Linley on Mobile
Samsung Moves Exynos to 32nmOctober 24, 2011
Author: Linley Gwennap
Samsung recently demonstrated a new mobile processor, the Exynos 4212, that it plans to sample to customers before the end of the year. The company disclosed limited information about the new part, which appears to be quite similar to the current Exynos 4210 in feature set. The new chip, however, uses Samsung’s 32nm high-k metal gate (HKMG) process technology, offering improvements in power and performance over the current product, which uses the company’s 45nm LP process.
The 32nm process is shared with GlobalFoundries and other members of the IBM “fab club.” It is Samsung’s first with HKMG, providing a bigger boost than the usual node shrink. Compared to the 45nm node, the company expects a 30% power reduction at the same clock speed.
Like the 4210, the 4212 features two Cortex-A9 CPUs. Samsung claims the 32nm process improves processing power by 25%, which would put the 4212 at 1.5GHz CPU speed. The company also expects graphics performance to increase 50% over the 4210, which already boasts the best GPU benchmarks among current smartphone processors (although the Apple A5 in the iPhone 4S has similar performance). This larger increase indicates that the 4212 includes some enhancements to the Mali-400 GPU in the 4210 design.
Samsung confirmed that the 4212 will support 1080p video encoding and decoding and the new HDMI 1.4 standard. The chip includes a new image signal processor (ISP), but the company declined to specify its capabilities. Samsung is also one of the surprisingly few vendors integrating a touchscreen controller into its smartphone processors. The Exynos 4210 has been in production since 2Q11; the new 4212 is scheduled to enter production in 2Q12 and will probably appear in phones in 2H12.
At 1.5GHz, next year’s 4212 is no faster than TI’s OMAP 4460, which is already in production in Samsung’s new Galaxy Nexus phone. Worse yet, Qualcomm plans to debut dual-core processors using its next-generation Krait CPU in mid-2012, and vendors such as Nvidia and Freescale are likely to have quad-core processors in production. Thus, the Exynos 4212 will be more of a midrange product when it becomes available. To bridge the gap with these high-end competitors, Samsung is hard at work on a Cortex-A15 processor that could be in production by the end of 2012.