Did Huawei just fool the world? Kirin 9000S vs Kirin 9000. Same Chip?

Kirin 9000S vs Kirin 9000
Honor 200 series Ad

So A recent tweet by a tipster RGcloudS raised an interesting dilemma about the Huawei US ban by questioning the existence of its latest Kirin 9000S chipset. According to him, the chip is just a rebranded Kirin 9000 from 2020 and Huawei (and China) couldn’t possibly make such a powerful chip without Western technologies.

Kirin 9000S vs Kirin 9000 Overview:

Kirin 9000S 

For starters, the Kirin 9000S is ‘believed’ to be Huawei’s in-house silicon built using SMIC’s 7 N+2 architecture in China. 

The aforementioned ban prevents foundries that use US technology to manufacture chips from shipping cutting-edge silicon to Huawei without a license. That’s why the previous Mate P60 devices didn’t support 5G and had to tweak the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 to be limited to 4G. But now, Huawei’s latest flagship Mate 60 Pro is capable of 5G thanks to the Kirin 9000S.

Kirin 9000S = Kirin 9000?

So is it Kirin 9000S vs Kirin 9000 or 9000S = 9000? Well, according to RGcloudS, the new ‘7nm’ Kirin 9000S is actually the 5nm Kirin 9000 made by TSMC in 2020. He talks about the first picture where Kirin 9000S is marked as a 5nm processor by a program. To further support his claim, the tipster also reveals a picture of Mate 60 chip that is marked with 2035. Now this may not seem special to an average Joe, but 2035 here is something called the ‘date code’ which is written following the ECIA guidelines. 

And those guidelines state the ‘date code’ to be a 4-digit number with the YYWW format. Hence, that would mean the chip was manufactured on the 35th week of 2020 which is just months earlier than the announcement of the Kirin 9000. 

The why?

So, why would Huawei use a 3-year-old chip in its smartphone? Well, RGcloud believes that SMIC (and Huawei) doesn’t have the required technology to really build an advanced chip like the Kirin 9000S in the first place. According to him, SMIC can’t manufacture 7nm on a large scale with a legacy DUV (Deep Ultra Violet) machine, and newer EUV (Extreme Ultra Violet) machines aren’t available in China (due to restrictions). DUV and EUV are lithography technologies used in chip manufacturing to etch circuitry patterns onto silicon wafers, with EUV allowing for smaller, more precise patterns. This means more transistors and a more powerful processor which is why almost all <7nm processes use EUV machines.

The How

So, it’s understandable that Huawei ‘supposedly’ can’t produce such powerful new chips but how would they have access to a 3-year-old Kirin 9000 in the first place? Using some speculative math, the tipster assumes that Huawei stockpiled a whooping 142 MILLION chips before the ban.

His supporting arguments were that the US/China tensions were high, and Huawei started stockpiling in anticipation of the ban. He says that Huawei wouldn’t keep an ambitious sales goal of 40 million (for the Mate 60) if the CPU inside had a yield of just 20%. (SMIC yield for their 7 N+2 process was 20% at the time). 

Maybe not

Now, it’s fun to cook up conspiracies but there are several holes in this theory. First of all, the Kirin 9000S is physically bigger than the Kirin 9000 and supports hyperthreading which bumps its core count to 12. Moreover, a report from ‘TechInsights’ claims the chip to be based on a 7n process, and a more recent report from ‘Fomalhaut Techno Solutions’ shares the likelihood of the chip being manufactured using a 14nm process instead.

Moreover, the specs just don’t line up well.

Kirin 9000 Kirin 9000S
CPU
1x Cortex A77: 3.13 GHz  1x Custom Big Core: 2.62GHz
3x Cortex A77: 2.54 GHz 3x Custom Medium Cores: 2.15GHz. 
4x Cortex A55: 2.05 GHz 4x Custom Smaller Cores: 1.5GHz.
GPU
Mali-G78(24 Cores) Maleoon-910, 4 cores at 750MHz

Final Thoughts

It’s important to note that all this is the opinion of a single person and should be taken with a grain of salt. Furthermore, Huawei has not revealed the actual specifications of the chip. Regardless, the chip while impressive, is still 1-2 generations behind the current flagship Android chipsets like the Dimensity 9200+ and Qualcomm SD 8 Gen 2 with a speculated Antutu score of about 7,00,000.

What do you think? Did “Huawei & SMIC successfully prank the whole world?” or is this just another wild conspiracy?