Earlier this year, Samsung launched the Exynos 7420, the first ARM-based SoC built on 14nm, and the flagship processor behind the Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, and several other devices. Now, Samsung has announced the follow-up to its well-regarded FinFET debut — the Exynos 8890. Where the Exynos 7420 combined ARM’s standard Cortex-A57 and A-53 in an eight-core big.Little configuration, the Exynos 8890 will pair a set of standard Cortex-A53 cores will a brand-new custom architecture, codenamed Mongoose.
Early reports indicate that the Mongoose should be a potent competitor for Apple and Qualcomm, with leaked Geekbench scores putting the Samsung M1 Mongoose at 2,294 points in Geekbench’s single-core test, and 6,908 in multi-core tests. Put the chip in power-saving modes, and those results drop to 1,710 and 4,896 (power saving) and 1,100 and 3,209 (ultra power saving). Current benchmarks of Apple’s iPhone 6S put that device at 2540 for single-core performance (at 1849MHz) and 4441 for multi-core. In other words, Apple’s Cyclone CPU would still have an overall IPC advantage, but the M1 Mongoose could cut that gap to the narrowest we’ve seen in years.
Other features of the Exynos 8890 include a new Samsung-built modem (one of the handful of serious LTE competitors Qualcomm faces), an ARM Mali-T880 GPU (upgraded from the Mali-T760 in the Exynos 7420), and a custom interconnect to tie all the hardware together. Samsung is claiming that the Mongoose core offers a 30% performance uplift over the Exynos 7420, and a 10% boost to power efficiency. This is also the first Samsung processor to combine the application processor and the modem into a single piece of silicon, which should further improve Samsung’s margins on devices. These kind of gains are important to the company — with falling sales and steep competition from mainland Chinese vendors, Samsung needs to cut its BOM (bill of materials) cost on the Galaxy devices that it builds.
ARM has been a bit scarce with GPU details, but the Mali-T880 is supposed to offer 1.8x the performance of Mali-T760 products at 40% energy reduction for the same workloads, as shown below:
The solution inside Samsung’s Mongoose is a Mali-T880MP12, a 50% improvement in GPU cores over the Mali-T760 that was used in previous generation Galaxy devices. That’s serious GPU horsepower under the hood, and it could give Samsung the firepower it’ll need to compete with whatever next-generation capabilities are baked into theQualcomm Snapdragon 820 or the inevitable A10 from Apple.
Samsung expects to begin mass production of the Exynos 8890 in late 2015, which suggests it’ll use the hardware in its own Galaxy S7 when that phone debuts in 2016. There’s no word on whether the device is built on 14nm LPE or 14nm LPP, but we’d be surprised if Samsung didn’t shift to its own second-generation 14nm technology as quickly as possible. Those gains could be part of the improvements folded into the 30% performance / 10% efficiency that the PR suggests is coming.
Samsung’s move to design its own core, meanwhile, is a further sign that the chip manufacturer is serious about building its own credentials. Many of the top chip manufacturers are now moving away from the bog-standard Cortex cores that defined earlier efforts and trying to create additional value around customized hardware (while still using ARM hardware to plug gaps in their lineup or build budget parts). Samsung, Qualcomm, and Nvidia have all dabbled in this market, as has LG, with varying degrees of success. It wouldn’t surprise us if the likes of MediaTek or Rockchip eventually climb on-board as well.