AMD repackages its chips
Samsung’s Exynos chip isn’t just a side project anymore, reveals Agam Shah
Samsung has acknowledged that it did not engage device makers enough about its processor strategy, and that it’s had a only a few third-party Exynos successes
In a room cordoned off from the Mobile World Congress audience, Samsung showed off untethered headsets that operate independently of smartphones. These prototype devices were mainly meant to show off the processing power of its new Exynos chips. The firm already offers tethered Gear VR models, but now wants outside companies to use its latest Exynos 9 processor in untethered devices and smartphones of their own.
Exynos chips have been more of an internal project for Samsung, and been used in the company’s Galaxy phones. Just a handful of third-party phone makers, like Meizu, have used the chips in their handsets.
But the Korean firm finally seems to be realising that it has a great product with Exynos 9, a powerful chip that can drive a new generation of smartphones and VR headsets. The company is also looking to push its other Exynos processors to automobiles, robots, wearables, and if there’s an opportunity, Chromebooks.
Samsung has rebranded the Exynos line-up so it is easily marketable and understandable for customers. The chips are now being broken down into Exynos 9, 7, 5 and 3 brands. The Exynos 9 will be targeted at high-end devices and VR headsets, while the 3 will be aimed at low-end phones.
The new chip is the 8895 and will likely go into the latest Samsung Galaxy S8 handset, which could be launched by the end of April. But it’s also an especially powerful chip for VR headsets. The chip has eight cores – four custom and four Cortex-A53 – that give it tremendous horsepower. It has ARM’s Mali G71 GPUs with 20 cores, which will deliver powerful graphics.
The processor can handle 4K playback and recording at 120 frames per second (fps). The chip also has a vision processing unit for VR, and can handle motion detection and track head movement.
Additionally, it has a new throughput mechanism for easy data transfers between the CPU and GPU. The Exynos 8895 also supports LPDDR4 memory, and has an integrated gigabit modem.
Samsung will compete against companies such as Qualcomm and MediaTek, which were highlighting their own chips at MWC. Sony’s Xperia XZ smartphone was the first announced with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835, which also has a gigabit modem. MediaTek announced the 10-core chip, the Helio X30, which will be available in smartphones sometime next month.
On paper, the Exynos 8895 is as good as the Snapdragon 835, and better than MediaTek’s Helio X30. The Exynos adds some much-needed competition to the smartphone chip market, which Qualcomm dominated.
Samsung has acknowledged that it did not engage device makers enough about its processor strategy, and that it’s had a only a few third-party Exynos successes, such as in Audi car infotainment systems. It will take a while to expand its customer base, but over time companies will start trusting Samsung, explained Ben Hur, vice president of Samsung LSI marketing.
The lack of knowledge so far about the Exynos chips has hurt the company. Verizon has been visibly backing rival Qualcomm, whose chips are used in the Galaxy S7 models for the US markets. Also, Samsung’s chips don’t support CDMA, but cellular technologies like GSM, which are widely used in Asia and Europe. Samsung will add CDMA support to its chips soon, Hur added.
Samsung GearVR headset