Want a Pixel 5 with the Tensor chip? Google was probably testing one
The Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro are the first Google phones to come with the company’s in-house Tensor SoC. But according to a recent finding, it appears Google started testing the new SoC on the Pixel 5 first.
XDA Recognized Developer Freak07 has uncovered evidence suggesting that the Mountain View giant was testing a Pixel 5 with a Tensor SoC. While digging through the Pixel 6 source, Freak07 came across kernel device tree files for two variants of the Tensor SoC, internally referred to as gs101. The first one is codenamed gs101-b0, while the second one is gs101-a0. We already know that gs101-b0 is the SoC in the Pixel 6 series, but it’s the first time we’re hearing about the gs101-a0.
Another interesting thing is that there are kernel device tree files for two different silicon variants of the Tensor SoC, which google internally calls gs101.
one is called gs101-a0, while the other one is gs101-b0.
gs101-b0 belongs to pixel 6 devices.
— Mile (@mile_freak07) November 10, 2021
Further digging by Freak07 shows that the gs101-a0 is related to a Pixel device codenamed Whitefin. Interestingly, Mishaal Rahman last month also spotted evidence of a device codenamed Whitefin. The device had similar specifications as the Pixel 5 but featured a Tensor SoC. This connection leads us to believe that Google was probably testing a Pixel 5 with a Tensor SoC, which never saw the light of day.
Yeah, good catch on the code-name connection! Our current hypothesis is that it’s a repurposed Pixel 5 with the Google Tensor chip. Maybe the chip wasn’t ready in time for the Pixel 5 launch? Some Googlers may have a proto P5 in the office with the Tensor tho 👀
— Mishaal Rahman (@MishaalRahman) October 28, 2021
While we’ll never know the exact reason why Google decided against using the Tenor SoC on the Pixel 5, it’s likely that the chipset wasn’t ready in time for the launch of the Pixel 5. It’s also possible that Google had developed the Pixel 5 prototype to test the Tensor chip before offering it to the public with the Pixel 6 series.
To recall, the Tensor SoC features an octa-core CPU setup, featuring 2x ARM Cortex-X1 cores at 2.8GHz, two ARM Cortex-A76 cores at 2.25GHz, and 4x Cortex-A55 cores clocked at 1.8GHz. Google claims the new chip offers 80% faster CPU performance and a whopping 370% faster graphics performance than the Pixel 5’s Snapdragon 765 SoC.