Samsung moving GPU development in-house won’t surprise anyone
Samsung already makes many of the components that go into its smartphones in-house. The company uses its own processor, modem, memory, storage, battery, display, camera, etc solutions but has to rely on ARM’s Mali for graphics cores for its Exynos processors because the company doesn’t make GPUs in-house.
Some circumstantial evidence has surfaced this week which has led to reports suggesting that the company has started developing its own graphics chip for use with Exynos processors. There’s no confirmation of this from Samsung just yet. That being said, it won’t be a surprising move when Samsung eventually ends up shifting GPU development in-house.
Developing a custom GPU is easier said than done
This isn’t the first time we’re hearing about Samsung thinking about alternatives to Mali GPUs. It was first reported back in 2014 that Samsung was going to develop an in-house GPU but it later signed a technology agreement with ARM for its Mali chips.
We exclusively reported two years ago that the company was in talks with NVIDIA and AMD for GPU technologies but nothing came off it. It was subsequently reported last year that Samsung had developed its first in-house GPU dubbed “S-GPU” and that it would be introduced with a flagship Exynos chipset in 2018 once full testing had been completed.
The Exynos 9810 is Samsung’s flagship processor for 2018 and it features the ARM Mali-G72 MP18 GPU, not a custom solution made by Samsung. So even if the company has developed one we won’t see it on flagship devices in 2018 at least.
The latest report is based on LinkedIn job descriptions of some Samsung employees who mention their work on GPU teams at the company. It has also been speculated that Samsung will introduce its own GPU with low-end smartphones and tablets initially and will continue to use ARM’s licensed designs for flagship devices. It may only make the switch for flagship devices when it launches the second-generation of its custom GPU. If things turn out exactly this way then it appears that we may not see a Samsung flagship with a custom GPU until 2020.
Samsung obviously stands to gain a lot by switching GPU development in-house. For starters, it will no longer have to make payments to ARM for licensing its designs. It will be able to better optimize the setup with its Exynos chips as well which have custom Mongoose cores that already outperform ARM’s Cortex-A cores.
It’s easier said than done, though. GPU development is a complicated process and not something that Samsung has been doing for a very long time. Even if the company has been working on this internally, it will certainly take its time in ensuring that its custom graphics chip can at least match, if not exceed, the performance of ARM’s Mali chip.