ES and OpenCL. The existing "Midgard" architecture used in the last few generations of ARM GPUs already did that, so what's more significant is its support for HSA, which allows the CPU and GPU to access the same data in system memory at the same time. This eliminates quite a bit of overhead, since that data won't need to be shuffled back and forth between separate "pools" of memory used by the CPU and GPU.

Samsung’s got a new 10nm octa-core chip with gigabit LTE for flagship phones

If you're comparing the Exynos to a standalone LTE modem like Qualcomm's forthcoming X20, Samsung is still about a year behind Qualcomm. But if we're talking strictly about modems that are integrated into SoCs alongside the CPU and GPU cores, the Exynos 9 draws just about even with the X16 modem in Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835. Using 5x carrier aggregation on the downlink combined with MIMO antennas and use of unlicensed spectrum, both chips promise theoretical LTE download speeds of up to 1Gbps. Like both the X16 and X20, upload speeds are limited to 150Mbps. Only Intel's XMM 7560 gigabit LTE modem offers faster upload speeds at this point; it adds an extra stream to boost speeds to 225Mbps.

The chip's spec sheet reveals a few other facts: it supports up to 28MP rear and front cameras, and if you want to use a "dual camera" system (a la the iPhone 7 Plus) it supports both a 28MP and 16MP camera setup. It can record 4K video at up to 120 FPS and supports H.265/HEVC and VP6 recording and playback. The new chip uses LPDDR4x memory and supports 4K displays at resolutions up to 3840x2400 and 4096x2160.

We may or may not see the Exynos 8895 show up in phones on North American shores; while the global variants of Samsung's phones regularly use the company's own SoCs and modems, the versions that ship in the US and some other territories frequently use Qualcomm's instead. The most notable exception so far is 2015's Galaxy S6, which eschewed the troubled Snapdragon 810 for Samsung's own Exynos 7420.

Samsung says the chip is "currently in mass production," which means we may see it in the upcoming Galaxy S8 refresh. This phone is important for Samsung, since it both replaces the flagship Galaxy S7 and represents Samsung's first flagship phone announcement since the botched rollout, recall, second rollout, second recall, and ultimate cancellation of the Galaxy Note 7.

Source: Ars Technica

Tags: 4G, CPUs, LTE, Samsung

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