Samsung’s new Exynos 8 SoC includes an LTE modem and its first custom CPU

Samsung logoWe're going to be seeing a new crop of high-end smartphones in early 2016, and while we don't know what they'll look like just yet, we are learning an awful lot about the chips that will power them. Qualcomm is ramping up its PR machine for the Snapdragon 820, and today Samsung has announced its next-generation Exynos 8 SoC, the Octa 8890.

Like the (generally excellent) Exynos 7 Octa 7420, the new 8890 is an eight-core design that combines four "little" ARM Cortex A53 CPU cores with four "big" high-performance cores. However, the new chip uses Samsung's first custom CPU architecture for the big cores, which Samsung says will improve performance by 30 percent while reducing power consumption by 10 percent. The Exynos 7 chips performed considerably better than contemporaneous Snapdragon 810 chips and were slower to heat up, so hopefully the Exynos 8 will be the same.

The second major change is that Samsung is integrating an LTE modem into the chip for the first time, which simplifies manufacturing for phone OEMs who only want to make room on a motherboard for one chip instead of a separate modem and SoC. The modem supports download speeds of up to 600Mbps and upload speeds of up to 150Mbps, putting it on the same footing as the Snapdragon X12 modem that will come with Qualcomm's Snapdragon 820 SoC next year.

Samsung Exynos 8890

The GPU has improved too, though Samsung isn't really changing up its strategy here. The ARM Mali-T880 is a standard design from ARM, and ARM has said that it's around 1.8 times as fast as the Mali-T760 used in the Exynos 7420.

Like the 7420, the 8890 will be manufactured on Samsung's 14nm FinFET process. The company will begin mass-producing the chip by the end of 2015.

Samsung Exynos 8890 Architecture

Samsung has been making Exynos chips for years, usually by combining off-the-shelf CPU core designs from ARM with GPUs from ARM or (more rarely) Imagination Technologies. But while those chips saw widespread usage in Samsung's tablets and some international variants of its flagship Galaxy phones, versions of those phones in the US and elsewhere all used Qualcomm Snapdragon SoCs instead.

Samsung Exynos 8890 capability

Starting with the Galaxy S6, that has changed, and now all versions of Samsung's phones use Samsung-made chips. Integrating a modem just means that Samsung is even less likely to backtrack and return to Qualcomm's SoCs for its flagship phones in 2016. And while Qualcomm's custom CPU architecture doesn't sound like a drastic departure from the ARM designs it was already using, it's interesting to see some Android OEMs like Samsung and Huawei go the Apple-esque route of designing their own chips rather than buying them from the likes of Qualcomm or Mediatek.

Source: Ars Technica

Tags: CPUs, Samsung

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