Samsung’s Exynos processors may never be the same again

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Last updated: October 3rd, 2019 at 12:07 UTC+02:00

Samsung has used its own Exynos processors for flagship smartphones in addition to Qualcomm chips since as far as you may remember. Qualcomm-based variants are sold in limited markets like the United States and China whereas the Exynos variants are distributed across the globe.

The Exynos chips have featured Samsung’s custom Mongoose cores for a few years now and while the gap has been narrowed in subsequent generations, the Snapdragon counterpart is generally better at thermal management and battery efficiency. Samsung has reportedly made a major decision that would fundamentally change Exynos processors from here on out.

Future Exynos processors may not have Samsung’s custom cores

Multiple reports suggest that Samsung has laid off the entire CPU dev team at its R&D Center in Austin. Founded in 2010, the R&D Center in Texas develops CPUs and system IP. Development for its custom CPU core is believed to have been done there as well.

Samsung has been building its own custom CPU cores based on its version of the ARMv8 architecture. It went this way instead of simply licensing cores from ARM. The Galaxy Note 10’s Exynos 9825 features the fourth-generation Mongoose M4 core, which is on the same 7nm node as the Snapdragon’s Kryo 485 semi-custom core. The latter outperforms Samsung’s solution in multi-core usage scenarios.

Even after four generations, the Mongoose cores haven’t been able to match and let alone exceed what Qualcomm was able to achieve with its semi-custom design. So the decision may finally have been made to let this go and focus the efforts and resources elsewhere.

This obviously doesn’t mean that Samsung will stop making Exynos processors. The reports mention that Samsung has not laid off the GPU and SoC development teams. It will go the Qualcomm route and simply license standard cores from ARM. Future Exynos SoCs may thus feature off-the-shelf ARM cores with Samsung’s custom modem and AI solutions.

Samsung is yet to comment on these reports. We’ll update you as and when new information comes in.

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