Samsung became the third major ARM SoC maker to launch an extreme-performance product, for high-end smartphones and tablets, this CES. Hot on the heels of NVIDIA Tegra 4 and Qualcomm Snapdragon 800, the Korean silicon giant launched the Exynos 5 Octa, which stakes claim as being the industry's first eight-core ARM SoC.
While it's true that the chip packs eight CPU cores, it is based on ARM's big.LITTLE micro-architecture, in which two sets of four cores each take turns at either handling heavy processing loads, or light/stand-by loads. One of the two sets consists of high-performance Cortex-A15 cores, while the other energy-efficient Cortex-A7. When any of the four Cortex-A15 cores is being underutilized, power to it is gated, and a Cortex-A7 core relieves it. When a Cortex-A7 core is under stress, it wakes up a faster Cortex-A15 core to take over.
In addition to the ARM big.LITTLE micro-architecture, Exynos 5 Octa sees Samsung stick to mult-core ARM Mali-400 graphics, albeit retrofitted to handle display resolutions as high as 4K UHD (3840 x 2160). The Exynos 5 Octa will also be among Samsung's first chips to be manufactured at the 28-nanometer silicon fabrication process at its facility in Austin, Texas. Samsung didn't get into specifics such as clock speeds and TDP.
"The new Exynos 5 Octa introduces a whole new concept in processing architecture…designed for high-end smartphones and tablets," said Stephen Woo, president of System LSI Business, Device Solutions Division, Samsung. "When you want multiple applications to perform at their best, you want the best application processor currently available—the Exynos 5 Octa."
Smartphones and tablets based on the new chip will begin rolling out later this year. Don't be surprised if the Galaxy S IV is a candidate.