It was a given that Samsung would unveil a new processor sometime before the launch of the Galaxy S9 next year, and the company has just made its Exynos 9810 official. However there was no launch event or even a press release. Instead the company revealed its new chip through acknowledging one of the 36 CES 2018 Innovation Awards the company recently won. The Exynos 9810 is the successor to Samsung’s first Exynos 9 series chip – the 8895, confusing naming structure I know, which powers the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Note 8 flagships.
Unfortunately, Samsung’s small scale reveal doesn’t tell us too much about the new chip’s capabilities. The most detailed revelation is that the Exynos 9810 will come packing a new Category 18 LTE modem. Samsung unveiled this modem earlier in the year. It promises peak download speeds up to 1.2 Gbps thanks to its use of 6 band LTE carrier aggregation technology, 4×4 MIMO, and 256 QAM.
Samsung also states that the Exynos 9810 comes with an upgraded GPU, although no useful basis for comparison was provided, along with third generation custom CPU cores. Presumably Samsung will be upgrading to the Mali-G72 GPU, as per its long term deal with ARM for graphics. The chip will be manufactured on Samsung’s second generation 10nm FinFET process, offering up some small tweaks over this year’s flagship SoCs. Perhaps equally as interesting is the absence of any mention about a dedicated neural networking or AI processor, a hot feature from other silicon designers this year. Although this doesn’t rule out the possibility of Samsung including one.
Samsung is sticking with a fully custom CPU design - the M3 core. This begs the question, can this custom design rival Apple's A11 Bionic?
Although we don’t have any further details on its third generation CPU, the fact that Samsung is sticking with a fully custom design is an interesting one. First, it leaves Samsung as the only Android SoC vendor still pursuing the fully custom route. Qualcomm switched over to a semi-custom design with Kryo, leaving Apple and Samsung to design their own chips based on ARM’s architecture.
Presumably this means that the Exynos 9810 won’t be making use of ARM’s latest DynamIQ technology either. An architectural licensee does not receive CPU design resources from ARM, meaning no access to resources for DynamIQ and the essential DSU design inside the Cortex-A75 and A55. This could result in very different heterogeneous processing performance if Qualcomm adopts DynamIQ in its Snapdragon 845. However, this doesn’t rule out the possibility that Samsung has its own improved core cluster solution. Hopefully we’ll learn more about the M3’s CPU design in the near future.
With 7nm manufacturing not expected to reach full swing until midway through 2018, it seems likely that this 10nm processor will end up powering Samsung’s Galaxy S9 in some parts of the world. Whether or not the company has a 7nm version on the way for the Galaxy Note 9 is also an interesting prospect to mull over.