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Huawei introduces its new Kirin 980 chip with double the brain power

Huawei has just announced its new system on chip which will power its next generation of flagship smartphones. Their current Kirin 970 is their first Mobile AI chipset with a dedicated NPU (Neural Processing Unit) and the Chinese smartphone manufacturer is taking its AI processing performance up a notch with their latest chip.

The new Kirin 980 which was unveiled at IFA 2018 will not only be faster and more efficient, but it also offers improved imaging and even faster connectivity.

This is the world’s first commercial System on a Chip (SOC) to be based on 7nm process manufactured by TSMC. With a 7nm process, the Kirin 980 packs 6.9 billion transistors within a 1cm cube die size. According to Huawei, this offers 20% improved SoC performance and 40% higher SoC efficiency when compared to a 10nm chip. As a comparison, the current Kirin 970, Snapdragon 845, Apple A11 and Samsung’s 9810 SoC are currently based on a 10nm process.

The new chip still has a total of 8 cores and it is the first to use ARM’s Cortex-A76. There are 2x high-performance Cortex-A76 cores, 2x high-efficiency Cortex-A76 cores and four extremely efficient Cortex-A55 cores. In the GPU department, the Kirin 980 uses Mali-G76 which Huawei claims to offer 46% greater graphics processing performance with 178% greater power efficiency compared to its previous generation.

The Kirin 980 will feature Dual NPU which provides greater processing power and intelligence when it comes to AI oriented tasks. With this new “dual-brain” power, the Kirin 980 is said to be capable of recognising up to 4,600 images per minute, which is 120% improvement over the Kirin 970. The new chip will support common AI frameworks such as Caffee, Tensorflow and Tensorflow Lite, which opens up more possibilities with 3rd party developers.

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Also included is Huawei’s 4th generation ISP which claims to offer 46% increase in data throughput and better support for multi-camera configuration. It offers an all-new HDR colour reproduction technology as well as a Multi-pass noise reduction solution which will improve the quality of images in low light situations. According to Huawei, the new ISP is better at motion tracking and it can recognise subjects with 97.4% accuracy. You can also expect better video capturing performance as the chip has a new dedicated pipeline that reduces delay by 33%.

Connectivity wise, the Kirin 980 is the first to support an even faster LTE Cat.21 and in theory, it can offer downloads of up to 1.4Gbps. It also claims to be the first smartphone to offer WiFi connectivity of up to 1.7Gbps. The new chip will be making its way to the upcoming Huawei Mate 20 series that’s launching next month.

Alexander Wong