Samsung Galaxy S6 Rumored to Come in Two Variants

Samsung Galaxy S6 Rumored to Come in Two Variants

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Rumors are going around about Samsung “dumping” Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 810 SoC (System on a Chip) in favor of an Exynos chip (made by Samsung) for their next flagship device, the Galaxy S6.

This wouldn’t be the first time Samsung uses their Exynos chips (introduced with the original Galaxy S), nor the first time two variants are released. For example, the Galaxy S4 i9505 variant used the Snapdragon 600, while the i9500 version used the Exynos 5410. Similarly with the Galaxy Note 4, one variant used the Snapdragon 805 while the other had an Exynos 5433.

At the time, it could have had more to do with distribution/availability or wanting to test different markets, and not LTE support as is sometimes reported (note that the US LTE market uses different bands compared to other countries, which is why not all LTE devices work in the US). While we’re on that subject… neither the Snapdragon 600 nor the Exynos 5410 have “LTE support” (SoCs have little to do with LTE support, which mainly depends on the modem; it just happens that newer Snapdragon SoCs have built-in modems, which is why Snapdragon variants often support LTE whereas Exynos variants do not; the ModAP series aims to change that). Ultimately, LTE support is really up to the device manufacturer.

This time, however, the reason appears to be different. Analysts from J.P. Morgan (Rahul Chdha, Gokul Hariharan and JJ Park) believe that the Snapdragon 810 currently suffers from serious overheating issues, which requires a redesign that might cause it to be delayed by a few months (though the redesign may already be in progress):

For the Snapdragon 810, a flagship chip for use in high-end models, we believe the issues are related to the implementation of new 64-bit ARM cores (A57), which is causing overheating when accelerating above 1.2-1.4 GHz frequencies, which is a major limitation for a flagship phone.

We believe fixing the issues with the 810 will require the redesign of a few metal layers of the chip, which could push out the schedule by about three months, by our calculations (one month for prototyping and design fix and two additional months for completing the metal mask layers in final production).

With this in mind, Samsung is apparently planning to use Exynos chips for the majority (80% to 90%) of their upcoming flagship at first, and later ramp up the production for the Snapdragon variant as Qualcomm solves the chip’s overheating problems.

The rumored Exynos chip will use the 14nm semiconductor manufacturing process, versus the Snapdragon 810’s 20nm process technology. This basically refers to the maximal size of each transistor — smaller sizes increase efficiency and reduce energy loss, therefore leading to less heat and better battery life… in theory.

The Snapdragon 810, marketed as the “ultimate connected computing processor”, is the most advanced in Qualcomm’s new 64-bit lineup (comprising the 810, 808, 615, 610 and 410). It boasts eight cores (in a big.LITTLE arrangement: four A57 cores and four A53 cores). The A57 cores offer more performance than the Krait cores used in older Snapdragon processors, such as the Snapdragon 805 (used in the Galaxy Note 4, for example). Another notable feature is that it comes with an Adreno 430 GPU (which is 30% faster than the Adreno 420, also used in the 805).

[Snapdragon 810 rumors sources: DigiTimes, The Korea Times, Barron’s]