Samsung Electronics, a world leader in advanced memory semiconductor technology, rewrote the non-memory semiconductor history this time. As the company rolled out a mobile application processor (AP) with its own custom designed central processing unit (CPU) for the first time in the domestic industry, it has come in range with global leading CPU manufacturers, such as Intel, Apple and Qualcomm.
Samsung Electronics announced on Nov. 12 that it will start mass production of the Exynos 8 Octa 8890 mobile system-on-chip (SoC). This chip is Samsung’s second premium application processor built on 14nm FinFET process technology. Unlike the previous Exynos 7 Octa 7420, the Exynos 8 Octa is an integrated one-chip solution that features the company’s first custom designed CPU core and combines the application processor and modem. It will be used in the production of Galaxy S7 next year, and this will be the first time to use its own integrated chip in the Galaxy S series.
An integrated chip, which is considered the centerpiece of non-memory semiconductors, raises overall performance of smartphones, including the processing speed and power and storage efficiency. Also, a SoC is a semiconductor chip that provides systemic functions by integrating numerous component functions into an integrated circuit.
In particular, the Exynos 8 Octa features Samsung’s first custom core after years of research and development, including the critical AP design. Based on core designs of ARM, a British semiconductor processor core designer, the company changed the design to deliver the highest performance in its class. Currently, only Apple and Qualcomm has their own CPUs in the global mobile market. As Qualcomm recently released its next-generation Snapdragon 820 chipset, it unveiled the new 64-bit Qualcomm Kryo CPU, following the previous Krait. When a company uses its own custom cores, it can raise performance while lowering power consumption.
The highest data transfer rate is another strength of the Exynos 8 Octa. With the industry's most advanced LTE modem, which provides the maximum download speed of up to 600Mbps (Cat.12) and upload speed of up to 150Mbps (Cat.13), the Exynos 8 Octa delivers an excellent mobile experience, allowing users to enjoy and share high resolution video content in real time with ease. Also, the chip employs ARM’s latest GPU, Mali-T880 to enable users to enjoy 3D games on mobile devices without interruptions.
In particular, Samsung Electronics is expected to catch up with Intel, the world’s largest semiconductor company which sees a slowdown in mobile AP sector, as soon as the company raised the competitiveness in the semiconductor sector, including the price bargaining power of the Exynos smartphones.
Kim Soo-kyum, director at market research firm IDC Korea, said, “Once the Exynos 8 receives recognition for performance and is used in global leading smartphones as well as the Galaxy S7, Samsung Electronics would become the world’s number one semiconductor company, overtaking Qualcomm and Intel.” Currently, only one smartphone manufacturer – China’s Meizu – uses the Exynos AP, apart from Samsung Electronics. When global major smartphone makers including Chinese and Indian companies decide to use the Exynos 8 instead of mobile APs of Qualcomm and Taiwan’s MediaTek, Samsung Electronics can become the number one maker in the non-memory semiconductor sector as well as memory semiconductor sector.
An official from the semiconductor industry said, “Expertise in the semiconductor design area, which has been accumulated in the process of developing the Exynos 8, can be used in not only smartphones but also crucial semiconductor designs that are needed in the future oriented industry. In a few years, Samsung will be able to surpass Intel in terms of semiconductor design technology.”