Samsung Upgrades Exynos 5 to True Octa-Core Status with Heterogeneous Multi-Processing

September 10, 2013 - Written By Nick Sutrich

Samsung looks to have just taken the processor wars one notch higher with the announcement of Heterogeneous Multi-Processing, or HMP, being used in their latest Exynos 5 Octa line of processors.  This means that Samsung’s next batch of home-brewed processors will feature true 8-core processing power rather than the alternating 4-core processing that was done on previous Exynos 5 Octa processors.  What does this all mean?  Let’s break it down.  Samsung’s Exynos 5 Octa line of processors use a technology called big.Little, which pairs a powerful quad-core processor with a second low-power quad-core processor to give a different kind of 8-core processor.  In the past the system would switch between these processors depending on the task at hand.  So if you were just browsing the web, reading emails or sending a text, the low-power quad-core processor would be the one doing the job, resulting in better battery life by not needing to use all the power required to run the more powerful quad-core in the device.  Once you switch to gaming, watching an HD video or something else equally processor intensive, the system would the switch over to that more powerful quad-core and use that instead.  While all of this sounds well and good, wouldn’t you rather be able to use any core in any combination?  That’s what Heterogeneous Multi-Processing does.

We first saw HMP used in MediaTek’s newest octo-core processor, the MT8135, and they jabbed at other companies like Samsung and Qualcomm for not having “true” 8-core processors.  Since this is the truth it was difficult for competing companies to respond directly other than trolling MediaTek on flat-out efficiency.  Qualcomm doesn’t have any actual direct response to MediaTek like Samsung now has, so all of Qualcomm’s processors will be staying quad-core for the time being.  As for the Exynos, Samsung has put together a short video of an 8-man acapella to show just how the big.Little technology works in conjunction with HMP:

Since the newest lineup of Exynos 5 Octa processors can utilize any core in any order, it can actually efficiently decide which processes to run on each core, providing even bigger power savings in the future.  After all, Android is the best multi-tasking mobile operating system out there, and that means that the system is never just running whatever application you might be using in the foreground.  When you’re playing a game or watching a movie the system still has to keep track of messages received, phone calls that might come in, and any other errant data working in the background.  Now with Samsung’s (and in effect MediaTek’s) newest Exynos 5 Octa processors the system will be able to give a priority to such tasks, so things like messaging, phone calls and other less process-intensive tasks will be given a lower numerical value and therefore only processed on the low-power quad-core.  As for things like games and movies, those tasks will be given a higher numerical value and will be processed on the more powerful quad-core inside the system.  This introduces a level of efficiency we haven’t seen yet in any Octa-Core processor on the market, and will surely bring new levels of battery savings not yet seen.

Since Samsung didn’t specify which models of upcoming Exynos 5 Octa CPUs will be getting HMP technology, we’re not 100% sure which upcoming Samsung devices will feature this.  While it’s nice to assume that the Galaxy Note 3 will feature HMP, it doesn’t seem too likely given that Samsung said these new processors will be available in devices in Q4 2013, which is one quarter later than the Note 3 arrives.  Then there’s also the case of Samsung shipping the Galaxy Note 3 with Qualcomm processors even in its hometown of South Korea, which doesn’t paint a warm and fuzzy future for the Note 3 having the newest Exynos processor either.  Basically, don’t hold your breath for getting this technology in the Note 3 in most regions, but if you do end up with one that has it you’ll certainly be in for a pleasant surprise.