Samsung announces eight-core Exynos 5 Octa SoC

January 10, 2013 // 11:32 a.m.

Tags: #arm #armv7 #biglittle #cortex-a15 #cortex-a7 #exynos #exynos-5 #exynos-5-octa #processor #samsung #smartphone #soc #system-on-chip #tablet

In an announcement sure to take some of the shine off Nvidia's Tegra 4 unveiling, Samsung has announced the latest iteration of its own Exynos ARM-based system-on-chip processor - and this one boasts eight processing cores.

Dubbed the Samsung Exynos 5 Octa, the new chip isn't strictly speaking an eight-core processor: instead, it's an implementation of ARM's big.LITTLE concept which pairs low-performance but low-power cores with high-performance high-power cores, theoretically allowing system designers the best of both worlds. Whereas prior implementations have been limited to a single companion core - as with Nvidia's Tegra 3 and Tegra 4 processors - Samsung's version packs four of each.

The main part of the processor is constructed from four ARM Cortex-A15 cores, the same IP as featured in Nvidia's Tegra 4 chip. These processors are joined by a second cluster of four Cortex-A7 cores, which can take over undemanding background tasks such as managing network traffic, playing audio or handling the modem in a smartphone. The result, Samsung claims, is a hybrid device that can maximise battery life while also providing on-demand power to meet or exceed that of its rivals.

'We believe the right component DNA drives the discovery of what's possible,' Stephen Woo, president of Samsung's LSI (Large-Scale Integration) Device Solutions division, told attendees at the Consumer Electronics Show unveiling. 'Components are building blocks—the foundations on which devices are built. We at Samsung's component solutions are creating new, game-changing components across all aspects of devices. The new Exynos 5 Octa introduces a whole new concept in processing architecture [...] designed for high-end smartphones and tablets.'

Formal performance figures for the Exynos 5 Octa have not been released by the company, but Samsung did claim that the use of ARM's big.LITTLE architecture means the dual-processor quad-core system-on-chip design offers around 70 per cent better energy efficiency than the current Exynos 4 4412 quad-core design.

Some of that improvement will come as a result of a process shift: the Exynos 5 Octa will be Samsung's first ARM SoC to be produced on a 28nm lithographic process, a node down from the 32nm process used for the Exynos 4 family and Exynos 5 Dual chip. Full specifications of the device have yet to be released, but ARM has confirmed that Samsung's big.LITTLE implementation sees the four Cortex-A15 cores running at 1.8GHz and the Cortex-A7 cores running at 1.2GHz. The graphics processor chosen for the system has not yet been announced, but is likely to be the same ARM Mali-T604 quad-core GPU as featured in the Exynos 5 Dual, with the two chips also likely to share the same 32-bit dual-channel 800MHz memory controller with its DDR3 and LPDDR3 memory support and peak 12.8GB/s bandwidth.

What Samsung has not yet revealed is when the first devices running the Exynos 5 Octa will be available on the market, nor at what cost.
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