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New chip is likely to power the Galaxy S3

With the Galaxy S3 super-phone from the world's top Android phonemaker, Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (KS:005930), set to launch at a special event in London, UK on May 3, the hot question on everyone's mind is what might be inside.  Samsung might have tipped its hand regarding the system-on-a-chip (SoC) driving the phone, today announcing its quad-core variant of the fourth generation of Exynos CPU.

While Samsung continues to play with Texas Instruments Inc.'s (TXN) OMAP processors (a potential acquisition target), the South Korean firm still makes much of its CPUs in-house.  It's a pretty poorly kept secret that Samsung also manufactures virtually all the CPUs for its smartphone arch-nemesis Apple, Inc.'s (AAPL) iPad and iPhone.

Even as the firm is rumored to be preparing its fifth generation Exynos 5 chip for PC offerings, the Exynos 4 quad core -- clocked at 1.4 GHz -- represents the company's direct response to its competitors quad core designs like NVIDIA Corp.'s (NVDATegra 3 and Qualcomm Inc.'s (QCOMSnapDragon 4.  Samsung claims that despite adding two cores, the die-shrink from 45 nm to 32 nm allowed it to drop power draw by 20 percent, while doubling computation power.

The new chip is built on Samsung's mature 32 nm high-K metal gate (HKMG) technology, a process refinement that helps fight leakage, the power losses that plague the semiconductor world's ever-shrinking circuits.

Each core on the chip can be switched off via so-called "hot plug" technology.  The chip also packs dynamic voltage and frequency scaling (DVFS) for its cores, allowing them to be selectively underclocked based on workloads.
Exynos 4 quad core
The Exynos 4 quad-core will drive the Galaxy S3. [Image Source: Samsung via Anandtech]

The only disappointment is that the GPU onboard the chip is not expected to get a bump [source], instead using the same old Mali-400 MP4 intellectual property core from ARM Holdings Plc. (LON:ARM).  That means that Samsung is unlikely to be able to keep pace with nemesis Apple in GPU performance, although the Galaxy S3 aims to be very competitive with Apple's smartphone CPUs.  The core does receive one minor graphical improvement in getting a 1080p hardware codec engine, capable of shooting 30 fps HD video and piping out video of HDMI 1.4.

The new Samsung chip is the same size as the first-generation dual-core Exynos 4 and fully compatible with its predecessor's pin-out.  Hence the chip is expected to be a very easy upgrade to existing handsets, given its lower power draw.

The chip is currently in mass production with most of the early stock likely going toward the Galaxy smartphones, which sell tens of millions of units a quarter globally.

Samsung Galaxy S3
The chip will be planted in the Galaxy S3, which launches in just over a week
[Image Source: Samsung]

Hankil Yoon, Senior Vice President of Product Strategy Team, Samsung's Mobile Communications Business kills any suspense about whether the chip will wind up in the Galaxy S3, candidly sharing, "The application processor is a crucial element in providing our customers with a PC-like experience on mobile devices. Samsung's next Galaxy device, which will be officially announced soon, offers uncompromised performance and ground breaking multi-tasking features, thanks to Exynos 4 Quad's powerful performance and efficient energy management technology."

Sources: Samsung [press release], Anandtech (GPU)



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RE: Disappointing
By kmmatney on 4/26/2012 3:46:34 PM , Rating: 3
I have a feeling by the time the software for phones really utilizes all 4 cores, the processor speed much faster anyways, negating the point of having the extra cores "for future use".


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