Earlier this morning in Korea, Samsung LSI announced its latest generation flagship SoC, Exynos 9820. Exynos 9820 succeeds with this…
Earlier this morning in Korea, Samsung LSI announced its latest generation flagship SoC, Exynos 9820.
Exynos 9820 succeeds with this year’s Exynos 9810, which we have covered extensively in our review of the Galaxy S9, as well as explored in separate pieces ended with an official micro-architectural disclosure of the M3 kernel at HotChip 2018.
Exynos 9810 was not a very successful chip, as the M3 micro architecture as well as implementation had some severe flaws, with actual devices based on the chip to a large extent is behind its Snapdragon engine parts, has to offer a lot of performance to keep track of battery efficiency, and even then it fails most of the time.
Exynos 9820 looks like correcting this situation with a new design and new CPU configuration, but let’s review the specifications first:
|Samsung Exynos SoCs Specifications|
|SoC||Exynos 9820||Exynos 9810|
|CPU||2x M4? @? GHz |
It has L2
2x Cortex A75 @? GHz
4x Cortex A55 @? GHz
Shared Complex L3 @ => 4MB
|4x M3 @ 1c2.7 / 2c2.3 / 4c1.8 GHz |
4x 512KB L2
4x Cortex A55 @ 1.8GHz
|GPU||Mali G76MP12||Mali G72MP18|
|4x 16-bit CH |
LPDDR4x @ 17 MHz
|4x 16-bit CH |
LPDDR4x @ 1794MHz
|Media||8K30 & 4K150 Encodes and Decodes |
H.265 / HEVC, H.264, VP9
|10bit 4K120 encodes and decodes |
H.265 / HEVC, H.264, VP9
|Modem||Shannon Integrated LTE |
DL = 2000 Mbps
UL = 316 Mbps
|Shannon Integrated LTE |
DL = 1200 Mbps
UL = 200 Mbps
|ISP||Rear: 22MP |
Dual: 16MP + 16MP
|Rear: 24MP |
Dual: 16MP + 16MP
The new 9820 now changes the basic CPU configuration from a 4 + 4 setting to a 2 + 2 + 4 setup where we now have two fourth generation Samsung CPUs as the best devices, two Cortex A75- processors like the center of performance cores and four Cortex A55 processors for maximum efficiency.
First of all, the new CPU configuration remedies one of the questions in Exynos 9810: Here, the A55 kernels were in a separate cluster block on SoC and thereby cache coherence to the performance kernels had to go through SCI / interconnect, which undoubtedly affected efficiency. On Exynos 9820, all CPUs, including Cortex processors, are now integrated into the same cluster and the new L3 is a cache hierarchy for all CPUs, undoubtedly not only enhances the efficiency but also the performance of the smaller kernels now.  The new L3 cluster resembles a lot of Arms DynamIQ DSU, but it is Samsung’s own design, as Arm does not allow third-party kernels to connect to DSU.
The choice of a Cortex A75 as the mid-level CPU group is evident: With four major cores like M3 or apparently, the M4 is very wasteful of the nozzle, as the four cores will never work at maximum frequency / performance in a mobile power envelope. So instead of using the same large micro architecture in a lower clock configuration, it’s meaningful to only use a smaller CPU and regain some of the dyspace. What this also allows Samsung to do is further optimize the large custom kernels for peak frequencies and performance as they no longer have to evaluate the lower end of the power curve as much as currently covered by A75’s.
In the Terms of the New fourth generation custom CPU, M4 (if they will end up with the name) are advertised to have “enhanced memory access feature”. As we have covered the micro-architectural description of M3, Samsung realized that the cache hierarchy was one of the last pieces designed for IP, and it seemed clear that compromises were made. Memory memory and memory system in M3 seemed akile health in micro architecture, as it seems to prevent the kernel from reaching higher performance than one can expect from such a broad core.
The new M4, according to marketing material, now promises 20% performance in performance, or a 40% increase in energy efficiency compared to Exynos 9810. I’m still working with the review of the Mate 20’s and the new Cortex -A76 Sporting Kirin 980, which should be published soon enough, but these Samsung enhancement claims seem insufficient to remain competitive and capture the Cortex A76. Here, Samsung would need to show a 20% improved performance while improving efficiency by 50% to catch up with Kirin 980. Unfortunately, the gap currently seems to be too big for 9820 to be able to overcome, unless it does not mean marketing promotions advertised .
One thing that S.LSI did not announce today was any kind of frequency. For the Exynos 9810, they had chosen to advertise some unrealistic high clocks of “up to 2.9 GHz”, but these could not be achieved without any absurd power figures. Along with IPC upgrades of the new kernel, I expect the M4 to remain within the 2.5-2.7 GHz series, with Samsung hoping to refrain from going too high at the far end of the voltage curve. The Cortex A75: arna should hopefully be in the lower 2 GHz range to also benefit from the better efficiency points.
On the GPU side of things, the Exynos 9820 now offers the Arms new Mali G76 in an MP12 configuration. This represents an increase of 33% in the G72MP18 over the last generation engines, and Samsung materials announce a 40% increase in performance with the same effect or a 35% increase in performance at the same performance. At Kirin 980, the new G76 made some very big improvements, but it just missed the mark when it comes to my forecasts. But S.LSI could always achieve much better results than HiSilicon, so the new G76 in 9820 might well stop being respectable, although I do not expect it to match again Apple’s best and Qualcomm’s next generation.
The new 9820 also has a new first for S.LSI: The new chip has for the first time an NPU (Neural Processing Unit). Details about the new IP model are missing seriously, and all we know is that Samsung promises it is used to enhance photo capture or usage as AR, and it’s “7x faster” than Exynos 9810 in its tasks.
As for media capabilities, the new SoCs encoder IP now promises 8K30 capacity. Now, I do not really expect new devices to capture in this mode, because it also requires camera sensor support – but with a robust media encoder, this can also point to improved recording efficiency.  The new modem now has LTE connection up to category 20 for download and upload, reaching up to 2Gbps at 8CA in downstream and 316Mbps at 3CA upstream.
One thing that Samsung did not highlight in its announcement but listed in the specifications is the fact that SoC now supports UFS 3.0 storage. The new standard will be able to double up over the transfer rates compared to UFS 2.1, giving a theoretical maximum of 2.9 GB / s.
Last but not least, the new Exynos 9820 is manufactured on a 8nm LPP process node from Samsung. 8LPP is a development of 10LPP and promises improved power consumption by up to 10%. Here, the announced improvements are relatively mild, and some people will question whether this will suffice to compete with the TSMC 7nm node in the current Kirin 980 and the next Snapdragon. While it looks like Samsung will have a tightness nail, I do not expect performance and power downside for everything so dramatically. Nevertheless, the Exynos 9820 will have a tough time this year, both on the micro-architecture and process node side.
Overall – the new Exynos 9820 should provide much needed improvements compared to its predecessor, but the race this year will be extremely tough. Here I hope Samsung makes the best of silicon and can also have a good software package, as the new tri-group CPU configuration needs a good scheduler. The new Exynos 9820 is scheduled to enter mass production at the end of the year, and we will clearly see next spring in the new Galaxy S10.