LG well on its way to being a chipmaker, designs first A15 quad-core chip

by: Andrew GrushMay 3, 2013

LG Logo aa 600px 2

Move over Samsung and Apple, LG’s on a roll.

First there was the LG Nexus 4, which has done so well that rumors indicate Google is working with the company once again for the Nexus 5. LG has also been pushing hard when it comes to flexible display technology. Hell, earlier today rumors even surfaced claiming that LG is working on an ‘unbreakable’ OLED display.

So what’s next for the company? According to Korean-based ET News, LG has now completed the internal design phase for its first quad-core ARM Cortex A15 processor.

Later this month, TSMC will start chip production using a 28 nanometer High-K Metal Gate process. Once the first chips roll off the production line, it will be time to test these bad boys out and decide if they are ready for commercial launch.

For LG, this is the company’s second house-designed chip, with the first being the H13, which was unveiled at CES 2013 for LG’s Cinema 3D televisions.

What LG’s quad-core A15 processor means for the future

The LG quad-core A15 processor isn’t exactly exciting when compared to chips like the Exynos 5 Octa, so why should we even care? Samsung has found a lot of success in creating its own processors, but it didn’t happen overnight. The A15 represents a crucial step forward for LG, one that could see LG continue to rise up as a significant player in the mobile market.

In Q1 of 2013, LG managed to place third in the smartphone market, shipping 10.3 million handsets. This was an impressive 110.2% growth compared to the same timeframe last year.

Another Nexus, its own chips, flexible displays, ‘unbreakable’ displays – all these puzzle pieces fit together to show a company that isn’t sitting still when it comes to technology, marketing and innovation.

Should Apple, Samsung and the rest of the mobile world be at all worried? Maybe not, but they certainly shouldn’t count LG out as a threat. Personally I’ve had mixed success with LG over the years and am not particularly excited about the Optimus G Pro, but I have to give kudos to LG for branching out to new avenues and taking a bold step forward.

What do you think of LG getting involved in the chip-making game? How do you feel about the company’s overall direction as of late?

  • Ivan Myring

    LG is becoming my new favourite OEM

  • Jason

    First “their”

  • Cycad007

    I’d prefer Asus, Samsung, HTC, Sony, and Motorola over LG. Their products aren’t going to wow you….they’re just average.

    • BD1971

      Nothing average about the Nexus4. All that hardware and a cheap price. Yup that sounds completely average.

  • kascollet

    “Move over Samsung and Apple, LG’s on a roll.”
    Short minded vision : biggest mobile SoC maker is … Qualcomm.
    LG won’t “design” ARM chips : they only have a license to integrate ARM designs and so does Samsung (ARM and Imagination Technologies IP in the Octa for example).
    ARM, Qualcomm and Apple design. The rest implement what ARM designs.

    • Shedding some light on this: Apple’s chips are a customization of ARMs designs. Yes they actually redesigned the cpu, but they started with the ARM design and went from their. I believe Qualcomm did the same thing. Either way the Exynos Octa is smoking everything in benchmarks.

      • amine ELouakil

        No it does not Heck even the good old S600 is as fast as the Octa while the Intel new chip, tegra 4 (I ll give to you that no device use this right now) and A6X are still faster……… and Actually if this is three I believe the LG chip will be faster as it uses a better manufacturing process but on the other hand still far away from production, remember the Octa, relys on a arm A15 quadcore for performance.

        • Check the benchmarks posted above. Octa smokes them all. Also, Nvidia makes the Tegra chips not Intel.

          • amine ELouakil

            Please check them again, check video comparisons of the S4 Exynos and S600 and see for your self, they trade blows depending on benchmark

          • “while the Intel new chip, tegra 4” this line reads as though you are referring to the Tegra 4 as the new Intel chip. Sorry if I misunderstood you. I haven’t seen one benchmark comparison that puts the s600 above the Exynos Octa.

          • amine ELouakil

            Well http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wt5im3WAZYc
            You can search for your self
            AnTuTu is not the only benchmark available in the world.

          • I am well aware that AnTuTu is not the only benchmark. In fact, the benchmarks I posted above are geekbench.

      • kascollet

        GeekBench scores : http://www.primatelabs.com/images/blog/2013/phone-april-2013.png

        – Snapdragon S600, quad-core Krait @ 1.9 Ghz : 3100 -> 3100/4/1.9 = 410 pts per core @ 1Ghz
        – Exynos Octa, quad-core A15 @ 1.7 Ghz : 3550 -> 3550/4/1.7 = 522 pts per core per Ghz
        – Apple A6, dual-core Swift @ 1.3 Ghz : 1600 -> 1600/2/1.3 = 615 pts per core per Ghz

        Swift has way better efficiency than Krait and even A15. Finding the best compromise between frequency and performance is vital in mobile devices, that’s why Apple decided to invest in SoC design (and immediately proved with the A6 that they are now the very best at it). Don’t forget the iPhone is powered by a mere 1500 mAh battery (2600 mAh in the Galaxy S4 with roughly equivalent life).

        The day Apple issues a quad-core Swift (probably in a few months for the iPhone 5S), A15 is doomed in benchmarks.
        And Apple won’t have to boost the chip at high frequency to do so.

        • iSheep

          kascollet, the only thing Apple “designs” are macroscopic elements such as the look of their devices. At Apple, “engineer” is a euphemism for an artist that draws pretty rectangles.

          The A processors are mostly customized Exynos processors, nothing more. Apple is a Consumer Electronics company, not a manufacturer. I don’t know why, but there’s been a huge misconception lately about what manufacturing is. Usually, it’s the manufacturers that come up with new technology and new designs. They then sell their technology to CE companies like Apple.

          This isn’t something I’d expect a normal consumer to understand.

          To understand this more thoroughly, you need to understand that:

          1) Machines are specific


          2) Each machine that Samsung builds is specifically designed to churn out Samsung’s designs. How can you make your own designs and expect Samsung’s machines to make whatever you designed?

          Do you expect Dominos’ ovens to be able to make Papa Johns’ pizzas? No, because Dominos machines are specifically built to make Dominos’ pizza. You can’t just design something radically different and expect a manufacturing machine to make it right off the bat. This is the reason why Apple CAN NOT design their own SoCs as long as they’re using Samsung as their fab. Samsung is very strict with their capital expenditures and if you wanna use their fabs, you must use their designs. Period.

          Why do you think all companies that design their architectural blueprints such as Nvidia, AMD, and Qualcomm use TSMC? Because TSMC is more flexible about their fab usage. TSMC only manufactures machines that build what you want.

          When Apple “designs” a processor, they actually mean they called up Samsung and ordered a dual core Exynos processor at 1 Ghz/core. They named the specs, nothing else. Apple lacks the intelligence to engage in sophisticated activities. Just take a look at Apple Maps.. LOL…

          It’s mostly Samsung’s engineers that did the hard work; Apple just took credit for it, like they always do.

          Furthermore, it’s easy to get more hertz per core when you have LESS cores in the same amount of space. What matters is the overall power of the CPU, which Apple fails at (iPad 4 has nearly half the CPU power as Nexus 10).

          • kascollet

            This is pure delirium.

            Apple DESIGNS the A6 SoC from ground. They’re the architect and Samsung is the laborer in the fab (speaking about chips only !).
            Do yourself a favor and get some education :

            “Exynos” is only a brand name put on top of an ARM design. Samsung does know how to actually DESIGN an ARM SoC. Apple’s A4 & A5 chips were tweaked ARM Cortex made by Samsung. A6 is something very different.

          • John Sykes

            You are too much brainwashed by Apple. If you’re right, this article would not exist from the start. LG just finished the design of their own chip and that’s why this became the news.

            Like the LG case in this article, Samsung and other licensees designs theirs. Like all the licensee from ARM including Samsung, Qualcomm, Nvidia, Apple just customizes ARM base architecture. The difference is that Apple speaks and advertises as if it is by their own design from scratch to brainwash guys like you but that’s not true. Exynos is just a brand name? If that’s the case, why are Snapdragon and Exynos are different? Why LG designs their own chip when, like you said, Samsung can manufacture their chip without their own design and even they can brand it Exynos?

            If Exynos is just brand name, Snapdragon would be just a brand name too. Then, Exynos and Snapdragon should be same chips because Qualcomm and Samsung did nothing to the ARM’s base architecture.

            Actually, only with ARM’s base architecture you can’t make a chip because it’s just a architecture. It’s not complete blueprint for chip.

            Samsung not only designs/customizes but also manufactures because they have fabs as well. Companies like Apple, Qualcomm and Nvidia only design/customize because they don’t have fabs. TSMC manufactures for the mentioned companies. It’s that simple. What @amine ELouakil @abfe538d26a2d1929f997b808aa3fa3f:disqus wrote above is right generally.

          • kascollet

            Such denial is boring. Such lack of knowledge and information is sad.

            Give yourself a hand and READ about Krait and Swift cores. Learn the difference between generic Cortex AX design and custom ones. You’re just mixing everything. I know tech is hard to follow but if you are to argue about it, get your facts straight before.

        • amine ELouakil

          You are argumentation is flawed for two reasons.

          1-Geekbench score depends on memory and OS aswell.
          2-Performance doesn’t scale lineary with clock speed, for example a core at 1Ghz scoring 1K on your GeekBench doesnt mean it will score 2K at 2Ghz it wisill be lower.
          3-The die Size of the A6 is just rediculous compared to other chips, the S600 with integrated modems is 1/4 the size of the A6 how is that an efficient chip??

          iPhone never lags? are you kidding me?

          • kascollet

            GeekBench isn’t OS dependent and yes, I include RAM performance.
            Performance scales 95% linearly with frequency.
            A6 die size : 95 mm2
            Exynos Octa : 122 mm2

            Got numbers for the S600 ?

      • Magnetic1

        I thought everyone used ARM instruction sets and companies like Apple designed their own soc.

        I think Apple’s battery saving technology that they got from an acquisition a while ago was a brilliant move.
        And to use it I think they had to design their own soc.

    • amine ELouakil

      It depends on the license agreement, Qualcomm and Apple, can costumise the ARM architecture that’s why you here, Krait or Scorpio from Qualcomm instead or A9 or A15, LG must have a similar agreement.

      • kascollet

        Talking about “Cortex A15” (ARM core design), obviously they don’t. It takes years and a deep investment to build in-house core-design capacity.

        • iSheep

          Unfortunately, Apple isn’t one of those big boys. Apple may have the Architectural License, but Apple still has to rely on Samsung for the architectural elements of their A processors. Until Apple moves to TSMC, your processors are Samsung designed and Samsung made. Period.

          Apple is incompetent and it’s part of their culture. Just take a look at Apple Maps and what a disaster it turned out to be. Apple is having difficulties moving to another fab like TSMC, because Apple realized they actually have to design their own architecture to work with TSMC. I can’t wait to see what a disaster the TSMC-made, Apple-designed processors will be. It’ll be glorious watching the iSheeps finally come to realize Samsung did all the engineering and Apple only bought the hardware.

          • amine ELouakil

            Without being an Apple fanboy, you are making a couple of mistakes, Apple did use Samsung chips in the first iPhones, till the 3GS, the A4 was designed by intrinsity, and it was around that time that Apple got it license for architectural tweaking. all the chips after are designed by Apple and manufactured by Samsung.

            “Apple is having difficulties moving to another fab like” The difficulty is the amount of chips, the whole logistic build around Samsung, you don’t just fabs in a matter days, there are also contracts on the line ect.. you’ll see Apple will move to other Fabs. maybe starting with next gen chips

          • kascollet

            Man, stop dreaming. You obviously know nothing about all this.
            Samsung DOES NOT design mobile SoCs.

        • amine ELouakil

          LG has one of the biggest R&D teams in the world, they’ve been working on custom chips for years and this is not their first attempt.

          • kascollet

            Yes, my mistake : LG has indeed the Architectural license since 2011.

    • Magnetic1

      Nvidia Tegra4 is that ARM design too? Just asking.

      • amine ELouakil

        It’s A15 arm Architecture.

  • tech watcher

    way to go LG!! show them that you have a chance to be a market leader, maybe not now but in the near future. this is good for the consumers

  • amine ELouakil

    LG Needs to keep this up, a healty competition is only good for us customers :)

  • Magnetic1

    I learned recently that TI and OMAP is leaving the market. So yeah, LG filling that void is a good thing. I wonder if Kindle Fire, Nook HD, and Samsung Galaxy Tabs will become collectibles, because they won’t make them anymore with those OMAP chips.

  • Well done LG….soon we need big.LITTLE as A53 & A57 soon

  • raiden

    LG, just put this A15 in your Optimus L9 then I’m sold :)