Hadlee Simons

A history of Samsung’s homegrown silicon

Samsung Exynos branding

Samsung is one of the few smartphone firms possessing the flexibility to design its personal high-end chipsets, together with Apple and Huawei (till the US commerce ban nipped that within the bud). The Korean agency’s Exynos flagship processors have been a fixture in its high-end telephones for years now, protecting the Galaxy S collection and Galaxy Notice collection.

However the place did this story truly begin? Be a part of us as we check out the history of Samsung Exynos flagship processors, from the earliest telephones with this silicon all the way in which to at this time’s superphones.

Associated: Every little thing it’s worthwhile to find out about Samsung’s Exynos processors

2010: When flagship chipset meant Hummingbird

Samsung Galaxy S Original

Our dive into Samsung Exynos history begins with Samsung’s first Galaxy S smartphone, which launched in 2010, and was powered by an in-house chipset from the get-go. This wasn’t the debut of Exynos although, because the chipset was truly known as the Hummingbird. Man, I wouldn’t thoughts a return to dainty hen names like sunbird and goldfinch.

Anyway, the 45nm Hummingbird was retroactively renamed the Exynos 3 Single, and it was a reasonably succesful chipset for the time. Samsung’s in-house processor sported a 1GHz single-core Cortex-A8 CPU at a time when 1GHz cell CPUs had been a rarity. Actually, the producer stated it was the business’s first 1GHz processor on the time of its 2009 unveiling.

The Hummingbird chipset additionally delivered a PowerVR SGX540 GPU, assist for 800 x 600 shows (not so spectacular when Apple was about to launch the 960 x 640 iPhone 4), and assist for 1080p recording (beating the iPhone 4’s 720p output). Different options like LPDDR2 RAM and eMMC 4.3 assist had been par for the course on the time.

It’s additionally fascinating to notice that this was the one Samsung chipset to search out its manner right into a Nexus or Pixel gadget, getting used within the Nexus S. Different Nexus and Pixel gadgets used Qualcomm Snapdragon silicon, with the exception of 2011’s Samsung Galaxy Nexus (utilizing TI OMAP silicon).

Notable telephones: Samsung Galaxy S, Google Nexus S

2011: The primary correct Exynos flagship SoC

The primary Samsung Exynos flagship chipset in history (i.e. with out a retroactive title change) was truly the Exynos 4210 Twin, debuting inside 2011’s Galaxy S2. And it was half of the primary wave of dual-core smartphone processors, delivering a 1.2GHz Cortex-A9 CPU.

The SoC has a couple of options in widespread with its predecessor although, such because the 45nm manufacturing course of, LPDDR2 RAM assist, and 1080p/30fps video recording. We do nonetheless see assist for larger decision shows (1,440 x 900) and eMMC 4.4 assist. One unusual listed function is assist for 5MP cameras, however the chip was truly inside telephones with 8MP rear cameras.

The Exynos 4210 Twin additionally discovered its manner into the unique Galaxy Notice again in 2011 (seen above), powering the super-sized cellphone at a time when massive screens weren’t widespread in any respect. Moreover, this chipset powered Meizu’s first cellphone (the Meizu MX). The Chinese language model would go on to make use of Exynos flagship SoCs in loads of its gadgets.

Notable telephones: Samsung Galaxy S2, Samsung Galaxy Notice, Meizu MX

2012: The business strikes to quad-core

Samsung Galaxy S3

2012’s greatest cell silicon development was the shift to quad-core CPUs, and Samsung was an element of this development by providing the Exynos 4412. The brand new chipset debuted contained in the Galaxy S3 but in addition appeared within the Galaxy Notice 2 within the second half of the 12 months, albeit with a slight CPU clock pace enhance.

Talking of the CPU, we received a quad-core Cortex-A9 CPU which doubled the quantity of cores seen within the earlier 12 months’s flagship SoC. It’s nonetheless primarily based on the identical Cortex-A9 CPU, however the quad-core association was welcomed as a consequence of Android and varied third-party apps embracing multi-core assist.

Cellular avid gamers would’ve been barely upset again in 2012, because the Exynos 4412 used the identical Mali-400MP4 GPU seen within the earlier 12 months’s Exynos processor. It additionally topped out with the identical primary eMMC assist and 1080p/30fps recording functionality. In any other case, the Exynos 4412 supplied a 32nm design which was a strong enchancment on paper, in addition to a 1,440 x 900 show decision.

Oddly sufficient, this processor additionally discovered its manner into two Lenovo telephones again within the day in addition to the first-generation Galaxy Notice 8.0 pill.

Notable telephones: Lenovo K860/K860i, Samsung Galaxy Notice 2, Samsung Galaxy S3

2013: You thought they’d cease at quad-core?

The smartphone business rapidly moved from single-core CPUs to dual-core after which quad-core processors in just some years. However 2013 marked the primary time Samsung adopted an octa-core processor in its high-end telephones. The 28nm Exynos 5410 debuted contained in the Galaxy S4 and delivered what seemed like an enormous.LITTLE design. That meant a cluster of 4 high-powered Cortex-A15 CPU cores and a cluster of 4 light-weight Cortex-A7 cores. However there was a fairly important concern with this SoC.

The Exynos 5410 had a serious limitation in that just one cluster might be lively at a time. That meant you couldn’t have all eight CPU cores lively without delay, nor may you’ve got only a Cortex-A7 and Cortex-A15 lively on the similar time. So that you both have the 4 Cortex-A7 cores operating or the 4 Cortex-A15 cores lively. It was a weird determination and type of defeated the aim of going octa-core within the first place.

It wasn’t all unhealthy although, as we received a beefy PowerVR SGX544 MP3 GPU, show resolutions as much as 2,560 x 1,600, and LPDDR3 assist. The chipset was fairly succesful within the digital camera discipline too, providing 1080p/60fps video recording, and a rear digital camera as much as 13MP.

The Exynos 5410 was a considerably controversial chipset, and it would not be the final time Exynos silicon courted controversy.

Fortunately, Samsung launched the Exynos 5420 in late 2013, and it supplied a extra smart tackle an octa-core design. The upgraded processor certainly allowed for each the little and massive cores to be lively without delay. This chipset additionally swapped out the PowerVR GPU for a Mali T628 MP6 GPU, with Samsung claiming the Mali GPU was “enhanced” over the PowerVR half consequently. It was in any other case similar to the Exynos 5410.

One fascinating tidbit right here is that the Snapdragon model of the Galaxy Notice 3 supplied 4K/30fps recording, however the Exynos model topped out at 1080p/60fps. This example can be reversed in later years. The Exynos variant additionally reportedly lacked LTE assist, topping out at 42.2Mbps HSPA+ as an alternative.

Notable telephones: Samsung Galaxy S4, Samsung Galaxy Notice 3

2014: Exynos beats Qualcomm to 64-bit

2014 was an ideal 12 months for Samsung, because the agency launched what may arguably be one of its greatest telephones ever within the Galaxy S5. However this cellphone was solely powered by the Snapdragon 801. Happily, Samsung launched the Galaxy Notice 4 and Galaxy Notice Edge later that 12 months, which certainly supplied Exynos silicon.

The 20nm Exynos 5433 was the flagship Samsung processor for 2014, and it truly beat Qualcomm to the 64-bit publish. Sure, the brand new chipset had an octa-core CPU that includes Arm’s first 64-bit CPU cores. Which means we received 4 Cortex-A57 cores for complicated duties and 4 Cortex-A53 cores for much less superior actions.

This chipset additionally supplied Arm’s Mali-T760 MP6 GPU, LPDDR3e RAM assist, and the identical show decision because the earlier 12 months’s processor. Digicam efficiency took a step up, because the Exynos 5433 supported a 3.7MP selfie digital camera, a single 16MP rear digital camera, and 4K video, in addition to 120fps video at 1080p. The latter function (or 240fps) is now a staple for a lot of Android smartphones.

The selfie digital camera decision sounds extraordinarily low high quality, however the reality is that none of Samsung’s flagship telephones supported something near 5MP on the time. We’d have to attend a 12 months for extra complete assist on this regard.

Samsung’s 2014 chipset additionally introduced LTE connectivity, delivering 300Mbps obtain speeds due to Cat 6 downlink assist. This assist helped slender a connectivity hole between the Qualcomm and Exynos variants.

Notable telephones: Samsung Galaxy Notice 4, Samsung Galaxy Notice Edge

2015: The very best flagship processor of the 12 months

Is that this the apex of Samsung’s Exynos program? Properly, it’s laborious to argue in any other case, because the 14nm Exynos 7420 could have been probably the most succesful Android flagship processor of 2015. It wasn’t the primary 64-bit Android processor and even the primary 64-bit Exynos chipset, nevertheless it nonetheless made for an ideal bit of silicon in comparison with Qualcomm, MediaTek, and Huawei’s choices on the time. We’d go as far as to say it was the most effective Samsung Exynos chipset in history on the time of its launch.

The Exynos 7420 maintained the identical octa-core CPU as its predecessor, that includes 4 Cortex-A57 cores and 4 Cortex-A53 cores. We additionally received the identical Mali-T760 GPU, albeit with two additional cores (MP8) for a graphical enhance. However the chipset launched a small, 14nm design, 4K show resolutions (4,096 x 2,160, 3,840 x 2,400), LPDDR4 RAM assist, and assist for UFS 2.0 storage.

Extra studying: When Samsung’s Exynos was the most effective flagship chipset for Android

Different notable specs embody assist for a 20MP single rear digital camera, an 8MP selfie digital camera, and 4K/30fps video recording with HEVC.

This processor solely powered the Galaxy S6 collection and the Galaxy Notice 5. Stories on the time alleged that Samsung was postpone the Snapdragon 810 as a consequence of heating considerations.

Notable telephones: Meizu Professional 5, Samsung Galaxy Notice 5, Samsung Galaxy S6 collection

2016: Exynos will get customized CPUs

Samsung had been counting on Arm CPUs for all of its Exynos processors up till this level. However 2016’s Exynos 8890 marked a serious change, because it used Samsung’s first-generation Mongoose CPU. Extra particularly, we had 4 Mongoose M1 cores paired with 4 Arm Cortex-A53 cores.

This 14nm processor additionally touted a Mali-T880 MP12 GPU, 4K show resolutions, and LPDDR4 RAM assist. We additionally received dual-camera assist for the primary time, topping out at 12MP+12MP (or a single 24MP important digital camera), in addition to a selfie digital camera as much as 13MP.

The Exynos 8890 additionally introduced assist for 4K/60fps recording, however sadly, Exynos-powered Galaxy S7 gadgets didn’t get this function. That is presumably as a result of the Snapdragon 835, which powered some Galaxy S7 variants, didn’t have assist for 4K/60fps recording. So it stands to purpose that Samsung could have needed to keep up function parity.

Our personal Gary Sims benchmarked 2016’s flagship Android processors and located that the Exynos 8890 was an in depth second to the Kirin 960 in phrases of CPU efficiency however fell behind each the Snapdragon and Huawei chips when it got here to GPU efficiency. The likes of GSMArena additionally reported that the Exynos Galaxy S7 was extra power-efficient than the Snapdragon variant.

Notable telephones: Meizu Professional 6 Plus, Samsung Galaxy Notice 7, Samsung Galaxy S7 collection

2017: The rise of heterogeneous compute

The Galaxy Note 8.

The Exynos 8895 was Samsung’s flagship processor for 2017, and the small quantity tweak belied a couple of main adjustments. The corporate’s new processor was developed on a 10nm course of, delivering notable area and energy financial savings on paper. It additionally used an octa-core CPU design that includes 4 Mongoose M2 cores and 4 Cortex-A53 cores, sticking with customized cores for the heavyweight CPU core.

Samsung additionally upped the ante within the GPU division, choosing Mali-G71 MP20 graphics. Rival model Huawei would use the identical GPU, however opted for eight shader cores as an alternative of 20, and this discrepancy confirmed in benchmark testing.

Different notable Exynos 8895 options included 4K show resolutions, Gigabit LTE connectivity, UFS 2.1 storage compatibility, and LPDDR4X RAM assist. Samsung additionally debuted a so-called “vision processing unit” or VPU right here, chargeable for pc imaginative and prescient duties reminiscent of scene and object recognition. This could mark a primary main foray of kinds into machine studying silicon.

Extra studying: Every little thing it’s worthwhile to find out about smartphone chipsets

The chipset was additionally packed to the gills on the digital camera entrance, delivering a twin ISP design with one core getting used for heavyweight imaging duties and the opposite getting used for much less complicated actions. You additionally received 4K/120fps recording capabilities, as much as a single 28MP digital camera or 16MP+16MP twin digital camera assist, and as much as a 28MP digital camera for selfies.

The processor’s auxiliary options don’t cease right here, because it supplied devoted safety bits to deal with biometric authentication (e.g. fingerprint, iris), flash reminiscence safety, and different safety issues.

Very similar to final 12 months, we didn’t see 4K/60fps or 4K/120fps video recording formally come to telephones with this chipset. However we did see unofficial workarounds to allow the previous high quality choice on Samsung’s gadgets.

Notable telephones: Meizu 15 Plus, Samsung Galaxy S8, Samsung Galaxy Notice 8

2018: Evolution, not revolution

Galaxy Note 9

It felt like 2018’s Exynos 9810 was extra of an iterative improve over the Exynos 8895 than a game-changing revolution. However we positively noticed two notable upgrades within the CPU and GPU classes.

Within the case of the CPU, we noticed Samsung keep a two-cluster octa-core design however with all-new CPU cores. This time, we had 4 third-generation Mongoose CPU cores paired with 4 Cortex-A55 cores. And the A55 cores stay in Samsung’s Exynos flagship processors as of 2021.

Transferring to the graphical facet of issues, the agency switched to Arm’s Mali-G72 MP18 GPU. Once more, Samsung opted to pack way more shader cores than rival model Huawei’s Kirin 970 SoC (Mali-G72 MP12).

In any other case, the chipset was nonetheless developed on a 10nm course of, and nonetheless supported options like LPDDR4X RAM, UFS 2.1, 4K show resolutions, and 4K/120fps recording. We did nonetheless see a bump to 1.2Gbps mobile speeds by way of LTE and 16MP+16MP twin cameras (in addition to a 24MP single digital camera).

This could even be the final flagship Exynos processor for use by small Chinese language model Meizu. We now have seen Vivo embrace Exynos silicon for its Chinese language telephones lately, however that is restricted to mid-range silicon.

Notable telephones: Meizu 15 Plus, Samsung Galaxy Notice 9, Samsung Galaxy S9, Samsung Galaxy Notice 10 Lite

2019: A blueprint for future Samsung silicon

Samsung Galaxy S10e in hand back

Samsung’s Exynos 9820 established a quantity of developments that the agency continues to embrace in its chipsets at this time. For starters, we noticed a MediaTek-inspired transfer to a tri-cluster CPU, that includes two heavy-lifting Mongoose M4 CPU cores, two Cortex-A75 cores for medium-level duties, and 4 Cortex-A55 cores for light-weight actions.

The Korean producer additionally launched a neural processing unit (NPU) for the primary time, following in Huawei’s steps. Actually, Samsung would declare that the Exynos 9820’s NPU may accomplish machine studying duties as much as seven instances quicker than the earlier 12 months’s Exynos 9810.

Samsung additionally supplied a Mali-G76 MP12 GPU, touting a 40% enchancment over the Exynos 9810 or a 35% effectivity achieve. So what did the CPU and GPU enhancements imply for the battle towards Qualcomm’s Snapdragon silicon?

Properly, our personal testing confirmed that the Exynos 9820 beat the Snapdragon 855 when it got here to single-core CPU efficiency, owing to these beefy customized CPU cores. However that was just about the only real brilliant spot for Samsung, because the Snapdragon silicon delivered higher graphical efficiency, much less warmth, and higher battery life.

The Exynos 982x collection lagged behind its Snapdragon counterpart in a number of methods, nevertheless it’s nonetheless set the template for future efforts.

Nonetheless, the Exynos 9820 had loads extra to supply. We additionally received an 8nm design, improved {hardware} safety, 2Gbps mobile downlink speeds by way of 4G, assist for UFS 3.0 storage and LPDDR4X RAM, and 4K show resolutions.

Maybe probably the most spectacular function is 8K/30fps video recording, however none of the Exynos-powered telephones launched this 12 months supplied this feature. Once more, we’re guessing Samsung strove for function parity right here, because the Snapdragon 855 chipset lacked this feature.

The Exynos 9820 additionally served up a hefty ISP succesful of supporting as much as 5 digital camera sensors, a 22MP important digital camera (and 22MP entrance) or two 16MP shooters, and 4K/120fps video as soon as once more. The 22MP assist appears fairly arbitrary in mild of the assist for 8K recording, which typically requires a 33MP+ sensor.

Samsung additionally launched an Exynos 9825 later in 2019, and it was used within the Galaxy Notice 10 collection. Sadly, our personal Velocity Check G outcomes confirmed that Samsung’s new chipset nonetheless lagged behind Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 chipset, significantly when it got here to graphical efficiency.

Notable telephones: Samsung Galaxy S10 collection, Samsung Galaxy Notice 10 collection

2020: The bottom level for Samsung Exynos

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra home screen

Maybe one of the largest indicators that the Exynos 990 was a bit of a failure for Samsung was that the chipset wasn’t truly used within the Korean Galaxy S20 collection telephones. In spite of everything, Samsung has historically used Exynos energy for flagships in its domestic market.

The Exynos 990 was a reasonably good flagship SoC on paper, that includes a 7nm design and a tri-cluster CPU. The processor supplied two Mongoose M5 cores for heavyweight duties, two Cortex-A76 cores for medium-level duties, and 4 Cortex-A55 cores for the least demanding actions. This could be the final Exynos flagship processor with Samsung’s home-grown Mongoose CPU cores, as Samsung shuttered its customized CPU division in late 2019.

On the graphical entrance, the Exynos 990 packed Arm’s Mali-G77 MP11 GPU. So how did the CPU and GPU stack as much as the Snapdragon 865 chipset used within the US and Korean Galaxy telephones? Not very properly.

Our testing confirmed that the Exynos 990-toting Galaxy S20 Plus lagged behind the Snapdragon variant in just about each CPU and GPU benchmark. Not less than 2019’s Exynos 9820 supplied higher single-core efficiency. You shouldn’t discover the CPU disparity because the distinction isn’t enormous, nevertheless it’s one other story relating to GPU efficiency. No surprise huge adjustments are coming to Exynos GPUs.

The remainder of the chipset was suitably leading edge although, exhibiting that Samsung continues to be succesful of producing high-level options in different areas. We received a bundled 5G modem supporting mmWave and sub-6GHz requirements (topping out at 7.2Gbps) and assist for UFS 3.0 storage and LPDDR5 RAM. There’s additionally a dual-core NPU and DSP delivering as much as 15 TOPS (trillion operations per second) of efficiency, in step with the Snapdragon 865.

Samsung’s 2020 flagship processor additionally explicitly supported excessive refresh charges for the primary time, providing 120Hz refresh charges at QHD+ or 60Hz at 4K. The agency would put this assist to good use with the Galaxy S20 collection and Notice 20 Extremely, with the previous providing 120Hz at FHD+ whereas the latter supplied 120Hz at QHD+ decision.

The Exynos 990 was a reasonably potent digital camera platform on paper too, providing 108MP single digital camera assist, 24.5MP+24.5MP twin digital camera assist, as much as six digital camera sensors, and the flexibility to concurrently course of information from three sensors. We additionally received 8K/30fps recording as soon as once more, and the corporate would put this assist to good use with 2020’s flagships, utilizing it as a burst mode of kinds by way of the 8K Video Snap choice.

Notable telephones: Samsung Galaxy S20 collection, Samsung Galaxy S20 FE, Samsung Galaxy Notice 20 collection

2021: Exynos 2100

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G in the hand in the pink

Eric Zeman / Android Authority

You’d be forgiven for pondering that 2021 is a stopgap 12 months for Samsung’s Exynos division. In spite of everything, the corporate introduced a partnership with graphics colossus AMD to ship a purpose-built GPU that’s anticipated in 2022’s flagships. It’s additionally the primary 12 months with out customized CPU cores, because it now depends solely on Arm know-how.

Happily, the 5nm Exynos 2100 makes a powerful argument for being one of the most effective Samsung Exynos chipsets in current history. We’ve received a tri-cluster CPU that’s just about similar to the rival Snapdragon 888 SoC, that includes a robust Cortex-X1 CPU, three Cortex-A78 CPU cores, and 4 Cortex-A55 cores. Then there’s the Mali-G78 MP14 GPU, which doesn’t use practically as many shader cores because the Kirin 9000’s GPU (Mali-G78 MP24), however nonetheless guarantees an almost 50% efficiency enhance over the earlier 12 months’s Exynos 990.

What does this imply in phrases of horsepower then? We in contrast the Exynos 2100-toting Galaxy S21 Extremely to the Snapdragon 888 variant, and it’s positively a a lot nearer race than the earlier 12 months. Extra particularly, we stated that CPU efficiency between the 2 variants was “neck-and-neck.” The Snapdragon variant nonetheless emerged victorious in GPU testing, however the hole was a lot smaller than final 12 months. Apparently sufficient, we additionally famous that the Exynos variant throttled just a little sooner however delivered higher endurance.

Associated: Samsung Galaxy S21 Extremely Snapdragon vs Exynos: How huge is the efficiency hole?

Samsung’s 2021 chipset additionally options an built-in 5G modem for the primary time within the flagship Exynos latitude. This could lead to improved effectivity in comparison with processors with separate modems. Nonetheless, you’re getting mmWave and sub-6GHz assist right here, topping out at 7.35Gbps.

The brand new chipset additionally stepped issues up within the machine studying space, going from a dual-core NPU in 2020 to a triple-core design. Samsung says this permits AI efficiency within the area of 26 TOPS.

The remainder of the Exynos 2100 spec sheet is fairly top-tier for 2021, that includes LPDDR5 RAM assist, assist for UFS 3.1 storage, a 144Hz refresh price at QHD+, 120Hz at 4K decision, and assist for AV1 decoding. The latter ought to lead to important bandwidth financial savings when streaming video by way of providers supporting AV1.

Samsung’s chipset additionally delivers within the digital camera class, that includes 200MP single digital camera assist, 32MP+32MP twin cameras, as much as six digital camera sensors, and 8K/30fps video recording.

Notable telephones: Samsung Galaxy S21 collection

2022: What to anticipate subsequent?

AMD Samsung Exynos chip announcement Computex 2021

Subsequent 12 months marks a brand new period of kinds within the history of Samsung Exynos chipsets, because the agency switches to AMD GPUs for its smartphone processor efforts. AMD CEO Dr. Lisa Su revealed that this primary GPU shall be primarily based on the agency’s RDNA2 structure and can assist ray tracing and variable price shading. In pure English, which means we’re anticipating a novel piece of silicon.

Dr. Su added that Samsung would share extra data on the brand new chipset “later this year.” Moreover, Samsung beforehand confirmed to Android Authority that the Exynos 2100 successor would certainly have AMD graphics. So it seems like we should always count on a reveal in late 2021 and the primary business merchandise with this chipset in 2022.

Samsung has additionally gone all-in on Arm CPUs this 12 months, so it stands to purpose that the agency’s subsequent flagship chipset will proceed this development by providing one Cortex-X2 core, three Cortex-A710 cores, and 4 Cortex-A510 cores. We do surprise how Arm’s CPU cores will progress, particularly as Qualcomm will debut its first processor powered by Nuvia tech in 2022 (albeit on laptops). Will Arm have one thing comparable up its sleeve within the coming years?

Both manner, 2022 is trying like the beginning of a brand new period for Samsung Exynos processors. We’re not anticipating game-changing outcomes from the primary AMD-powered Exynos chipset, however it should lay down the inspiration for future efforts.