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Kirin 990 and Kirin 990 5G unveiled: Powerful processor with integrated 5G Modem

hisilicon kirin 990 5g
Lava International

It’s that part of the year when Huawei releases its new flagship chipset. And right on schedule, the Chinese tech giant announced a brand new SoC for its upcoming flagship devices. HiSilicon Kirin 990 5G and Kirin 990 are the chipsets that got launched this time around. Just like last year’s Kirin 980, these new chipsets are also based on 7nm architecture. But unlike last year’s chip, the Kirin 990 uses brand new 7nm FinFET Plus EUV node by TSMC. And this new manufacturing process is said to improve the efficiency of the chip.

The first major thing that’s striking on the chip is its 5G capability. And Huawei claims it to be the first chipset in the tech industry to have an integrated modem on the board. All the other 5G chipsets available in the market come with 5G modem latched on to the SoC. Although Samsung has already announced its 5G-enabled Exynos 980, with integrated 5G modem, the chip from Huawei is expected to make it to the market first. This kind of setup promises better optimizations in terms of power as well as on the RAM usage. In addition to that, the Kirin 990 also has been the very first chipset to have more than 10.3 billion transistors on board.

huawei hisilicon 990 5g

CPU

The Core configuration of both the new chipsets is the same and remained unchanged from last year.  The SoC boasts an Octa-core configuration with 2x Cortex A-76 big cores, 2x Cortex A-76 medium cores, and 2x Cortex A-55 small cores. But the clock speed has been on the new models. Although the big cores on both the Kirin 990 5G and Kirin 990 run at 2.86GHz, the clock speed on these two models is slightly different. As for the caches, the A76 cores have 512KB L2 cache whereas the A55 cores get 128kB each.

Kirin 990
5G
Kirin 990
(4G)
Kirin 980 Kirin 970
CPU 2xA76 @2.86G
2xA76 @2.36G
4xA55 @1.95G
2xA76 @2.86G
2xA76 @2.09G
4xA55 @1.86G
2xA76 @2.60G
2xA76 @1.92G
4xA55 @1.80G
4xA73 @2.36G
4xA53 @1.80G
GPU G76MP16
@700M
G76MP16
@700M
G76MP10
@720M
G72MP12
@850M
NPU 2 + 1
Da Vinci
1 + 1
Da Vinci
2
Cambricon
1
Cambricon
Modem Balong 5G 4G 4G 4G
DRAM LPDDR4-4266

+ LLC

LPDDR4-4266

+ LLC

LPDDR4X-4266 LPDDR4X-3733
Die Size >100 mm2 ~90 mm2 74.13 mm2 96.72 mm2
Transistors 10.3b ~8.0b 6.9b 5.5b

With this new setup, Huawei claims that the Kirin 990 would outperform the Snapdragon 855 by 10% in single-core tests and 9% on the multi-core tests. Huawei also flaunts that the new SoC is the most powerful and the most compact chipset on the industry. It’s has been said that the Kirin 990 would be 26% smaller than the SD855 and 36% smaller than the Exynos 9820.

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Furthermore, there have also been improvements in terms of power efficiency. All thanks to the new 7nm+ EUV process. Huawei confidently claimed that the Kirin 990 offers 12% better big-core efficiency, 35% medium core efficiency, and 15% better small core efficiency than its Snapdragon counterpart.

GPU

Even on the GPU part, we can still hear the same name, Mali-G76 GPU. However, to ensure a boost in the graphics performance, Huawei has added 6 more cores on the GPU, which makes a total of 16 cores. With more GPU cores comes better GPU performance. In addition to that, there is also a smart cache for games. This technique improves the GPU to DDR bandwidth by 15% also enhancing the DDR power efficiency by 12%. This, at the end, delivers 6% better graphics performance than the Adreno 60 found on the SD855.

AI

For the last couple of years, we have seen Huawei integrating Neural Processing Units (NPU) to handle the AI part. And that continued this year as well. But Huawei has made big improvements this time around. This time, there is a quad-core NPU on the system, which uses the new Da Vinci Architecture. And this new architecture promises an improvement in the performance as well as on power efficiency.

And the setup of the quad-core NPU is quite similar to the modern-day CPUs. They are divided into Big Cores and Small Cores in which big cores do the demanding tasks whereas the small cores handle the non-intensive AI computations.

kirin 990 5g gpu cpu npu

Talking about the core setup, the Kirin 990 5G features two Big cores + Tiny Core setup. The non-5G variant, on the other hand, gets the Single Big core + Tiny Core setup.

Apart from its own HiAl platform, Huawei has also included further features such that the NPU can work with Facebook’s Tensorflow and Google’s Android NN platforms.

In recent days, Huawei is making innovative approaches to enhance smartphone photography. And to take it to the next level, Huawei has also coordinated NPU with the Image Signal Process (ISP) such that the combined effort from NPU and ISP would produce better images with less noises. Huawei also has plans to include more AI-based features on the camera part. As for the videos, the chipset is capable of recording 8K HDR videos at 30fps.

The chipset will make its debut on the upcoming Mate devices- Huawei Mate 30 and Mate 30 Pro. After that, a bunch of Honor phones will follow.