Subject: Processors, Mobile | September 2, 2018 - 11:45 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: SoC, octa-core, mobile, Mali-G76, Kirin, Huawei, HiSilicon, gpu, cpu, Cortex-A76, arm, 8-core
Huawei has introduced their subsidiary HiSilicon’s newest mobile processor in the Kirin 980, which, along with Huawei's claim of the world's first commercial 7nm SoC, is the first SoC to use Arm Cortex A76 CPU cores and Arm’s Mali G76 GPU.
Huawei is aiming squarely at Qualcomm with this announcement, claiming better performance than a Snapdragon 845 during the presentation. One of its primary differences to the current Snapdragon is the composition of the Kirin 980’s eight CPU cores, notable as the usual 'big.LITTLE' Arm CPU core configuration for an octa-core design gives way to a revised organization with three groups, as illustrated by AnandTech here:
Of the four Cortex A76 cores just two are clocked up to maximize performance with certain applications such as gaming (and, likely, benchmarks) at 2.60 GHz, and the other two are used more generally as more efficient performance cores at 1.92 GHz. The remaining four A55 cores operate at 1.80 GHz, and are used for lower-performance tasks. A full breakdown of the CPU core configuration as well as slides from the event are available at AnandTech.
Huawei claims that the improved CPU in the Kirin 980 results in "75 percent more powerful and 58 percent more efficient compared to their previous generation" (the Kirin 970). This claim translates into what Huawei claims to be 37% better performance and 32% greater efficiency than Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845.
The GPU also gets a much-needed lift this year from Arm's latest GPU, the Mali-G76, which features "new, wider execution engines with double the number of lanes" and "provides dramatic uplifts in both performance and efficiency for complex graphics and Machine Learning (ML) workloads", according to Arm.
Real-world testing with shipping handsets is needed to verify Huawei's performance claims, of course. In fact, the results shown by Huawei at the presentation carry a this disclaimer, sourced from today’s press release:
"The specifications of Kirin 980 does not represent the specifications of the phone using this chip. All data and benchmark results are based on internal testing. Results may vary in different environments."
The upcoming Mate 20 from Huawei will be powered by this new Kirin 980 - and could very well provide results consistent with the full potential of the new chip - and that is set for an official launch on October 16.
The full press release is available after the break.
Aggressively Pursuing New Markets
ARM has had a pretty fascinating history, but for most of its time on this Earth it has not been a very public facing company. After the release of the iPhone and ARM’s dominance in the mobile market, they decided to push their PR efforts up a few notches. Now we finally were able to see some of the inner workings of a company that was once a little known low power CPU designer that licensed cores out to third parties.
The company was not always as aggressive as what we are seeing now. The mobile space for a long time was dominated by multiple architectures that all have eventually faded away. ARM held steady with design improvements and good customer relations that ensured that they would continue into the future. After the release of the original iPhone, the world changed. Happily for us, ARM changed as well. In previous years ARM would announce products, but they would be at least three years away and few people took notice of what they were up to. I originally started paying attention to ARM as I thought that their cores might have the ability to power mobile gaming and perhaps be integrated into future consoles so that there would be a unified architecture that these providers could lean upon. This was back when the 3DS and PSP were still selling millions of units.
This of course never came to pass as I had expected it to, but at least ARM did make it into the Nintendo Switch. ARM worked hard to quickly put faster, more efficient parts out the door. They also went on a buying spree and acquired several graphics startups that would eventually contribute to the now quite formidable Mali GPU family of products. Today we have an extensive lineup of parts that can be bundled into a tremendous amount of configurations. ARM has a virtual monopoly in the cellphone market because they have been willing to work with anyone who wants to license their designs, technologies, and architectures. This is actually a relatively healthy “monopoly” because the partners do the work to mix and match features to provide unique products to the marketplace. Architectural licensees like Apple, Qualcomm, and Samsung all differentiate their products as well and provide direct competition to the ARM designed cores that are licensed to other players.
Today we are seeing a new direction from ARM that has never been officially explored. We have been given a roadmap of the next two generations of products from the company that are intended to compete in not only the cellphone market, but also in the laptop market. ARM has thrown down the gauntlet and their sights are set on Intel and AMD. Not only is ARM showing us the codenames for these products, but also the relative performance.