Samsung’s processor chaos affects Mobile divisions processor choice

Over the past few months there have been a lot of talks going on about the system on a chip (SoC) choices that Samsung’s Mobile division has made for their recent and upcoming products; now new information has shed more light as to how these choices came to be, their reasoning, and what the repercussions for both the company and their users are.

Back in January, during the official announcement CES 2013, and as early as several weeks earlier as the internet rumour-mill and Korean analysts predicted that the Galaxy S4 would come with the company’s own Exynos Octa SoC, most people were not be aware what is going on behind the scenes at Samsung.

Samsung’s System LSI Business, a business unit of the company’s Semiconductor division, has had several SoC projects in their pipeline. We know for certain of the 5410 (Octa), the 5450 and 5440, both quad-core A15 chips that seem to never have been released. Other rumoured projects were the 5210, a supposed big.LITTLE chip in a 2 + 2 configuration.

Something went on during last winter that panicked the mobile division to change SoC provider for many variants of the S4. Mounting evidence of this can be found in the overlapping local-specific variants in the official source code of both Qualcomm and Exynos platforms. JF based variants, which are based on the Snapdragon chips, overlapped JA based variants, based on the Exynos platform. Korean (jf_ktt, jf_lgt, jf_skt <> jaltektt, jaltelgt, jalteskt), European (jf_eur <> jalte), and Japanese (jf_dcm <> jaltedcm) variants were developed for both platforms. The Korean variants ended up being the sole ones to actually hit the market with the Exynos platform, other than the global 3G version of which there’s no evident Qualcomm counterpart.

Chaotic development for the whole phone seems to have been the norm: Many parts changed supplier in prototype revisions, such as the Amtel touchscreen controller which gave way to a Synaptics counterpart, a MagnaChip AMOLED controller which is missing in action, and Philips LED controller which was shelved for a Texas Instruments IC. All of the prior seem like last-minute changes simply for the fact that their drivers and firmwares are delivered in the shipping product, even if they’re not used. A well-planned product is certainly something you would not call the S4.essor change was the unexpected power consumption of the Exynos. While this remains partly true and undoubtedly had an impact, the other reasons are far more sinister.

As a reminder, the Exynos 5410, as a big.LITTLE chip by design, is supposed to have different kinds of operating modes, mostly something that is defined and limited only by software:
- Cluster-migration; where only either one or the other quad-core clusters works at any one time.
- Core-migration; where both clusters can work in tandem but only have up to 4 physical  CPUs online, but any mix of A7 and A15 cores can be achieved.
- Heterogeneous multiprocessing: All 8 cores are online at once.

The problem is that to achieve any of the latter two operating modes, a specific piece of hardware is needed that allows efficient and useful use of those models: the Cache-Coherrent-Interconect (CCI). As per ARM’s own claims: “Hardware coherency with CoreLink CCI-400 is a fundamental part of ARM big.LITTLE processing.”


While it has been obvious for several months that the person behind the SamsungExynos twitter account is nothing but a clueless PR representative, the above claim is nothing short of a lie.

We have information from several sources that Exynos’s CCI is inherently crippled in silicon. It is not functional or even powered on in the shipping product (i9500). In fact, this has been such of an issue, that as a result, the chip was almost cancelled. It was reportedly only salvaged by having it work in the cluster migration policy and bypass the CCI entirely. While contradicting, it questions the validity of ARM’s own videos while demonstrating the Octa.

Internally at SLSI, as many as three projects were cancelled late last year. We don’t know the reasons for their cancellation, however it is said that the issues are related, and unacceptable power consumption also plays a big role.

One can argue that ARM’s Cortex A15 is partly to blame here: The inherent architecture is to power consuming to be implemented in a smart-phone. big.LITTLE provides major breathing-room, but only in scenarios where continuous load is not an issue. HD gaming is a major Achilles heel where power consumption can run rampant. Nvidia is having it much worse with their Tegra 4: With only a single tablet design win besides their own Shield gaming console, it’s a chip that needs to, and will be, quickly forgotten.

Plagued by delays, hardware bugs, and high power consumption, one could view the Exynos 5410 as nothing short of a failure. In fact, Samsung’s Mobile division was so dismayed at the whole situation that their next major products will completely forego the company’s own Exynos chips and go straight with Qualcomm’s offerings.

Reports that the Note 3 would come with the S800 match with this information, and are probably very correct.

With confirmed designs such as the Galaxy Tab 3 coming with an Intel processor, and the rest of the new Galaxy line-up shipping with various variants of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S-series, the mobile division should be lauded for providing the user with the best possible experience – even if that involves skipping the Exynos. They have proven that they have no qualms to use a wide array of third-party suppliers (ST-Ericsson, Intel, Broadcom, Qualcomm) to base their products on, and this strategy is proven to be successful.

As for SLSI, things look very bleak for Samsung’s in-house processors. The business is failing to cater, not only in terms of support, like providing proper hardware documentation and source code to the public, but the current line-up is in shambles also in terms of hardware.

Lackluster graphics performance and outdated GPUs have become sort of a habit for the company. This reportedly is due to an unwillingness to spend the money on IP licenses from third-party companies, and the use of Mali GPUs in their SoCs is due to a free licensing agreement they receive from ARM as a lead partner. The surprise use of the SGX 544MP3 in the Exynos 5410 is due to panic caused by Mali’s own T6xx GPUs: again an issue of extremely excessive power consumption. The first generation Midgard lineup was quickly scrapped, leaving the Exynos 5250 and its T604 as something of an orphan. Products like the T658 never saw the light of day and are not even mentioned anymore on ARM’s website.

Meanwhile, while their shipping products are failing to properly compete, Samsung is spending a lot of money on developing their own GPU IP from scratch. Not much information is available as to when we will see this in actual products, but it will eventually come, if not cancelled or delayed due to its unorthodox implementation of an FPGA-like re-programmable design which might be hit-or-miss. Imagination’s Rogue architecture and years of experience as a leading GPU IP provider will be tough competition.

CPU wise, things look just as bleak. Qualcomm currently dominates the performance per Watt scale for the high-end with the newest Krait architectures. With no custom design in the works, as done by Apple or Qualcomm, and no A57 or A53 as architectural refreshes from ARM, nor a new 20nm manufacturing process coming until 2014, the Exynos A15 line-up looks incapable of competing in the near-future.

The above is written by a guest writer, a current respected and knowledgeable developer in the community.


We of SamMobile have asked Samsung Exynos for a comment on this article, and when we receive any reaction from them we will update this post.

Update 1. (Addendum)
SamsungExynos has replied to the above claims, denying them:


It is wishful thinking that the CCI is indeed not crippled, and we’d be gladly proven wrong by demonstration, after all, the Exynos 5410 has had 4 identifiable chip revisions before making it into a consumer product, and given the slight chance that our insider information refers to earlier revisions (Would also explain the very late mass-production schedule), one might consider this possibility.

However, the explanation about power consumption is very false (technical jargon ahead):

Potential power benefits of having cluster migration over a core-migration scheme come from the fact that at any given time only one cluster would be powered on: This eliminates the need to keep power to the whole cluster, including its L2 cache. This also enables shutting off the regulator which is dedicated for that cluster, again gaining some power benefit. And lastly, of course, there is a power benefit from not having the CCI itself enabled, however that cannot account for any large amount of power.

While all these facts would technically give a cluster migration scheme an advantage, they are not exclusive to it, and are possible with a core migration scheme too. In fact, Samsung’s own (non-working) implementation of the In-Kernel-Switcher in the kernel source-code handles exactly this use-case.

It is possible to mimic cluster-migration, but with help of the CCI in a core-migration scheme: Instead of having the L2 caches flushed to main memory and then back to the other CPU (As it is currently done on the Galaxy S4), it would use the CCI to transfer the data. As is in the current shipping product, not only is this a power inefficiency problem, but it is also an issue of user-experience as it may induce micro-lags.

Meanwhile, the power deficit of running a task which could easily be handled by an A7 core, and having it instead run on the A15 can be massive. Such situations is why Qualcomm goes towards asynchronous clock planes for each CPU. ARM’s architecture however cannot do this by design and all cores inside a cluster must run at the same clock.

And to put a nail through such false claims which cannot subjectively hold their weight: We have Samsung’s own leaked internal presentation where they admit that cluster migration only holds a limited power advantage and use of a big.LITTLE system, it goes against ARM’s own claims, and through discussions with persons involved in development of software for the system: “PR bullshit”.

The above is written by a guest writer, a current respected and knowledgeable developer in the community.


We of SamMobile have asked Samsung Exynos for a comment on this article, and when we receive any reaction from them we will update this post.

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3 years 10 months ago

bloody nay sayers. it’s a completely new technology that needs time to mature. there’s nothing wrong with the Octa chip, and with time and more development it’s going to get even better.
1.6ghz cores are outperforming 1.9ghz kraits on performance, if not on power consumption.
With more development and tweaks in design, Samsung will be able to clock them even higher, while keeping temperatures and power consumption down.It will just take more time, as with all new technology.

Whoever wrote this (and all the other articles on Android related sites) did not put enough thought and research into it. This was just written in haste, to get a story out there. Shame on you SamMobile, you are supposed to be supporting Samsung, not dragging their name through the mud…

Tsk Tsk…

3 years 10 months ago

Agreed. The Exynos Octa still outperforms the S600 in both performance and power consumption – read the reviews and benchmarks who disagrees. So, where’s the so called failure here? Am I missing something? I guess not.

3 years 10 months ago

One word: support.

3 years 10 months ago

I envy those who has I9505 model in their country. I’m about to sell my i9500 and wait for anything that use the S600 instead of Exynos Octa-Core chipset. Man, Sammy really blows this up eventually.
The phone will be a real wasted of money. All the problems can’t be fixed by the software since it’s the hardware that is causing it. I hope the new Galaxy S4 Active that will be lacuhing soon in my country has the S600 specification instead.

3 years 10 months ago

i knew samsung experimented with Africa n asia when they gave us the s4 octa….am really disappointed..Samsung using us as guinea pigs

3 years 10 months ago

Exynos team, If there were flaws with this why not release another and keep this one in store for later when it was ment to work as it should instead of what you’ve done. i would much rather prefer a Quad/Hex/Octa core A9 EXYNOS cpu clocked at 1.6 – 1.8 with a mali 450 clocked at say 267Mhz **you know where that number’s from :) ** like how u did with the s3 from the s2 – increase efficiency, increase cores. And the GPU makes all the performance difference one will ever need form my personal experience on the s2 **mali at 520 Mhz**, You have so many awesome devices to release WHY RUSH THEM !?!?!? Note3, Tab3, S5, Note4, and so many more. Now I have to fricking go all the way back to India to buy the i9500 because its probably never gonna be here in north Germany which means no warranty/support/quick updates for me THANK YOU !! Because the last thing i would do is buy a samsung device without Exynos inside, i dont feel like im holding a Galaxy flagship if im not holding an Exynos chip, Well i guess this is more a message for Exynos HQ through SamsungExynos. Thanks for reading if you have :(

3 years 10 months ago

You can import it, if you can swallow (potentially) worse support (probably not from Samsung (tho one can never know), but from other companies and groups).

3 years 10 months ago

And now, let’s look at the different perspective. Yes, this limitation ONLY affects battery life.. Not performance. This phone is still the best performer in the industry.

I see people crying for their decision to get I9500 instead. But I can still say, this is not fail device at all.

We all need to give time to developers and probably Samsung to release some sorta fix to improve it..

If that is not hardware limitation, we can still fix it with some code patches like Linaro IKS implementation..

All we can do is wait and watch! Still waiting for SamsungExynos to comment on this article and my tweet..

Let’s see

3 years 10 months ago

I’m w/ PLANET on this one. As far as end users’ ROI goes:- 1. better dev support, 2. LTE and 3. it’s evidently clear than when it comes to Exynos 5 Octa vs. Snapdragon 600 APQ8064AB (have to emphasize this as it’s APQ8064T in all other non-S4 Snapdragon 600 inside phones) the performance diff are negligible. The 3 reasons alone spells better future proofing at i9505 and if people are in the market for a critical upgrade (2+ years old phone etc) and not the type who’d change their smartphone like their bedsheets once every 6 months, those are the only factors viable.

Although yes to be fair I also feel that current i9500 owners DESERVE TO GET SOME SORT OF AN OFFICIAL RECONCILIATION from Samsung, be it in form of a more active engagement towards external devs for solutions and the prompt delivery of those solutions done to users.

3 years 10 months ago

Yes man, but still 9500 has about 10%-maybe 15% better stand-by time (to up to 70%, but turning off likely all sensors), and the performance goes up (only?) by 5-15%.. actually it’s not that big of a difference if you take everything into account. Of course, AnTuTu scores show differently (and most of benchmarks too). The real question is – whether you see the difference in games – and the answer should be: you do not? :P And since LTE is/will be (in near future) in demand (and nothing seems to show that 9500 has LTE, tho there were some claims) and after all, S600 WILL be better optimized – simply by programmers, because it’s widespread – it’s better sticking to standard, not to orthodox 9500 – it seems that 9505 is a better choice, even with somewhat inferior battery usage and performance – even if it’s not a big difference. Also, XDA seems to be much better at finding sources for 9505 than in 9500 (which sometimes seem non-existent :D), so we can all count for better support from them. But right now it seems that S4 Active could be the handset to go with :)

3 years 10 months ago

Ok, At least they should release source and documentation of Exynos Octa. We can happily take over the stuff and mod our phone according to our need..

3 years 10 months ago

That was so long and technical. Do any of you mind to simplify all those for me? Thanks..

3 years 10 months ago

It’s a freaking PHONE. Do you really need the same processing power as an Xbox 360? No.

It’s idiots like those over at XDA that are making things more complicated for Samsung.

Samsung needs to focus more on software support and customer service. The MAJORITY of their customers aren’t those idiots over at XDA and hack and mod their phones to get the best benchmark numbers so they can post it online and brag about it.

This is STUPID. Look at the iCRAP 5. It’s still running dual core, has the same processing power as the iPhone 4 still outsells anything Samsung has in it line up put together. The iCrap 5 has one of the lowest benchmark scores for any “smart phones”.

Why is it selling? Design. Service. Reliability. Support.

Something Samsung can never offer, simply because it has TOO MANY GOD DAMN DEVICES including a Washing Machine.

And those idiots over at XDA need to get a girlfriend. Quit wasting your time hacking the crap out of the phones just to post stupid benchmark scores that no one cares about in real life.

3 years 10 months ago

Who’s the idiot, the one who buys a 500 euro phone and tries to get as much out of it as possible by knowing how it all works and doing everything possible with it, or the person who spends 500 euros on a phone just to stare at it and occasionally click a button?

If you want to be a dumb user, buy a dumb phone. Which is EXACTLY why the iCrap is selling so well: People don’t want to think. And Crapple doesn’t do ‘service’ or ‘support’.

The Developers at XDA fixed nearly all the serious security leaks in nearly all your phones. Which most companeis then implemented in their updates. Be a little more grateful, us ‘idiots’ the reason your Android phone even still works.

Also, I do not want a girlfriend. I’m female. Nor do I want a boyfriend, for that matter. (ShadowLea @ XDA.)

3 years 10 months ago

These are called iDiots, not idiots. Note the difference ;)

And everybody needs love :*

3 years 10 months ago

In GENERAL you could be right, but it’s the BATTERY we’re talking about. Something that every user cares about EVERY damn day. So stop being an idiot and look at the things down straight.

On the other hand, Apple goes for the most sale margin keeping the hardware as cheap as possible and also keeping the same (high) price tag. Same goes with prices on apps. Admitedly, Android is cheaper (if not free), but with openness comes the problems connected to it… obvious. Don’t be damn idiot.

But as for me – YEAH, I would like to see great GPU (and CPU) perfomance on the board. S800 or Tegra4 or anything else (a few other chips coming) that is powerful enough.

As for XDA – once per a time they do something that is very, VERY useful. Of course, not many users enjoy it, but that doesn’t make them stupider, quite the other way. You can treat the phone as a simple phone (but why buy a smart?) or you can go all the way for it being basically a small computer. It’s up to you. Personally, I went through Apple products and now I’m sure that Android, being not-really-flawless (sometimes quite the other way) is the best solution for me. Either you go the open, less stable path (of Android, Symbian, Windows Mobile), or the closed, stable path, like Apple or Windows Phone. Sometimes it’s something in between, like the current BlackBerry line. All up to users.

And BTW, my dad bought a Samsung washing machine and it’s good :) Just so you know ; )

3 years 10 months ago

but iphone 5 is one of the fastest mobile phone in real life performance. its run every aplication faster and have better fps on heavy game like real racing 3 and mc4. its not only people in xda who needs better processing power. ex : use Pro HDR on iphone 5 feel better because everything done faster.

the problem with android i think is they try to chase every number (proc,fullhd, multitasking app at time) and the result is everything not finished well.

but i agree about reliability, its ok that Sammy choose the S4 have richer feature rather than speedy and fluid like iPhone 5. but stability and reliabilty its a must

3 years 10 months ago

Great article Sammobile! It’s a bit sad to read but with complex products like this these things can happen

3 years 10 months ago

Then what did you expect from a company like Samsung? @ Rahul Rulezzz

3 years 10 months ago

I just read the article its quite true what has been explained and me being a layman have quite an experience workign with some Big Japanese Giants used to do it and now the Koreans are following the same path. Its the matter of money at the end of the day. Most of the people who buy these high end mobiles i think only 5-7% do get them because fo teh hardware know how or the do some development. Then they can explore the exact flaws in the hardware.

They opted to launch octa core in the countries where there is less development or the issue will be raised by less than 1% people and that voice can be just ignored. They have been quite clever in selling the quad core processor from Qualcomm in Europe or in other words developed countries because they know the consumers know their rights and they can raise a voice so they basically tried to close their eyes with teh flaws in the exynos processor. They launched it and are getting a free feedback from people and by that time they will improve the main architecture and then launch them in the up coming devices.

What these new processors were aimed to do they havent been able to even do anythign apart from creating a hype of being Octacore and then many developers like you got those octacore model. You have basically stripped them apart and this time Samsung have failed to hide what they have failed and which is actually a big dispappointment for them.

Now what this is goign to do to them is goign to apply and make those highly paid engineers to do more work and spend more time. But if we see they are charging custoemrs who trusted Samsung with their products they used them as guinea pigs and their money to improve their own products thats not fair.

The must publicly apologise to their customers and compensate them in some way.

Its same like the S3 bug and Note 2 chip issues which totally made those cell phoens dead over night. I have been stung by that too.

They must not use the customers as to get the feedback bt launch a product when they think its fully developed and ready so the end user can enjoy the new product to the fullest. Its the right way. They have been making claims that Exynos processors will be new world of processors but in fact right now its pile of lies \nd its not goign to help Samsung.

3 years 10 months ago

It’s not marketing hype. Samsung never revealed the CPU. And 99% of people who get the S4 don’t get it for the CPU.

3 years 10 months ago

Thanks for including my tweet conversation and explaining the fact. I HOPE there is no hardware flaw.. I did not expect this from Company like Samsung.

I have contacted SamsungExynos and SamsungMobiles regarding the same, I will update if they ever reply me..

Rahul Patil (Rahulrulez @ XDA)

3 years 10 months ago

Nice Samsung, its all a question of sales, I was my doubts witch one choose, now its gone all the doubt, thanks SamMobile, and shame on you Samsung, I will stick to my HTC One :-)

3 years 10 months ago

I bet in my I9505 as winner Horse, of course with my dudes about core… and know more than happy with this reflexions… Now i have LTE (yeah! 100Mbs) Quad Core 1.9 Mghz 2Gb Ram, more than needed to smooth Android experience, and supreme game play. And the most important… Wild Long Battery Life! :-D

I always though, Octa-Core is just Marketing hype