Samsung’s Next Gen Exynos 8890 Integrates Custom ARM Cores, LTE, Targets Apple A9, Snapdragon 820

All cores are not created equal. Look no further than Apple, which has been dominating the competition in processing performance with its A8/A8X and A9/A9X processors. Apple, which uses its own custom-brewed ARM cores is able to roast competing Android smartphones which for the most part feature garden variety ARM cores, despite the fact that its latest A9 processor — found buried within the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus (check out Paul’s review here) — features a mere two cores and 2GB RAM compared to eight cores and 4GB of RAM for its immediate competition.

Luckily, Samsung is beginning to understand the benefits of modifying ARM cores in order to extract the most performance possible while keeping power consumption in check. Thanks to much appreciated help from its Austin, Texas R&D Center, Samsung is today announcing its new flagship SoC: the Exynos 8 Octa 8890. The Exynos 8890, which is built using a 14nm FinFET process, and is the successor to the Exynos 7420 used in the Galaxy S6/Galaxy S6 Edge/Galaxy S6 Edge+/Galaxy Note 5.

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While the Exynos still uses big.LITTLE configuration with quad-core Cortex A53 on the low-end, Samsung has designed its own, custom quad-core architecture for the high-performing cores dubbed Exynos M1. With is own special sauce added to the mix, Samsung says that the Exynos 8890 provides a 30 percent performance boost and a 10 percent increase in power efficiency compared to the previous generation Exynos 7420.

But the new Exynos M1 cores aren’t all that’s new with the Exynos 8890; Samsung has also incorporated an integrated LTE modem — something that Samsung has supported for quite some time on its lower-end chips. The Cat 12/13 modem supports maximum download speeds of 600Mbps (Cat 12) and upload speeds of up to 150Mbps (Cat 13) when carrier aggregation is enabled.

Finally, graphics have been upgraded to include ARM’s current generation Mali-T880 GPU.

“The Exynos 8 Octa is a leading-edge application processor for next-generation mobile devices that incorporates Samsung’s mobile technology leadership in CPU, ISP, and modem as well as process technology,” said Dr. Kyushik Hong, VP of System LSI marketing for Samsung Electronics. “With our custom designed CPU cores and the industry’s most advanced LTE modem, consumers using mobile devices with the Exynos 8 Octa will experience a new level of mobile computing.”

The Exynos 8 Octa 8890 is scheduled to begin mass production later this year and will land in production smartphones (hopefully) in the first half of 2016. Likely candidates for the SoC would be the presumed Galaxy S7, Galaxy S7 Edge and Galaxy Note 6.

It should be noted, however, that Samsung’s new SoC won’t just face stiff competition from Apple’s A9 and A9X — it will also have to do battle with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820, which will power a new breed of flagship smartphones in 2016. Like the Exynos 8890, the Snapdragon 820 also uses custom cores (in this case, 64-bit Kyro cores) to double processing performance compared to the Snapdragon 810 while reducing power consumption by 30 percent.