Huawei’s Kirin 980 is out to snub all its competition

At IFA 2018 in Berlin, Huawei introduced the Kirin 980, the system on a chip (SoC) that is expected to bring about the next evolution in mobile AI. As the world’s first commercially produced 7nm SoC, the Kirin 980 combines best-in-class performance, efficiency, connectivity features and Dual NPU AI processing power.

What’s new in the Kirin 980?

First things first, the process in which it was made. The TSMC 7nm process technology enables Kirin 980 to pack 6.9 billion transistors within a 1cm2 die size, which is 1.6X times the 10nm generation. It also delivers 20 per cent more SoC performance and 40 per cent higher power efficiency as compared to its predecessor.

Huawei has integrated the Mali-G76 GPU into the Kirin 980 to deliver better gaming experiences. It offers 46 per cent greater graphics processing power at 178 per cent improved power efficiency over the previous generation. The new GPU also features an innovative clock-boosting technology that utilises AI to intelligently identify gaming workloads and adjust resource allocation for optimal gaming performance.

New Cortex-A76 cores

The 980 is also the first to embed Cortex-A76 cores which are 75 per cent more powerful and 58 per cent more efficient than the previous generation. There are a total of eight cores, four Cortex-A76 and four Cortex-A55, in an octa-core formation. Of the Cortex-A76, two are high-performance, two are high-efficiency. The remaining four Cortex-A55 cores are extreme efficiency cores.

To make use of this unique formation, Huawei and Kirin use Flex-Scheduling technology that flexibly allocates the right cores to the right tasks. This helps the large high-performance cores to handle immediate, intensive workloads; the large, high-efficiency cores to provide sustained performance; and ultra-efficiency cores to tackle everyday, light activities with extreme power efficiency. Also helping is higher clock speeds to enable quicker app launch times, better multitasking and a generally smoother user experience.

“Dual-Brain” power

With the new Kirin 980 comes a new version of on-device AI. The Dual NPU on the chip elevates the AI experience with greater processing power and intelligence. Thanks to this new processing power, it can recognize up to 4,500 images per minute, up 120 per cent compared to the Kirin 970. Additionally, Kirin 980 supports common AI frameworks such as Caffee, Tensorflow and Tensorflow Lite, and provides a suite of tools that simplifies the difficulty of engineering On-Device AI, making it easy for developers.

Image signal processor integration

To continuously improve its smartphone photography credentials, Huawei has integrated its fourth-gen ISP into the Kirin 980 SoC. It has increased data throughput by 46 per cent and provides better support for multi-camera configurations. It also has an all-new HDR colour reproduction technology that manipulates picture contrast to highlight objects on various parts of an image.

The 980 also improves pictures taken in low light by using the Multi-pass noise reduction solution, which accurately removes artifacts without scrubbing away image details. Other improvements include improved motion tracking and a dedicated video capture pipeline, reducing delay in capture by 33 per cent.

Connectivity and availability

The Kirin 980 comes integrated with the world’s first modem supporting LTE Cat.21 with a peak download speed of 1.4Gbps. It also lets users choose their own mobile operators and enjoy the same premium connectivity experience over all carriers.

The new Kirin 980-powered Mate Series device is scheduled to make an appearance in October of this year.