Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve seen three new System-on-Chips officially announced and unveiled: the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820, the HiSilicon Kirin 950 and the Samsung Exynos 8890. These three chipsets are destined to appear in tomorrow’s flagship and high-end smartphones and tablets. Two of these chips, the HiSilicon Kirin and Samsung Exynos, are owned by product manufacturers (as HiSilicon is owned by Huawei) and demonstrate how the industry has been forced to evolve, thanks in the most part to Apple’s massive investment into its own line of powerful but efficient chipsets. Qualcomm is the odd one out of this crowd, because apart from a limited number of prototype and demonstration devices, Qualcomm do not sell their own smartphones or tablets.
Another manufacturer linked with designing and introducing its own chipset is LG, who is working on a design called Nuclun 2 (a follow up to an earlier chipset). LG have been quiet on the Nuclun 2, either because the project is not a priority or perhaps because they do not wish to compete with the established chipset manufacturers at this time. However, a known leakster has revealed a report on the Weibo website detailing that LG has two prototype Nuclun 2 chipsets being currently tested. However, two chipsets may have the same name but have a different configuration as well as being made by competitor foundries: one has been built by the TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company) and the other by Intel.
The Nuclun 2 chipset sounds similar in architecture to the HiSilicon Kirin 950 as it has two quad core clusters arranged in a big.LITTLE configuration. The lower powered quad core cluster consists of four ARM Cortex-A53 application cores and the higher tier, or “big” cores, consists of four ARM Cortex-A72 chips. The processor manufacturer by the TSMC is constructed on a 16nm process and has a maximum clock speed of 2.1 GHz, whereas the Intel made Nuclun 2 is constructed on a 14nm process and is capable of being clocked at up to 2.4 GHz. The source reports (assumed GeekBench) scores of the 2.4 GHz showing 1,980 points in single core mode and 6,689 in multi-core mode. The 16nm 2.1 GHz model shows 1,721 points in single core mode and 5,710 points in multi-core mode. The performance of the Nuclun 2 appears to be slightly ahead of the Kirin 950, assuming all things were otherwise equal in the benchmarking test (and it’s a safe assumption that they were not).
On the face of it, LG will be handing the manufacturing contract across to Intel, but this is not set in stone. It’s possible that the foundries were instructed to design the chip to perform to a certain thermal limit and there may be other differences apart from the process size and clock speed. Presumably Intel and TSMC will not be offering the chips at the same price, either, which may well sway LG’s decision. These are prototype chips and a lot can change between now and getting the product to the market.