“Spending huge sums of money” to build a self-developed CPU, but it’s still a mirror image

With the recent announcement of Samsung’s Exynos 990 new generation mobile processor, it means that Samsung’s self-developed high-performance CPU core has developed to the 5th generation stage. However, even so, in the face of rival Qualcomm’s increasing research and development in processor performance, foreign media reports now point out that Samsung has decided to stop its own development of CPU core plans and will completely return to the road of adopting ARM cores in the future. superior.

Why does Samsung suddenly “abolish martial arts”?

The “mongoose” that persisted for four years was still abandoned

We all know that almost all the chips of mobile devices are based on the ARM architecture. Whether it is Apple, Qualcomm, Samsung, HiSilicon, MediaTek, or Songguo, the main research and development are ARM chips. Among them, Apple’s A-series chips have always been independently developed, and the specific architecture of ARM has been updated, and the relationship has been very small. Qualcomm Samsung prefers the combination of ARM public version + self-developed architecture. HiSilicon MediaTek prefers to directly use the public version of the architecture.

“Spending huge sums of money” to build a self-developed CPU, but it’s still a mirror image

For a long time, Qualcomm and Samsung’s mobile phone SoCs have kept you coming and going and competing with each other, and the pace of chip replacement has basically remained the same, maintaining a delicate balance. In 2015, Qualcomm’s main flagship chip was the Snapdragon 810, and Samsung launched the corresponding Exynos 7420.

What’s interesting is that both chips use ARM’s public version architecture, and both are a combination of 4 large cores A57 + 4 small cores A53. However, the Snapdragon 810 uses a 20nm process, and the Exynos 7420 uses a 14nm process. From the final actual performance, Samsung beats Qualcomm. In the domestic market at that time, Samsung’s own flagship Galaxy S6 changed the norm, abandoning the Snapdragon 810, and all used its own Exynos 7420, making a beautiful turnaround.

However, since 2016, Qualcomm and Samsung have used self-developed architectures invariably. The CPU architecture of the Snapdragon 820 is 4 self-developed Kryo cores; Exynos 8890 still uses an 8-core architecture, of which 4 small cores are 4 ARM A53s, and 4 large cores are self-developed Mongoose (Mongoose), two models The performance of the chip has basically reached a comparable level.

“Spending huge sums of money” to build a self-developed CPU, but it’s still a mirror image

(Image source: Anandtech)

In 2017, Qualcomm’s flagship chip was updated to Snapdragon 835, and Samsung launched Exynos 8895. The Snapdragon 835 uses 8 Kryo 280 cores, but it is actually a magical revision of the ARM A73+A53; Exynos 8895 is also an 8-core architecture, with the small core or the A53, but the large core is upgraded to the Mongoose M2.

(Samsung S8 equipped with Exynos 8895)

In 2018, Samsung released the Exynos 9810, the architecture is 4 mongoose M3 + 4 A55; Qualcomm’s benchmark product is Snapdragon 845, 4 core magic modified A75 + 4 core magic modified A55.

In 2019, Qualcomm’s flagship chip is the Snapdragon 855. This time it uses a 1+3+4 three-cluster design. Both the large and mid-core cores are based on the magical modification of the A76 architecture. Samsung’s Exynos 9820/9825 is also a three-cluster architecture, with two mongoose M4+two A75+4 A55.

In addition, at the end of October, Samsung also brought an Exynos 990 with an architecture of 2 M5 + 2 A76 + 4 A55. This flagship SoC was born for 5G to a large extent. It does not integrate any baseband and can be used externally with 5G baseband. It now appears that M5 is likely to be the last generation of mongoose architecture.

Samsung let go, after all, out of practical considerations

Looking back at the competition process of Qualcomm Samsung’s mobile phone chips over the years, we can find that Qualcomm has basically abandoned the idea of ​​completely self-developed CPU architecture, while Samsung has been using the self-developed mongoose core to benchmark the updated public version of the ARM architecture. Mongoose M2 is against A73, M3 is against A75, and M4 is against A76.

Samsung, which uses self-developed large cores, and Qualcomm, which prefers the magic-modified public version, have basically maintained a comparable level of flagship chips in the past few years. But in 2019, Qualcomm has already surpassed Samsung.

In terms of parameters, Snapdragon 855 has more advantages over Exynos 9820: 7nm process is ahead of 8nm (Exynos 9825 makes up for this disadvantage), and the number of large cores is more updated.

In terms of running points, according to the test data given by androidheadline, the performance advantage of Snapdragon 855 is also more obvious than Exynos.

For a long time, Samsung has insisted on independent research and development of CPU cores, instead of magically changing or directly using ARM’s public version architecture like Qualcomm HiSilicon. There are only a few reasons: to make the overall performance of the CPU stronger, and to maintain a stronger control of its own SoC. Strength, make differentiation in terms of parameter functions and so on.

However, judging from the final results, Samsung’s Exynos series of chips did not follow the path of highly self-developed chips like Apple. The design of the mongoose big core + the public version of the small core has not been able to open a substantial gap with the equivalent level of Qualcomm HiSilicon.

More importantly, on Exynos 9820, Samsung has no advantage or even lags behind compared to the Snapdragon 855 that uses the public version of the architecture. According to the disassembly photos released by ChipRebel, the area of ​​the A76 core on the Kirin 980 is 1.247 square millimeters, the Apple A12 core is 2.06 square millimeters, and the Samsung M4 has an area as high as 4.04 square millimeters. Compared with the ARM public version architecture of the same level, Samsung’s mongoose chip has no advantages in power consumption and performance.

In addition, Samsung has long adopted a dual-chip strategy for its flagship models. In recent years, the National Bank version of Samsung mobile phones are basically all Qualcomm chips. In this case, the significance of the self-developed mongoose core is further weakened. According to foreign media reports, Samsung has invested 17 billion U.S. dollars in the research and development of the mongoose, but it has not achieved the expected results. It is normal to make a decision to let go.

Without the mongoose, Samsung’s self-developed SoC will still exist

At present, although Samsung has disbanded the CPU self-research department in Austin, this does not mean that Samsung’s self-developed mobile phone chips will be abandoned. A more rational choice should be to return to the public version architecture, just like Qualcomm and HiSilicon’s current Do the same.

In addition, Samsung’s next-generation SoC Exynos 9830 has been exposed. According to existing news, Samsung’s next-generation flagship Galaxy S11 will use Exynos 9830/Snapdragon 865 processors.

Not surprisingly, without the self-developed mongoose, Samsung Exynos 9830 will fully adopt ARM’s public version architecture. The core should be A77, and the performance is estimated to be similar to that of Snapdragon 865. In addition, Samsung has previously stated that it will develop its own GPU and has reached a cooperation with AMD.

Unlike the CPU architecture, ARM’s public GPU Mali series have always performed fairly well. Therefore, neither Qualcomm nor Apple used it. The long-term killer of Qualcomm processors is the Adreno series of GPUs, which were originally acquired from AMD. In this way, Samsung should not give up self-research work on GPUs for the time being.

However, although Samsung has closed its plan to develop CPU cores on its own, it will continue to cooperate with AMD in terms of self-developed GPUs. The results show that it will be possible to launch a gaming phone with AMD GPU core technology in 2021, and everyone will wait and see.

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