Huawei on Friday officially announced the Kirin 980, what's claimed to be the world's most powerful system-on-chip for smartphones and tablets. Created by its subsidiary HiSilicon, the Kirin 980 is also the first-ever chip to be built on the 7nm process node, with the technology in question coming from TSMC. Compared to the 10nm Kirin 970, the new silicon is equipped with 6.9 billion transistors per 1cm2, a 60-percent improvement. As a result, the chip can be up to 40-percent more energy-efficient or deliver 20-percent better computational performance than the previous solution and should be significantly better than the currently used Snapdragon 845 and Exynos 9810, though it remains to be seen how it fares against their upcoming successors.
The Kirin 980 also rethinks architecture in the name of efficiency, ditching the traditional dual-cluster strategy for a three-layer approach to computing. The module hence sports two super-big Cortex-A76 cores, another pair of big Cortex-A76 cores, and a quad-core Cortex-A55 configuration. As a result, it has more options for handling tasks based on how demanding they are without wasting energy. The Mali-G76 GPU is also part of the package, being up to 178-percent more efficient or 46-percent more powerful than last year's graphics chip from ARM. While the Kirin 970 was the world's first SoC to feature a neural processing unit, its successor comes with a Dual-NPU meant to elevate its on-device artificial intelligence computing, with a comprehensive image signal processor designed by HiSilicon also being part of the package. While the Kirin 980 is not a 5G chip, it's the first in the world to have a mode with LTE Category 21 support, thus being capable of delivering 1.4Gbps download speeds when connected to the right infrastructure.
Huawei is describing the Kirin 980 as the next step in its efforts to bring mobile photography and AI computing to the next level, all without sacrificing battery life. The Kirin 980 is expected to power the upcoming Mate 20 series of Android flagships, as well as the P30 handset line Huawei is scheduled to unveil next year. The company's subsidiary Honor already used the currently ongoing IFA as an opportunity to tease the Magic 2, an Android smartphone powered by the newly announced chip.