Last week, Huawei officially unveiled the new HiSilicon Kirin 960 mobile System-on-Chip and today the company has tweeted that the new Mate 9 smartphone is to be equipped with the new Kirin chipset, surprising no-one. We know that the Mate 9 is to be officially revealed next Thursday, 3 November, and whilst the Chinese company has not directly confirmed that the Kirin 960 is to be powering the Mate 9, that the company is using the sale hashtag (#astepahead) and video surely points the new large screen Mate device getting the Kirin 960.
Huawei's HiSilicon semiconductor unveiled details of the Kirin 960 last week and it reflects ARM's changes to the chipset platform by changing the blend of power and heat production from the CPU and GPU parts, which needs to reflect the tight chassis design of the smartphones that these chips often end up in. Mobile chipset designers have to compromise between a number of factors and in effect create budgets between the different underlying components: how much power should the modem, GPU, CPU clusters take, amongst other components. The power consumed by these components is converted into waste heat. Qualcomm's ARM-based chipsets traditionally place a relatively higher proportion of the budget towards GPU technology and we see this demonstrated across the range: the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 and 821 has one of the most powerful mobile GPUs in service today in smartphones. HiSilicon's Kirin chipsets have tended to use a less powerful GPU compared with the Qualcomm competition and this has resulted in some gaming or graphics benchmarks looking anemic by comparison. However, HiSilicon have changed this when designing the Kirin 960: the chip uses the ARM Mali-G71 GPU unit, which doubles the number of graphics processor cores compared with the Kirin 950 chipset and boasts up to 180% of the performance. In addition to the more powerful GPU, the Kirin 960 uses a typical big.LITTLE architecture with the lower tier consisting of a quad core cluster of ARM Cortex-A53s and the higher performance cluster consisting of the new generation ARM Cortex-A73s. The ARM Cortex-A73 is based on a different architecture compared with the Cortex-A72 and may trace its lineage back to the ARM Cortex-A17; it offers higher processor performance at a lower clock speed than the ARM Cortex-A72 core – here, HiSilicon are claiming a more modest, but still respectable, 18% improvement in processor performance. The Kirin 960 also provides other benefits, such as support for higher performance LTE networking.
Of course, whilst Huawei's new chipset sounds impressive, we will have to reserve judgement until we have the new Mate 9 smartphone in our hands. As for the rest of the Mate 9, it is likely to have at least 4GB of RAM and perhaps 6GB, a dual rear camera designed in conjunction with Leica and a 5.9-inch touchscreen, expected to be 1080p resolution in the standard version whereas a Mate 9 Pro model could use a QHD resolution panel. We also expect the minimum internal storage to be 64GB with Huawei offering 128GB and 256GB models.