Samsung reveals Exynos 5 Dual (5250): what you need to know about the world’s first Cortex A15 SoC

August 9, 2012
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Samsung has just released the whitepaper for their long-awaited Exynos 5250 SoC, now called the Exynos 5 Dual, and there’s a lot of interesting information to be discovered in it.

The Exynos 5 Dual will be the world’s first Cortex A15-based chip, when it will ship later this year, presumably inside the 11.8-inch tablet Samsung is going to launch later this year. Samsung had to wait for this A15-based chip to support the very high WQXGA (2560×1600) resolution of the Galaxy Tab 11.6.

Some of the most important features of the newly unveiled Exynos 5250 are:

  • Dual-core 1.7 Ghz Cortex A15 CPU
  • Mali T604 GPU
  • OpenGL ES 3.0
  • OpenCL 1.1 full profile
  • Support for WXQGA displays
  • Wi-Fi display support
  • 12.8 GB/s memory bandwidth with 2 port 800 Mhz LPDDR3 RAM support
  • 1080p 60 FPS video performance and VP8 codec decoder
  • USB 3.0 support

Let us take you through the most important features of the new Exynos 5 Dual.

Cortex A15

Cortex A15 is the next generation of ARM CPUs, arriving to replace the Cortex A9 design at the high-end of the scale. In a way, the  Exynos 5250 will compete with Qualcomm’s S4 chip, based on the Krait design, which is a next-gen design as well, although with slightly less performance per clock than Cortex A15. This follows the same pattern of the first Snapdragon chips (S1, S2, S3), based on the Scorpion design, which also had slightly lower performance than Cortex A9.

Qualcomm’s advantage was that, in both cases, then and now, they came first to market with the new designs. But when the Cortex chips came out, they were able to match and exceed the performance of Qualcomm’s custom design chips.

It seems that history will repeat itself with the dual-core 1.7 Ghz Exynos 5 Dual arriving on the market and competing with Qualcomm’s dual core 1.7 Ghz S4 chips. Qualcomm will also have a quad-core 1.5 Ghz S4 Pro chip later this year, but it will be the same story as with the dual-core S4 vs the quad-core Tegra 3 chip comparison from earlier. I expect the Exynos 5 Dual to beat the quad core S4 Pro in performance for all single threaded apps, with the S4 Pro gaining a slight advantage in multi-threaded apps.

Mali T604 GPU

 

What’s nice about Exynos 5 Dual is that it doesn’t come just with a next-gen CPU, but also a next-gen GPU. This is a fortunate match, as they are both designed by ARM itself, so they benefit from higher integration, and also because ARM changes its GPU architecture only once every 5 years. So Mali T604 is the very first GPU design based on the new Midgard architecture, with unified shaders, OpenGL ES 3.0 and OpenCL 1.1 full profile.

We’ve already discussed that the OpenGL ES 3.0 specification is meant to help developers create more visually impressive games on mobile devices, that should even surpass current-gen consoles soon. OpenCL, or the Open Compute Language, is meant to give developers a way to harness the power of the GPU to enhance what the CPU can do, while making the whole assembly more power efficient. It can be used for games, digital photography, and other things that can be done faster with parallel computing (usually graphics related).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTZ6pXJsmGE

WXQGA Displays and 12.8 GB/s Memory Bandwidth

To power a display with a 2560×1600 resolution, which is double (or four times the pixels) of what you see in Android tablets today (1280×800), you need not only a powerful GPU, but also high-memory bandwidth, so you can send all that high resolution data to the screen. Fortunately, the Exynos 5 Dual comes with support for 12.8 GB/s memory bandwidth, with two port 800 Mhz LPDDR3 RAM.

It takes a 1GB/s bandwidth to draw a 24-bit WQXGA screen at 60 FPS, but that’s just for the screen alone. Add the interface and all the icons, and the required bandwidth grows to 8GB/s. But that’s just the effective bandwidth, and when taking into account a memory utilization of 80%, you reach 10GB/s. Exynos 5 Dual has been designed with support for 12.8 GB/s memory bandwidth, specifically to support a 2560×1600 resolution.

Such high resolution displays also use a lot more power than lower-res displays. Manufacturers mitigate the increased power consumption with more efficient and more powerful GPUs, larger batteries, and more efficient displays. The Exynos 5 Dual supports a so-called PSR mode, which enables the display to use 20x less power when displaying a static image, like when reading an ebook or a web page, or viewing a picture. PSR mode should help significantly reduce the overall power consumption of the device.

1080p 60 FPS Video, Wifi Display and VP8 Decoding

The 1080p 60 FPS video might not be very useful, unless you want to record super smooth videos, but it’s great for displaying stereoscopic 3D graphics. Exynos 5 Dual is the first chip in the market to support full HD 60 FPS video decoding/encoding, and, if you have some 3D glasses laying around, you can use HDMI to stream the video from your phone to the TV, and watch the videos in 3D.

Exynos 5 Dual also supports Wi-Fi Display technology, which means you can stream the videos and everything else inside your phone, wirelessly to your TV. Wifi Display requires a lot of memory bandwidth, as it has to decode and encode the full HD videos at the same time. But Exynos 5 Dual is able to do that, all while providing a minimum of  30 FPS experience.

Google’s VP8 codec is also supported by Exynos 5 Dual, and I think we’re going to see a lot more upcoming chips supporting hardware acceleration for VP8. One of the main arguments of the H.264 video codec over VP8 was that H.264 was already hardware accelerated by many devices on the market, while VP8 wasn’t. I think Google is trying to change that, and finally bring us widely used royalty-free and open source video codecs. Exynos 5 Dual is the first step in that direction, being able to decode full HD video at 60 FPS using the VP8 codec.

USB 3.0 Support

It looks like Exynos 5 Dual is bringing us another first in the mobile world — USB 3.0 support, a standard that can reach 5Gbps transfers, ten times faster than USB 2.0. With all the new laptops coming out these days supporting USB 3.0 and SATA 3 drives, mobile devices were beginning to become the bottleneck when it came to transferring files from and to the PC. USB 3.0 support will help you transfer files in seconds rather than minutes.

Exynos 5 Dual’s USB 3.0 port can operate as either Host or Device, so besides being able to transfer files to your PC, users will also be able to connect peripherals to the device, like keyboards, controllers, external storage, LTE modems. The support for USB host will give Exynos 5 Dual devices a high amount of flexibility.

Conclusion

The Exynos 5 Dual is the chip you should look for in upcoming tablets and smartphones, as it should have the most powerful CPU and GPU of any new chips coming out by the end of the year, including the S4 Pro and OMAP 5. Next year, we can begin talking about the quad-core Tegra 4 and the Exynos 5 Quad, but, until then, Exynos 5 Dual should reign supreme in the mobile market in terms of performance and features.

Comments

  • http://www.facebook.com/wahaab Wahaab Jalal Bhatti

    A very detailed, well written description of the next-gen Soc. Awesome job Lucian, this is exactly what kind of info I was waiting for!. Galaxy S4 featuring Exynos 5 Quad next year, would blow away everything standing in it’s way!

    • True_Neutral

      A similar problem exists in the automotive world: For example the Nissan GTR has a comparatively small 3.8L V6 engine, but monsters some cars with bigger V12 engines. Perhaps Samsung could take a cue from this and call the cores of the Exynos 5 “Turbocharged Cores”?

      • http://www.facebook.com/wahaab Wahaab Jalal Bhatti

        “Turbocharged Cores”, that’s actually a very good idea that Sammy can use during the launch presentation.

    • Terrence Greene

      You have a point.. all the way up until you consider that the ipad is rocking a dual core processor as well..

      Quad core processors are certainly powerful but facts are facts and android to my knowledge is not optimized for quad core processors so the real world comparison (non benchmark) bares similar if not surprising results…

      ex.. S4 dual core chips in both the onex and s3 preform similar if not better in some areas then their international quad core versions.

      • liam

        Android scales just fine to multicores. See any linpack benchmark for confirmation.

      • Hikari0307

        Well apple devices are different, some people would still buy ipads regardless of specs.

        though in most marketing I’ve seen, apple try to deceive joe public by giving very little attention to the dual core CPU, they always emphasize on “quad core GPU”,. Joe public might think, hey this thing is quad core.

  • matt_helm

    No Bluetooth? External chip?

    • http://www.jeffkibuule.com Jeff Kibuule

      Wireless radios are handled by an external chip.

  • Dai_Shan

    Excellent write up, very informative

  • http://yellowrex.com YellowRex

    Nice! I hope there’s an MHL chip that can drive a 2560×1600 external display. I’d love to use the full res of my Dell U3011 with a phone.

  • MasterMuffin

    Good article. What do you think, will note 2 have this or the one that’s in sgs3 (I believe it will be the quad because they can say “it’s quad” and people will buy it :D but seriously, quad sounds better than dual even if the dual would be faster, average consumer will look to note 2 and think “only dual core when others advertise quad”) :)

  • True_Neutral

    Like the others have said, great article. Obviously written by someone with some technical grounding. I especially like that you noted that OpenCL is best for parallel applications; I’m frankly tired of clueless fanboys screaming how OpenCL will accelerate EVERYTHING.

    I really hope we can get this awesome chip sooner rather than later, and the Galaxy Note 2 is still a contender for me, when you take into account that the Note 2 will probably require a very high resolution screen to attain that high PPI count.

    The other thing Samsung needs to improve on is open source community support. As a Galaxy S2 owner sometimes I regret not having sold my S2 for the Nexus, as the developers are having trouble porting CM10 to the S2 due to closed source shenanigans.

  • skynet11

    Will it support LTE?

  • hot_spare
    • http://AndroidAuthority.com/ Bogdan Petrovan

      Thanks, updated.

  • Bervick

    Excellent coverage Lucian.

  • KyleRay

    First off… it looks like this chip is basically mapped out like PS3 Cell/RSX/Memory/Bus, only all on one SoC substrate. Meaning it’s got 12.8GB/s per channel to memory and 12.8GB/s to GPU. It’s looking so much like IBM’s stuff, I’m wondering if they didn’t get some help from them. So anyway…. in reality this matches the the 25.6 GB/s Total Bandwidth of PS3. Just in a miniaturized version of an IBM design, that will be handheld devices. Holly Cr*p……and it really will be amazing with that Mali 604 and it’s full on Unified Shader Model Architecture. Like the Big Boys at ATI, this baby….. it be cooking with the gas pedal floored to the metal! :D

    Now….. i’m wondering if that bus is some kind of Rambus Ringbus design like in PS3? Numbers sure sound like it. When the quadcore comes out, even Intel better be watching their rear view mirror. Because no doubt this design will be challenging even them over time on desktops too. #1 because they don’t have near the GPU muscle and expertise to compete in the same graphical OpenGL ES 3.0 league on mobiles.
    http://www.arm.com/community/partners/display_company/rw/company/rambus-inc/ ;-p

    Congratulations Samsung for landing an exclusive on this ALL ARM DESIGN POWERHOUSE!!!

    btw… But if Samsung ever blows this Next Gen Lead by selling these to Apple….. they’ll need to have their frigging heads examined. We already know iPhone 5 will be powered by the same Exynos 4 in Galaxy SIII. Meaning Apple’s getting a Free Ride off Samsung’s New Gate First HKMG Patented Process Technology. After Apple’s original A6 designs with PowerVR GPU have now been apparently dumped.

    That most likely has something to do with Mark Papermaster (of IBM fame) getting dumped for telling Steve Jobs, that using an External Antenna was an asinine move. Especially since it was just to meet external design goals. But… no problem for Papermaster, because he was quickly snapped up by AMD. Then recently we heard all is not well in the rotten Apple filled orchards of Cupertino. When Jim Keller (famed for AMD’s x86 64bit Intel beating chips) also abandoned Apple’s Garden Walls of Closed Proprietary Madness for AMD. After having to just take Samsung’s Hummingbird design, customize it for iOS, re-cap and re-brand them into Apple’s A Series chips.
    http://allthingsd.com/20120801/amd-hires-apples-head-chip-designer/

    So apparently Apple failed to recognize just how great a talent they had bought in acquiring PA Semi (PWRficient processors) with Jim Keller coming in later to lead the PA Crew. Rumor was that they were on the verge of something great (PWRficient leap in Design), when Apple bought them. That could possibly even have challenged Intel. But Instead Apple locked them down in Samsung’s own basement leased facilities and had them refocus on their simply re-fried A series chips.

    So if Samsung really pulls a boner and enables Apple, like they did in 2007 to beat them with their own parts….. they’ll deserve it!

    Ok …..it looks like it’s true….. IBM and ARM have partnered on these All ARM Mobile Designs:
    http://www.eweek.com/c/a/Desktops-and-Notebooks/IBM-ARM-Partner-on-Designs-for-NextGen-Mobile-Devices-262887/

    Also notice the VP8 codec…. ahaha…. basically saying F U to H.264 and YeS to Google VP8 WebM…. lol…. …so fat chance after all will be seeing this beast, unless they’re willing to concede H.264’s Defeat!!! :DDD

  • Bala

    king of soc is gonna reborn again…………….

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jack-N-Fran-Farrell/100002337622505 Jack N Fran Farrell

    Maybe I can wait until next year to buy a 7″ tablet. 1600×2560 pixels should let me see 50rows by 30 columns clearly in EXCEL.

  • Iucidium

    Let’s hope we’ll see a Nexus born from this spec

  • http://profiles.google.com/hadar.milner Hadar Milner

    So what I see here is a serious 3D modeling tool to be coupled with a Wacom pen. Die Cintiq! DIE!

    I wonder how much rent coffee shops will start charging for tables…

  • Peter Bell

    Hope this will be in the Note 2, with proper marketing people would realize the dual core is better for a Smartphone than a quad core. Also driving a lower resolution screen than the chip is capable of has to be better for battery life.
    Please ship with stock Jelly Bean meaning OTA updates from Google and the option to add any Samsung overlays as an Samsung app.

  • Adz

    Next gen cpu and gpu it is, but i’m gonna wait for the quad core version to arrive next year, until than, its the lg optimus g witht the quad core s4 pro and adreno 320 gpu or if htc hit the market early with the same specs than im in…

  • mobile

    ARM does not necessary mean mobile phone chip. The battery life of the chrome book is worse than most of the tablet on the market despite it off load most of the workload to the cloud. It seems to me this chip is too power hungry to be used in Galaxy S4 or any smart phone. Anandtech think the reason apple use self designed ARM instead of A15 is just because the A15 is not only target smartphone market, and designed to be too bulky to keep the power efficiency in an ideal range. The ARM’s big-little architecture solved this problem on paper, but in reality, samsung’s chromebook and apple’s choice, is not so optimistic