Samsung reveals eight-core mobile processor

January 11, 2013 // By Peter Clarke
Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. has launched an eight-core ARM-based processor that uses the big-little processing technique announced by ARM Holdings plc in 2011. The announcement was made by Stephen Woo, Systems LSI president of the Samsung during a keynote presentation at the Consumer Electronics Show being held in Las Vegas.

Woo said the Exynos 5 Octa is the world's first mobile application processor to implement the big-little processing strategy. The chip has a quad-core Cortex-A15 processor optimized for high performance and a quad-core Cortex-A7 processor that is optimized for lowest power operation.

The Exynos 5 Octo is a follow-on to the Exynos 5 Dual, which is already designed into products including the Google Chromebook and the Samsung Nexus 10 tablet. Samsung did not indicate in what manufacturing process technology the Exynos 5 Octo is implemented or the highest clock frequency or lowest voltage operation of which the chip is capable.

In a statement issued by Samsung Woo described the Exynos 5 Octa as the "best application processor currently available." It is a claim for which there is much competition. At CES Qualcomm has announced the Snapdragon 800 quad-core processor, Nvidia has announced the Tegra 4 and ST-Ericsson the NovaThor L8580 ModAp. Both the Snapdragon and NovaThor parts have an LTE modem integrated with the application processor.

Warren East, CEO of ARM, joined Woo on stage and helped introduce the big-little technology that debuts in the Exynos 5 Octa. The application processor provides up to 70 percent higher energy efficiency than the previous quad-core Exynos.

Samsung did not disclose what process technology is being used for the Exynos 5 Octa, nor what graphics processing unit has been selected. The previous generation Exynos 4 Quad and Exynos 5 Dual are both made using 32-nm CMOS and include quad-core Mali GPUs, also licensed from ARM.

There is speculation that the Octa chip is implemented in 28-nm CMOS and that the quad-core Cortex-A15 runs at up to 1.8-GHz and the Cortex-A7 cores run at 1.2-GHz. Similarly it is thought that the GPU is the ARM Mali-T604 quad-core GPU used in the Exynos 5 Dual, with the two chips also likely to share the same 32-bit dual-channel 800MHz memory controller with its DDR3 and LPDDR3