China claims 7nm chip lead with Kirin 980

Technology News |
By Peter Clarke

The announcement was made at the IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin.

The Kirin980 has been developed for Huawei by its chip design arm HiSilicon and the claim is that it will be the first 7nm SoC to come to mass market. It is also claimed it will be the first SoC to sport ARM’s high performance A-series processor core, the Cortex-A76. The Mate 20 is expected to launch October 16, 2018. Although designed in China with IP from numerous sources the chip is manufactured by TSMC in Taiwan.

An iPhone announcement is expected on September 12 and this is expected to include a performance boost through an A12 processor that could be made using TSMC’s 7nm manufacturing process. So the extent or existence of China’s lead in the adoption of 7nm ICs could be arguable.

The alternative SoC which has been used in most mobile phone introductions this year is the Snapdragon 845 from Qualcomm, which is manufactured in a 10nm FinFET process by Samsung.

The Kirin 980 adopts a big, middle, little architecture for is eight ARM cores. That is two ‘big’ Cortex-A76 cores able to operate at 2.6GHz clock frequency, two ‘middle’ Cortex-A76 cores at 1.92GHz and four ‘little’ Cortex-A55 cores running at 1.7GHz. The Kirin 980 includes two neural processors for accelerating machine learning applications and ARM’s Mali-G76 graphics processor unit (GPU). The Kirin 980 also has a 4 by 4 MIMO model that handles gigabit LTE and early 5G-branded communications.

The Kirin 980 is a step up from the Kirin 970 introduced in 2017 which was built in TSMC’s 10nm process technology and integrated 5.5 billion transistors. In comparison the Kirin 980 has 6.9 billion transistors.

The Kirin 980 performance is said to provide a 20 percent speed improvement and a 40 percent reduction in power consumption although it is not clear it can provide both of these at the same time.

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