We tend to judge smartphones by outward appearance first then dive in to the details later. However one of the most overlooked features that is quite important is the System On a Chip (SoC), colloquially termed as the processor, which is sort of true. It hosts the CPU itself, the GPU, audio processing, image processing and in some top end phones, there is a neural network processing unit too.
Huawei makes their own SoCs like Samsung and Apple do which they call Kirin and their latest one is rather impressive.The new chip is called the Kirin 980 and it has some sweet features up its sleeve. You can expect this SoC to be used in the next generation Mate device and boy am I excited.
The new process, CPU and GPU
First is the new 7nm process which is currently the smallest that we have currently in the market. Smaller transistors means more can be packed and better efficiency. Huawei touts that they have packed an impressive 6.9 billion of them in a 1cm2 die, which is 1.6 times larger than the previous generation (Kirin 970).
Thanks to the new 7nm process, the Kirin 980 is also 20% more powerful and 40% more power efficient than the 970. It is also the first SoC to have ARM Cortex A76 cores which are 75% more powerful and 58% more efficient than the previous generation (ARM cortex A75).
The Kirin 980 also has the Mali-G76 which is 46% more powerful and 178% more power efficient than the previous generation. This means that you’ll be able to game better or do graphics intensive activities much faster with this chip. The GPU also uses AI to intelligently identify gaming workloads and adjust accordingly for optimal gaming performance
The New Neural Processing Unit (NPU)
The Kirin 970 introduced the Neural Processing Unit to this family of SoCs and Huawei has improved on that technology with the new generation.
The new NPU is 120% more powerful than the one on the previous generation and can now recognize upto 4,500 images a minute. This generation’s NPU is also a ‘dual brain’ which shows in its apparent performance which is actually greater than the sum of two.
It also supports common AI frameworks (Tensorflow, Tensorflow Lite and Caffee) and provides tools to simplify the engineering of On-Device AI, which can give developers more control to take advantage of that dual NPU.
New Image Signal Processor (ISP)
Another major section of any SoC is the ISP which processes the photos and videos you take with your phone cameras.
The new ISP in the Kirin 980 is 46% more powerful than the previous generation. It also supports multi-camera configurations better as well as a new HDR colour reproduction technology.
This new ISP also uses the multi-pass noise reduction solution which allows it to remove artifacts (undesired flaws in photos) without scrubbing details in the image, which results in better low light photos.
The new ISP also has better motion tracking where Huawei says it can still recognize the subject with 97.4% accuracy, which would allow you to capture those fleeting moments with ease.
Really fast LTE
Another major component of the SoC is the modem and the Kirin 980 has a really fast one and it is no surprise since the company is known for its expertise in networks.
The Kirin 980 has the world’s first modem that supports Cat.21 LTE speeds which have a peak speed of 1.4Gbps. This is faster than the competition which peak at 1.2Gbps.