Samsung surprisingly announced a new flagship SoC and 5G modem at its ongoing Tech Day 2019 event in San Jose. The Exynos 990 closely follows Samsung’s Exynos 980 which was unveiled back in September.
While the Exynos 980 is a 5G-integrated chipset, the new Exynos 990 is a standalone application processor without a modem. That’s probably because Samsung also revealed a brand new 5G Exynos Modem 5123 which could be bundled with the new processor.
Both the Exynos 990 and the 5G Exynos Modem 5123 are manufactured on Samsung’s 7nm EUV process.
Exynos 990: CPU and GPU upgrades
Let’s talk CPU first. The Exynos 990 is an octa-core processor. It features two of Samsung’s fifth generation Exynos M5 CPU cores as the heavyweight cores. The company says that the upgrade can delivers up to 20% performance enhancement over the Exynos 9820 which had the Exynos M4 microarchitecture.
The two middle cores on the Exynos 990 get a boost with dual Cortex-A76 cores, compared to the Cortex-A75 middle cores on the processor that powered the Galaxy S10 and Note 10 phones. The efficiency cores are still made up of four Cortex-A55 units.
There’s a new Arm Mali-G77 MP11 GPU aboard the Exynos 990, making it one of the first SoCs to sport it. Samsung says that the new GPU improves graphics performance by 20% thanks to the Valhall architecture. The new Valhall architecture improves performance density and power efficiency by 20% compared to the Mali-G76’s Bifrost architecture.
You also get a memory boost to LPDDR5, up from LPDDR4X on the previous flagship chipsets, including the recently announced Exynos 980. Samsung says it supports memory data rates of up to 5,500 MB/s.
AI and imaging
Further, the Exynos 990 gets a dual-core NPU for better on-device AI tasks such as facial recognition and scene detection. There’s also an improved DSP aboard that can perform ten-trillion operations per second.
On the camera front, the Exynos 990 can support resolutions up to 108MP just like the Exynos 980. Another similarity between the 990 and the 980 is support for 120Hz display refresh rate, which Samsung says can enable smoother animations on devices with multiple or foldable displays.
For videos, the Exynos 990 supports encoding and decoding 8K videos at 30fps or 4K UHD videos at 120fps. It also has HEVC (H.265) and H.264 encoding and decoding abilities. The new chipset also support UFS 3.0 and 2.1 storage.
Connectivity with 5G Exynos Modem 5123
As we said earlier, the Exynos 990 does not feature an integrated modem. Samsung has introduced the new Exynos Modem 5123, a multi-band modem which supports 2G, 3G, 4G, and 5G (sub-6GHz and mmWave spectrums).
The modem can now support downlink speeds of up to 3Gbps and up to 422Mbps of uplink speed on 4G LTE. In 5G, with up to 8-carrier aggregation, the modem delivers a maximum downlink speed of up to 5.1Gbps in sub-6GHz and 7.35Gbps in mmWave.
We’re not sure if Samsung will bundle the Exynos Modem 5123 with the Exynos 990 in all cases or if it’s possible to integrate an older modem with the SoC. The latter solution might be ideal for markets where 5G isn’t rolled out yet.
Samsung says it will start mass production of the Exynos 990 and Modem 5123 by the end of the year. It hasn’t clarified whether the new SoC will feature on the Galaxy S11 and Note 11, but it certainly looks like the ideal processor for its 2020 flagships.