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Samsung’s own CPU core took years to develop – report

Samsung Electronics has developed and built its Exynos application processors for years, but its chips are always powered by off-the-shelf general-purpose and graphics processing cores from ARM, which limits their advantages over competing system-on-chips. Everything is going to change next year, when Samsung finally rolls-out its new SoCs featuring its own CPU and GPU designs.

In a bit to use unique application processors with exclusive capabilities inside its smartphones, tablets and other devices, Samsung is presently designing its own custom general-purpose processing cores as well as graphics processing cores, according to industry sources. Custom cores let Samsung achieve higher performance and better energy efficiency, something that gains importance nowadays.

Apparently, the work on custom general-purpose ARMv8-compatible processing core began as early as in 2011, according to BusinessKorea. Keeping in mind that the first information about Samsung hiring experts from processor developers, such as Advanced Micro Devices, emerged in 2012, it looks like the current report is correct.

samsung_exynos_7_octa

Four years is a long time and it is highly likely that Samsung’s general-purpose core will be rather powerful. Keeping in mind that at least initially Samsung planned to develop a high-performance ARMv8-A-compatible core for micro-servers, we are talking about rather powerful 64-bit CPU. Still, Samsung’s microprocessor will have very strong rivals. Smaller designers of APs will offer system-on-chips with ARM Cortex-A72 cores, Qualcomm will offer its SoCs featuring its own Kyro cores. It is unclear what Apple will offer in 2016, but the company’s Cyclone are already the fastest ARMv8 cores available today and it is highly likely that its successors will also provide extremely high performance.

What remains to be seen is how good will Samsung’s own graphics processing engine will be. If the company designs its own graphics core from scratch, it needs hundreds of specialists and many years of time. Meanwhile, there are no reports about Samsung’s hiring a lot of GPU engineers. Perhaps, when it comes to GPU, Samsung will use a semi-custom approach: it will license technologies from ARM or Imagination Technologies and will then configure the graphics processing unit in-house.

Since Samsung is a founding member of the HSA [heterogeneous system architecture] foundation, it is highly likely that its forthcoming system-on-chips will be fully HSA 1.0 compatible and will thus be able to use GPU stream processors for general-purpose tasks, saving power and providing performance improvements. Therefore, GPU performance is very important for Samsung’s own SoC.

Samsung did not comment on the news-story.

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KitGuru Says: It looks like Samsung takes development of in-house CPU and GPU cores very seriously. However, if we are talking about an HSA-enabled application processor, not only hardware design is vital, but software is crucially important as well. Hopefully, Samsung’s software department team is also getting a lot of new engineers, just like the hardware design team.

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