Oh man, if you thought quad-core phones were crazy, your brain should prepare itself for at least twice as much explosion. Samsung just announced at CES its new Exynos 5 Octa processors. These chips, on a 28nm architecture (which means they're small and use less power) have eight dang cores. The company says that this will result in up to 70% battery savings (compared to what is unclear...we would assume the previous Exynos processor).
Pics courtesy of CNET
Of course, the first thought is, "Do we really need that many cores?!" Well, for starters, yes. We'll always want more power. But, let's talk practicality! These new SoCs are designed to optimize for multitasking and hardcore video rendering (including 3D), not necessarily pure speed. Which makes perfect sense. Your desktop has been multitasking forever, but our mobile processors (and OSes, really) aren't as great at it. Yet. We're still scratching the surface.
One thing that will aid this is the big.LITTLE architecture. You see, those 8 cores inside the Exynos 5 Octa are not all equal. Four of them are Cortex A7 cores, and four are Cortex A15 cores. The A15s use more power but can turn out serious speed, whereas the A7s are slower, but use less juice. Think of it this way: this SoC will have two different engines in it. One came straight out of a Ferrari for when you feel like flying down the freeway, flipping off cops, and one is from that Prius you make fun of that gets better gas mileage than your car. Your phone or tablet would be able to switch between the two as needed, resulting in high performance without sacrificing battery.
Of course, to be a little cynical, you won't necessarily have access to eight cores at once. The two sets of four cores are subdivided into pairs of one low-power core and one high-power core. Only one of those two can be active at once, so you could never use more than four cores at the same time. However, that's still an insanely impressive performance boost while maintaining huge battery savings.
No word yet on when we'll see these beasts in devices, but chances are good Samsung will be eager to put them in as many upcoming high-end handsets and tablets as possible.