Can Huaweis Kirin Processor be a Worthy Competitor for Snapdragon?
Huawei has to do different things, innovate, and understand the market very well to succeed in the processor segment
For some time now, smartphones have taken the lead in innovation. Instead, in terms of efforts of their manufacturers to make them one step further. So much so that the chips of our phones are the ones that hunt all the headlines and personal computers have gone into the background.
For a few years, there were only a couple of chip makers that had relevance. On the one hand, Apple with its own A chips, manufactured by some and by others but designed in Cupertino. On the other side, Qualcomm with its Snapdragon, famous and used by a variety of mobile manufacturers.
In 2016, something curious and unique happened. For the first time, we had up to 5 chips competing at the top. Not only those mentioned above but a Samsung Exynos, MediaTek, and completely unexpected, and Huawei with their Kirin processor enter the market competition.
The current leader
From Snapdragon to Huawei Kirin via the Samsung Exynos, three new SoCs are making their way into the 2018/2019 smartphones. The data sheet of the latter is not always known 100%, like the Samsung Exynos 9810, but one thing and sure, all have the mission to both develop embedded artificial intelligence, reduce consumption energy, and especially to give the change to the Apple A11 SoC whose performance still surpass the Android competition.
Do you remember the stratospheric benchmarks of the latest iPhone? Apple has surprised in recent years by gaining real expertise in SoC. The latest illustration is undoubtedly the A11 Bionic chip. Not only does it perform excellently in a single-core mode in benchmarks, much better than competing platforms. But as a bonus, it also far exceeds the competition in multi-hearts. This 64-bit chip etched in 10nm is also one of the first to include a neural processing unit (NPU) dedicated to artificial intelligence.
With Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 845 on the table and Huawei’s Kirin 970 have a contender to beat. Each one with its weapons, with customized nuclei or not and with a common denominator: the strong presence of precise hardware and software for the execution of artificial intelligence algorithms. Neural processing for everyone. So, let’s face them face to face whether Krin has a chance to outperform in the long run.
The Snapdragon CPU
The new creature of Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, manufactured by Samsung in 10 nanometers, lands repeating configuration of eight cores although with variations. This generation of high ranges of Qualcomm bets on the latest ARM lithographs so we see Cortex A75 and also Cortex A55. High-power cores at 2.8GHz and low-power at 1.8GHz for when we need each other.
Another important aspect of the Snapdragon processor lies in its new graphics, a rewritten Adreno 630 that turns out to be 30 percent more powerful than the Adreno 540 of the last generation and consumes 30 percent less. It is paramount to load part of the processes of artificial intelligence and recreate both the virtual reality and the augmented reality, both now essential for the North American manufacturer.
Qualcomm has started emphasizing artificial intelligence as support for its processor, and in the augmented and virtual reality mix in its new X-Reality.
Qualcomm is the ruler of the mobile chipset space. Its processors and chipsets are almost found in more smartphones than any other brands. Huawei has been insisting for years not to bend to the trend of different manufacturers and although sometimes opts for Qualcomm for some models, is still windy producing their own Kirin.
But the Chinese manufacturer has made some huge inroads with its Kirin CPUs in recent years specially in the Chinese market, and the Kirin 970 looks set to continue this trend in remarkable fashion.
Huawei Kirin processor has also opted for artificial intelligence and has become, by performance, the chip of the best prepared oriental manufacturer to compete against Apple, Qualcomm, and Samsung in semiconductor matters.
The latest CPU has four Cortex A73 cores at 2.4GHz and four Cortex A53 cores at 1.8GHz for the Huawei chip. A processor that in turn has the support of the graph Mali G72 ARM, consisting of 12 cores and supported by a specific chip for neural processing.
A chip that executes machine learning processes, artificial intelligence, that support the camera, voice recognition and, in general, make the processor much more fluid.
Artificial Intelligence and machine learning are real points of divergence
This part of the SoC dedicated to machine learning as used for Face ID, Animoji, Siri or any other task that requires artificial intelligence. It means that artificial intelligence will not work in the same way on these platforms. On the modem side, there should be no difference between SoCs for Android – all much faster than the A11 Bionic, up to 1.2 Gbps down and 150 Mbps up.
Both the platforms have a DSP/ISP to encode 4K videos as efficiently as possible from an energy point of view. All allow encoding at 60 FPS with the exception of Kirin 970. Finally, all have a secure enclave to store sensitive data such as your fingerprints or cryptographic keys.
Kirin – worthy competitor?
There is no doubt that the Huawei Kirin 970 processor is the most deserving competitor of Huawei in recent years, bordering the market leaders.
Several tests reported that the Snapdragon 845 reaches 1.2Gbps of network speed thanks to the X20 modem, but Kirin did it first in its model 970. The rate of wireless connection per flag for a processor whose ISP i7 allows to record video with a 4K resolution to 30 frames per second, supports two cameras and can encode and decode H.265 and H.264 video among others, in addition to offering the slow motion at lower resolutions.
And what do we have in the snapdragon in terms of connectivity besides the 1.2Gbps of data connection? We have WiFi MIMO, Dual Band, Bluetooth 4.2 and support for NFC as well as geo-positioning of all colors.
HiSilicon has indeed preferred to focus on its neural processing unit to integrate it into high-end smartphones like the Huawei Mate 10 Pro.
A different approach than that of Qualcomm: the firm uses are new Digital Signal Processor (DSP) dubbed Hexagon as NPU. The S845 uses it for audio and imaging as well as machine learning.
There is also a significant open door with augmented reality. In all these processes having a part of the hardware designed exclusively to make it better and faster, can give Huawei an advantage. The invention in question is called Neural Processing Unit (NPU).
Huawei is the third most important company in this to create mobile phones, in the sale of them. In its aspirations has always been approaching and surpassing the two untouchable giants of the industry – Apple and Samsung. To achieve the target, it is necessary for Huawei to do different things, innovate, and understand the market very well.
So far Huawei had a pretty good pace, and the valuation of the brand by users is high, both in China and in Europe. One of the characteristics that make it valued in the eyes of specialists is the ability to create components to the taste and need of the phone that are shaping.
A good bet of Kirin that, unfortunately, and as with the Cupertino company Apple, we will not see far from the ecosystem of products of the manufacturer. And now, yes, the time has come to face the characteristics of all.