Samsung has just unveiled the newest member of its Exynos family of System-on-Chips (SoCs), the Exynos 8 Octa 8890. Like the Exynos 7 Octa chips from earlier this year and the Snapdragon 820 from Qualcomm, this chip is built on the latest 14nm FinFET process technology. The Exynos 8 Octa 8890 also represents the first time Samsung has custom-designed its own CPU cores based on 64-bit architecture, coupling 4 big custom cores with 4 small ARM Cortex-A53 cores to make up the 8 cores of the chip.
The company claims that the new technology offers a 30 percent improvement in performance compared to the Exynos 7 Octa while still managing to promise 10 percent more power efficiency.
Back in late July, the Qualcomm Corporation - employer of over 30,000 individuals at the time - began the process of telling about 15% of those people (eg, over 4,000 gainfully-employed human beings) they were no longer needed. This was after already cutting another 1500 jobs in late 2014.
The company's stock is currently trading near 2-year lows, and while obviously still a very robust company, Qualcomm can't keep putting in these kinds of numbers if it's going to maintain its position at the tippy-top of the smartphone chipset market.
Qualcomm (QCOM - NASDAQ) stock is down over 10% year-to-date. It is down over 20% from its peak, reached in early 2014.
It almost goes without saying, but benchmarks are not everything. These numbers don't always tell you how a device will perform, but they do tell you something. Right now the Galaxy S6 is telling us that Samsung's new Exynos chip is very, very fast. It's putting up AnTuTu scores of nearly 70,000, well above the values produced by devices like the LG G3, Nexus 6, LG G Flex 2, and even the new HTC One M9.
Samsung and Qualcomm have been reliable partners since the rise of Android, to the mutual benefit of both the phone maker and the OEM chip supplier. But according to this report from Bloomberg, that relationship has hit a rocky patch as Samsung prepares its next flagship phone, presumably the Galaxy S6. An anonymous tipster told Bloomberg that Samsung will decline to use a Qualcomm chipset for the phone after poor testing of the Snapdragon 810, the OEM's top-of-the-line processor.
According to the report, Samsung has found that the 810 often overheats during testing, causing the company to choose its own line of Exynos processors instead.
Samsung usually produces both Exynos and Snapdragon variants of its flagship phones, the former mostly used in non-LTE versions. However, the company didn't mention Exynos at all during the Galaxy S5 event. Now Samsung has gotten around to announcing two new Exynos 5 chips, one of which is probably going to be in the GS5.
The Exynos 5422 is a small spec bump over the 5420 announced last summer. It consists of four Cortex-A15 cores and four Cortex-A7 cores in a big.LITTLE configuration. The speedy A-15 cores run at 2.1GHz, while the efficient A7s are clocked at 1.5GHz. This chip supports Heterogeneous Multi-Processing (HMP), so all eight cores should be able to operate at the same time.
New phones and tablets aren't the only thing that Samsung will unveil in Barcelona. A recent Twitter post indicates that the company will reveal a new line of Exynos mobile processors, cryptically titled "Exynos Infinity." The post from the official Exynos account omitted any other details, but a debut during the Samsung Unpacked event on February 24th (concurrent with, but technically distinct from, Mobile World Congress) is a safe bet.
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There are so many regional and carrier variants of Samsung's Galaxy S4 flagship that even we can hardly keep them straight, but apparently CyanogenMod hasn't released an official ROM for the white bread, vanilla, Exynos-powered original GS4 before now. But lo and behold, a new build for the GT-I9500 GSM model has appeared on the CM download page. It's a test version of CyanogenMod 11 (Android 4.4) if you're interested.
As you may recall, support for Exynos-based hardware has been something of a sticking point for CyanogenMod and other ROM teams. While the LTE versions of the phone with Qualcomm's Snapdragon system on a chip designs have had plenty of support, the Exynos versions have lagged behind for various reasons.
Samsung saw fit to sneak Android 4.4.2 out on the international Snapdragon-based Note 3 last week (starting with Poland, for some reason), but now things are picking up steam. The first 4.4.2 updates are arriving for the Exynos Note 3 (SM-N900). First up on the update list this time is Russia.
Earlier this week, Samsung announced that it was bringing Heterogeneous Multi-Processing (HMP) to Exynos 5 Octa chips. Samsung didn't clarify if HMP would require new hardware, but that was the implication. Now Meizu has unexpectedly announced the Exynos 5 Octa chip in its recently unveiled MX3 will be getting HMP through a software update.
All Exynos 5 Octa processors until now have used cluster migration to manage the ARM big.LITTLE cores. That means either the four high-power A15s are active, or the four low-power A7s are cranking away. There was no way to mix the active cores from the two CPU islands.
Since Samsung announced the Exynos 5 Octa at CES 2013, one major criticism has been leveled at its implementation of big.Little technology time and again: for some reason, it has only ever been able to run 4 of its 8 cores at a time. Not only that, but it has never been able to mix-and-match the higher performance A15 cores with power efficient A7 cores to get the best possible configuration for performance and power usage. Effectively, the Exynos 5 Octa acted like a quad core processor with the ability to toggle between two different architectures. That situation will be changing shortly as Samsung prepares to launch Heterogeneous Multi-Processing (HMP) for the Octa in Q4, making it possible to run any number of cores in any configuration.