At its tech day being held in San Jose, Korean tech giant Samsung is out with the next generation flagship Exynos processor and 5G modem. The Korean tech giant's been having a couple of rough years with its processors, as its products are behind both Apple and Qualcomm's offerings. Will the Exynos 990 SoC change this trend? Well, take a look at the details.
Samsung's Exynos 990 Processor Features An Octa-Core CPU With Two Custom Cores; Is Fabricated On 7nm EUV Node
Not only has Samsung fallen behind microarchitecturally, but the company's fabrication processes or 'nodes' aren't as advanced as TSMC's. The company chose to take its time with EUV and allowed its Taiwanese competitor to get ahead. But, Samsung might gain a big lead over Apple next year with the Exynos 990.
The SoC is fabricated using 7nm EUV, bringing it on par with Huawei's Kirin 990, Apple's flagship A13 processor, on the other hand, does not use the advanced lithography techniques, potentially due to yield problems. With the Exynos 990, Samsung has retained an octa-core design, as the processor's CPU features four ARM Cortex A55 cores, two Cortex A76 cores and two custom cores designed by the company itself.
Samsung's previous high-end processors have come with its Mongoose 'M' cores, but right now, we're uncertain if this will be the case with the Exynos 990 as well. The 990 follows a tri-cluster design, so we're assuming that the custom cores are higher clocked variants of either the Cortex A76 or A77 with wider front and backends.
This tri-cluster CPU is expected to provide the Exynos 990 with a 20% performance boost according to Samsung, but the company has not provided any reference chips. The Exynos 990 also features ARM's Mali G77 GPU, based on the British chip giant's Valhall architecture, improving graphics performance or power efficiency by another 20%. At this point, you'd be wise to note that Apple too promises a 20% performance boost for the A13's CPU and GPU.
Samsung's Exynos 5123 Modem Supports sub-6GHz 5G, Is Fabricated Through 7nm EUV
As was expected, the Exynos 990 also focuses on neural computations, with a dual-core neural processing unit and a digital signal processor. These can perform up to 10 trillion operations per second, propelling the Exynos 990 right at the top of the neural food chain. The Exynos 990 supports LPDDR5 data rates of up to 5,500 megabits/second, and the big news is that the processor adds support for a 120Hz display refresh rate. Samsung hasn't equipped either the Galaxy S10 or Note 10 with a 90Hz refresh rate, but given its display prowess, the company might be readying itself for a big leap next year.
Alongside the Exynos 990, Samsung has also introduced the Exynos Modem 5123 capable of communicating through the sub-6GHz 5G spectrum. The modem, like the Exynos 990, is also fabricated on 7nm EUV. The Exynos 990's image signal processor is capable of supporting up to six camera sensors, and it can handle data from three at the same time with total resolution support of 108 megapixels.
When taking a look at how the chips perform, perhaps the most important metric will be their power consumption. Samsung's Exynos 9820 is a power-hog, and the SoC is unable to deliver results to justify the watts that it pulls.
This launch goes against what Ice_Unvierse had reported earlier. The tipster had claimed that Samsung's 'Exynos 9830' won't feature any custom core designs, with the company choosing to rely solely on ARM's Cortex A77 cores. However, he did state that the information had an 80% chance of being right. So it looks as if Samsung is happy with its custom cores and has chosen to refine them with the Exynos 990.
Of course, it's possible that the Exynos 990 isn't Samsung's only high-end SoC, but the chances of this happening are slim. After all, the company can not sell its processors to other companies due to a CDMA agreement with Qualcomm dating back to 1993. This agreement has brought both companies at odds in South Korea as well.
All-in-all, the flagship SoC race took a huge turn this year after Apple's A13 was made official. The chip's key feature is its voltage management, which will play a big part in controlling power consumption as the SoC is more power-hungry than its predecessor. But, unlike the Exynos 9820, this consumption increase mirrors a performance increase.
By being Samsung's second and latest* high-end EUV processor, the Exynos 990 has a lot riding on its shoulders. Will it keep up? Only time will tell. The chip and the Modem 5123 will enter mass production by the end of this year, and optimistically, they should make it on the international variants of the Galaxy S11 and Note 11 lineup. Finally, should things flow well with the chip, then SamsungSemi might land new customers too.
Thoughts? Let us know what you think in the comments section below and stay tuned. We'll keep you updated on the latest.
*Samsung's first EUV SoC is the Exynos 9825. We apologize for the omission.