HiSilicon Announces The Kirin 980: First A76, G76 on 7nm

See the original posting on Anandtech

This year at IFA, instead of suddenly finding the new silicon on the show floor, Huawei’s CEO Richard Yu announced this year’s new Kirin 980 during the company’s keynote speech. For readers who’ve been attentively following our articles over the last few months, today’s news should hopefully not come at too big of a surprise, as I’ve been heavily hinting at the timing of the first new 7nm Cortex A76 silicon designs coming later this year in commercial devices, with HiSilicon being the prime candidate for being the first vendor on the market with the their new generation SoC.

Huawei’s silicon design division HiSilicon has been a key strategic component for the company’s products, as it enables it to differentiate itself in a more drastic way than what we usually see from other vendors who simply rely on established open-market SoC vendors such as Qualcomm. This kind of strategy of course is a double-edged sword, as if you’re all-in with your in-house silicon, it also means that these designs must be executed properly, as otherwise you find yourself in an unfavourable competitive position.

The Kirin 950 was an impressive chip as it boasted the first Cortex A72 design on a then new TSMC 16FF manufacturing process – this paid off plenty for Huawei as the combination of new IP as a new manufacturing node resulted in a very competitive silicon which directly translated into favourable characteristics of the handsets in that it was used in.

The Kirin 960 and Kirin 970 on the other hand showcased the risky side of this strategy, and where things can go off-track – the Kirin 960 was a 16nm SoC released in a device generation where 10nm competitors such as the Snapdragon 835 and Exynos 8895 dominated. The Kirin 970 fared better when switching to a 10nm manufacturing node, but this time around HiSilicon wasn’t able to include the newest Arm CPU IP, relying on an A73 CPU while the Snapdragon 845 embraced the new A75. Furthermore the last two Kirin generations had showcased extremely uncompetitive GPU performance and efficiency figures – here HiSilicon is stuck and is at the whim of IP vendors’ ability to produce competitive designs against market leaders such as Qualcomm.

The reason as to why I reiterated what happened to the last few generations, is that this time around HiSilicon finds itself in a very favourable position where IP and manufacturing is aligned into what is essentially a best-case scenario for the new design. Arm’s new Cortex A76 and Mali G76 both promise great leaps in terms of performance and power efficiency, and TSMC is in mass production of its new 7nm manufacturing node.

Today we present the new Kirin 980, the first announced TSMC 7nm SoC as well as the first Cortex A76 and Mali G76 design:

HiSilicon High-End Kirin SoC Lineup
SoC Kirin 980 Kirin 970 Kirin 960
CPU 2x A76 @ 2.60 GHz
2x A76 @ 1.92 GHz
@ 512KB L2’s

4x A55 @ 1.80 GHz
@ 128KB L2’s


4MB DSU L3

4x A73 @ 2.36 GHz
4x A53 @ 1.84 GHz

2MB L2

4x A73 @ 2.36GHz
4x A53 @ 1.84GHz

2MB L2

GPU ARM Mali-G76MP10
@ 720 MHz
ARM Mali-G72MP12
@ 746 MHz
ARM Mali-G71MP8
@ 1037MHz
LPDDR4
Memory
4x 16-bit CH
LPDDR4X @ 2133MHz 34.1GB/s
4x 16-bit CH
LPDDR4X @ 1833 MHz
29.9GB/s
4x 16-bit CH
LPDDR4 @ 1866MHz
29.9GB/s
Storage I/F UFS 2.1 UFS 2.1 UFS 2.1
ISP/Camera New Dual ISP
+46% speed
Dual 14-bit ISP Dual 14-bit ISP
(Improved)
Encode/Decode 2160p60 Decode

2160p?? Encode
2160p60 Decode
2160p30 Encode
1080p H.264
Decode & Encode

2160p30 HEVC
Decode

Integrated Modem Kirin 980 Integrated LTE
(Category 21/18)

DL = 1400 Mbps
4×4 MIMO
3x20MHz CA, 256-QAM
(5CA no MIMO)

UL = 200 Mbps
2×2 MIMO
1x20MHz CA, 256-QAM

Kirin 970 Integrated LTE
(Category 18/13)

DL = 1200 Mbps
5x20MHz CA, 256-QAM

UL = 150 Mbps
2x20MHz CA, 64-QAM

Kirin 960 Integrated LTE
(Category 12/13)

DL = 600Mbps
4x20MHz CA, 64-QAM

UL = 150Mbps
2x20MHz CA, 64-QAM

Sensor Hub i8 i7 i6
NPU Dual @ >2x perf Yes No
Mfc. Process TSMC 7nm TSMC 10nm TSMC 16nm FFC

The new Kirin 980 checks off all of the newest available IPs from Arm, finally employing a new DynamIQ CPU cluster configuration comprised of 4 Cortex A76’s and 4 Cortex A55s.

The biggest surprise to today’s announcem