As rumored earlier in the week, Huawei have announced the HiSilicon Kirin 950 System-on-Chip and following the announcement, have been putting the new chipset, built on a 16nm process, through its paces. As we have already covered, the Kirin 950 is an octa-core processor based around a quad core cluster of ARM Cortex-A53 application cores, clocked at up to 1.8 GHz, as the lower performance tier. The higher performance tier consists of a quad core cluster of ARM's new generation Cortex-A72 application cores clocked at up to 2.5 GHz. The chipset will switch between the lower and higher performance clusters depending on the workload and presumably the running temperature of the chipset, as it may disable the Cortex-A72 cluster should things start to get too warm.
This Cortex-A72 is a newer generation application processor core compared with the Cortex-A57 as used in current chipsets such as the Samsung Exynos 7420 and Qualcomm Snapdragon 810. It's designed to offer slightly higher performance at maximum load. However, of more relevance to mobile devices, the Cortex-A72 has been designed for an overall lower power consumption. The chip architecture is designed more for ongoing processor load. An important side effect of lower power consumption is less waste heat, which device designers should take into account when piecing together the hardware. HiSilicon have used the ARM Mali-T880MP4 for handling the graphics element of the System-on-Chip.
Early benchmarks show the benefit of ARM's evolution between the Cortex-A57 and A72, for whilst the HiSilicon Kirin 950 does show a very high AnTuTu benchmark score (almost 83,000), this is around ten percent higher than the NVIDIA Tegra X1, a very high performance chipset based around the ARM Cortex-A53 and A57 big.little configuration. The NVIDIA Tegra X1 is the chipset powering the new Google Pixel C. However, there are a couple of things to consider: one is that the AnTuTu benchmark is a full load test and the chip may perform quite differently in the real world. The second is that HiSilicon's test rig was not a realistic smartphone design as it consisted of a large motherboard with a screen attached, giving plenty of airflow for cooling. When squeezed into the inside of a modern smartphone, the performance may be somewhat different and it's here that ARM's development work to make the A72 core more power efficient should yield great real world results. Hopefully, we don't have long to wait.