Samsung Unveils the Exynos 9810: 3rd Generation Custom CPU Cores and Mali-G72MP18 GPU
In November, Samsung teased the announcement of the Exynos 9810, which had been selected for the CES 2018 Innovation Awards. At that time, details about the new system-on-chip were scarce. A few days ago, Samsung confirmed via Twitter that it would officially unveil the next Exynos SoC on January 4, and now, it has published the details of its newest chip.
The background: Ever since the Galaxy S, Samsung has used Exynos SoCs in its flagship phones. Notably, the Galaxy S featured a single-core Exynos 3110 SoC, which was followed by the dual-core Exynos 4210 and the quad-core Exynos 4412 in the Galaxy S II and the Galaxy S III, respectively. In 2013, Samsung used a different strategy, though. It adopted ARM’s big.LITTLE tech with the Exynos 5410, which had four ARM Cortex-A15 performance cores and four ARM Cortex-A7 efficiency cores.
The Exynos 5410 was relegated to 3G versions of the Galaxy S4, which meant that it was replaced by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 600 chip in the West. As it was early days for big.LITTLE, the Exynos 5410 was troubled with issues, including a non-functioning cache coherent interconnect (CCI) and the inability to use all eight cores at once due to the use of cluster migration (instead of heterogeneous multi-processing). It was soon succeeded by the Exynos 5420, but it took the Exynos 5422’s release in the Galaxy S5 to enable the use of all eight cores simultaneously thanks to HMP.
Since then, Exynos chipsets have steadily matured. 2015 was a notable year, when Samsung skipped the Snapdragon 810 in favor of using the octa-core Exynos 7420 (4x Cortex-A57 cores and 4x Cortex-A53 cores) for all markets, including the US. The Exynos 7420 was also the first mobile SoC to be manufactured on a 14nm FinFET process, giving it a competitive advantage against its rivals in the Android world.
In 2016, Samsung moved to custom cores with the Exynos 8890. The SoC had four high-performance Exynos M1 custom cores combined with four Cortex-A53 efficiency cores, paired with the Mali-T880MP12 GPU. The performance of the Exynos M1 custom core was roughly on par with ARM’s Cortex-A72.
Samsung kept using custom cores with last year’s Exynos 8895. The Exynos 8895 had second-generation Exynos M2 cores along with Cortex-A53 cores, with a wider Mali-G71MP20 GPU. The single-core performance of the Exynos M2 was roughly on the same level as the ARM Cortex-A73 and Qualcomm’s semi-custom Kryo 280 (which was based on the A73).
Exynos 9810: On Thursday, Samsung unveiled the Exynos 9810, its second chip in the Exynos 9 series. The Exynos 9810 is built on Samsung’s second-generation 10nm FinFET process (10nm Low Power Plus), and has third-generation custom CPU cores.
To be precise, the Exynos 9810 has four high-performance custom cores clocked at up to 2.9GHz, and four ARM Cortex-A55 cores clocked at 1.9GHz. It also uses ARM’s DynamIQ tech, which was announced last year as an improvement to big.LITTLE.
Put simply, the CPU upgrade here is a major one. Samsung states that the chip has an architecture with a wider pipeline and improved cache memory, which increases its single-core performance twofold over its predecessor. According to the company, multi-core performance is improved by around 40 percent compared to its predecessor. The SoC is also said to enable “seamless multitasking” with faster loading and transition times between apps.
The twofold single-core performance improvement claim is interesting, as it’s one of the biggest performance jumps across Samsung SoC generations. If it plays out in practice, the Exynos 9810 may have a lead over the competition (and further close the performance gap between Apple and Android devices), but it’s difficult to determine anything at this stage without access to benchmark data.
Moving on to the GPU, the Exynos 9810 has the Mali-G72MP18 GPU, though its clock speeds weren’t disclosed. It’s worth noting that the GPU core count is decreased from the Exynos 8895’s Mali-G71MP20, but performance should still be faster overall. The Heimdall Mali-G72 from ARM is also featured on the Kirin 970 SoC, though that chipset opts for a 12-core configuration. While we don’t know the clock speeds of Samsung’s implementation, we typically see the company’s Mali GPU results consistently outperforming those found in Kirin chipsets, which have traditionally featured lower core counts (though higher per-core frequencies).
Samsung’s newest SoC also has a new modem. The Exynos 8895 featured the world’s first Gigabit LTE modem, and the Exynos 9810 has an industry-first 1.2Gbps Gigabit LTE modem, with LTE Cat 18 1.2Gbps downlink and LTE Cat 18 200Mbps uplink. It supports up to 6x carrier aggregation (6CA), which is said to enable stabler data transfers at faster speeds. It supports 4×4 MIMO (Multiple-Input, Multiple-Output) and 256-QAM scheme, and also uses enhanced Licensed-Assisted Access (eLAA). According to Samsung, the new technologies make it easier to broadcast or stream videos at up to UHD resolution, or even 360-degree video.
The Exynos 9810 has a dedicated image processing and upgraded multi-format codec (MFC). It’s said to have faster and more energy efficient image and visual processing, which enables advanced stabilization of photos and video at up to UHD resolution. It will also allow real-time out-of-focus photography at higher resolution and brighter photos in low light with reduced noise and motion blur. And it supports up to 24MP rear and 24MP front cameras, and dual 16MP+16MP cameras.
The upgraded MFC can record and playback video at up to UHD resolution at 120FPS (though it’s unlikely that we’ll see this offered in the upcoming Galaxy S9 due to a disparity with the Snapdragon 845’s capabilities). It also supports HEVC and VP9 codecs, which enables the MFC to render 1024 different tones for each primary color (red, green and blue). That means 1.07 billion colors can be rendered, or 64 times the previous 8-bit color format’s 16.7 million.
Finally, the Exynos 9810 is said to enhance neural network-based deep learning. According to Samsung, it introduces sophisticated features that allow the processor to “accurately recognize people or items in photos for fast image searching or categorization, or through depth sensing, scan a user’s face in 3D for hybrid face detection”. The hybrid face detection uses both hardware and software to enable realistic face-tracking filters and stronger security when using face unlock. The SoC also has a separate security processing unit to safeguard vital personal data such as facial, iris, and fingerprint information.
“The Exynos 9 Series 9810 is our most innovative mobile processor yet, with our third-generation custom CPU, ultra-fast gigabit LTE modem and, deep learning-enhanced image processing,” said Ben Hur, vice president of System LSI marketing at Samsung Electronics. “The Exynos 9810 will be a key catalyst for innovation in smart platforms such as smartphones, personal computing and automotive for the coming AI era.”
Samsung states that the Exynos 9 Series 9810 is currently in mass production. It’ll be exhibited at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, which runs January 9 – 12, and it’s SoC is expected to ship in international variants of the Galaxy S9 and the Galaxy S9+, which may be announced next month.