Samsung unveils two new Exynos processors, true octa-core performance promised

February 26, 2014
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Exynos-5260-5422Samsung’s attempts to launch a true octa-core Exynos processor with support for Heterogeneous Multi Processing (HMP), where all eight cores can function simultaneously, has been fraught with difficulty. First there was the eight core Exynos 5410 which could only use four cores at any one time. This was followed by the 5420, which although it had eight cores which could run under HMP, didn’t ever make it into a product in that configuration probably because of heat or battery issues. But third times a charm. Samsung has officially unveiled the new Exynos 5422.

Due to Samsung’s further optimized big.LITTLE HMP technology, any combination of up to eight cores is engineered to provide optimum performance for any given task.

The new processor has eight cores like its predecessors however this time we may actually see it in real products running in HMP mode. The chip uses ARM’s big.LITTLE architecture with four ARM Cortex-A7 cores clocked at up to 1.5 GHz and four ARM Cortex-A15 cores running at up to 2.1 GHz. According to Samsung this bump in clock speed (up from 1.3Ghz/1.8Ghz in the 5420) delivers up to 34 percent more performance. The company also says that due to further optimization (read they fixed what was broken), the new chip can use “any combination of up to eight cores.”

The new Exynos 5422 also adds some clever image and video optimizations. To better support high-resolution displays, such as WQHD (2560 x 1440) and WQXGA (2560 x 1600), the new processor includes Samsung’s proprietary mobile image compression (MIC) technology, along with some new adaptive hibernation techniques.

With MIC, data headed for the display is compressed by half to minimize memory bandwidth requirements and so save battery power. While the new adaptive hibernation algorithm detects non-moving parts of dynamic images and freezes the data transfer. Using these techniques Samsung says there is an overall power saving of up to 10 percent when compared with conventional technologies. Similar technologies are found in ARM’s Mali-T760 GPU, however it is thought that the Exynos 5422 still uses the same Mali-T628 GPU as in the 5420.

The Exynos 5422 is made using a 28 nanometer (nm) fabrication process (which maybe a key factor in its support for HMP in terms of heat/power) and samples of the processor are available now. The chip will enter mass production during the first quarter of 2014 and it is thought that one of the Samsung Galaxy S5 variants will use the new SoC.

Six cores

As well as delivering on its promise of an eight-core HMP processor, Samsung has also announced the hexa-core (six-core) Exynos 5260. The new processor uses four 1.3GHz ARM Cortex-A7 cores coupled with two 1.7GHz ARM Cortex-A15 cores. Since this chip also supports full HMP, all six cores can be used at the same time. By taking away a pair of A15 cores the new Exynos 5260 saves on power but yet doesn’t flatline on performance. Compared to the Exynos 5250, which used two 1.7GHz ARM Cortex-A15 cores, the 5260 is 42 percent faster.

The Exynos 5260, which is already in mass production, has integrated video codecs that enable Full HD (1080p) playback at up to 60 frames-per-second (fps) for video formats such as H.264, MPEG4 and VP8.

The hexa-core variant of the recently announced Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Neo will use the Exynos 5260. It will also be interesting to see which other devices will take advantage its 4+2 core set up.

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