If there’s one company that’s trying the hardest to beat Samsung these days, it’s Huawei. I’ve noticed since last year’s MWC that they are very serious about beating Samsung, and trying to make products that are as good as theirs, or very close to them. They started using high quality displays, very thin bodies, and fast processors, and they’re looking to continue that aggressive competition in 2013, with an 8-core big.Little chip of their own, to go toe-to-toe with Samsung’s Exynos 5 Octa.
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The Exynos 5 Octa (and likely this Huawei chip, too) is going to be technically an 8-core chip, but in practice it acts as a quad core, because it has 2 quad-core CPU clusters, one for very high-performance, and one for very low energy use. Think of it like having the engine of a Prius, along with the engine of a Ferrari – in the same car (and with the Prius engine occupying only 2% of the car’s internals). You’re using the high-performance engine for those short bursts when you need to go somewhere fast, and the more efficient engine for most normal day driving.
Overall you’ll end up spending a lot less on gas than you would if you only used the Ferrari engine. And that’s the point of big.Little, too – to create a balance between high energy efficiency, and high-performance, and get best of both worlds, exactly when you need it.
Although we don’t know the exact technical details of Huawei’s own chip, it’s very unlikely it would be anything but a big.Little chip, much like Samsung’s Exynos 5 Octa, as it wouldn’t make sense for them to make an 8-core Cortex A15, or Cortex A9 or Cortex A7. There’s absolutely no point in doing that – yet. Samsung’s chip can actually use all 8 cores at once, but developers will most likely have to program specifically to use them all at once, as I don’t think that will be its default state.
In the next year or two we’re going to see ARM, AMD, and probably even Intel and Nvidia (perhaps with Tegra 5/Project Denver) push for “heterogeneous computing”. That means using multiple CPU cores, GPU cores and even accelerators, all at once. But I think this will be a pretty slow trend in computing, as it requires a special type of programming from developers, and only few certain types of apps will be able to take advantage of it initially, such as apps involving speech synthesis, images or anything involving advanced graphics.
In the mean time, you’ll only see these big.Little chips migrate the tasks between the low-power CPU cluster and the high-performance cluster, as mentioned above. And this is why it’s very likely Huawei will do the same with their 8-core chip, which will likely be named the K3V3, and should arrive in the 2nd half of this year.