HiSilicon, the semiconductor arm of mobile maker Huawei, has launched what is claimed to be the first commercial system-on-chip (SoC) based on Taiwan Semiconductor (TSMC)'s 7nm process node: The Kiri 980.

While Intel continues to struggle with ramping its long-delayed 10nm process node and AMD spin-off GlobalFoundries abandons its 7nm node for the foreseeable future in favour of concentrating on more profitable larger node sizes, Taiwan Semiconductor (TSMC's) 7nm process node is behind what mobile maker Hauwei's HiSilicon division has described as the industry's first 7nm commercial, rather than sample, system-on-chip (SoC).

Dubbed the Kirin 980, the part features a 1cm² die size with 6.9 billion transistors overall - 1.6 times more than the company's previous Kirin part, and with a claimed 20 percent improved performance and 40 percent improved power efficiency from the shift from 10nm to 7nm alone.

'Last year, we showed the world the potential of On-Device AI with the Kirin 970, and this year, we've designed an all-round powerhouse that not only features outstanding AI capabilities, but also brings cutting-edge raw performance to consumers,' claimed Huawei chief executive Richard Yu during a keynote speech at the IFA technology convention. 'Equipped with all-new CPU, GPU and Dual NPU, the Kirin 980 is the ultimate engine to power next-generation productivity and entertainment applications.'

The Kirin 980 design includes Arm Cortex-A76 processing cores with a three-level flex-scheduling implementation based around two high-performance cores, two mid-performnace cores, and four smaller cores based on the Arm Cortex-A55 architecture. The design also includes an Arm Mali-G76 graphics processor, and a pair of deep-learning acceleration cores the company is referring to as a 'Dual Neural Processing Unit (Dual NPU)'. The latter, the company boasts, is 120 percent faster at image recognition than the NPU on the Kirin 970, and supports common deep learning frameworks that include Caffee and Tensorflow.

Hauwei has confirmed that the first Kirin 980-based device, to launch in its Mate family of smartphones, will be launched some time in October.


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