Tiny and efficient 5nm chip with built-in 5G

Huawei Kirin 9000

In addition to its new Mate series of smartphones, Huawei has introduced a new flagship processor. The Kirin 9000 supports the full range of Mate 40 handsets and promises better efficiency and more powerful network functions than previous generations.

One of the key features of the Kirin 9000 is a smaller, more energy-efficient 5nm manufacturing process. Apple is also on 5nm for the A14 chip in the iPhone 12, Samsung is using it for its mid-range Exynos 1080, and we also expect Qualcomm’s upcoming flagship Snapdragon chip to be based on this node. For us consumers, this means higher performance and longer battery life than previous generations.

The Kirin 9000 also has a built-in 5G modem, making it the first 5nm chip to do this. Huawei did not provide exact speed information during the presentation, but the chip’s Balong 5000 modem supports downloads up to 6.5 Gbps and 5G carrier aggregation. Huawei claims the modem is 5 times faster to upload and 2 times faster to download in the real world than Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X55 modem. Feisty Talk.

Also read: Huawei Mate 40 Pro at your fingertips

Kirin 9000 specifications

Kirin 9000Kirin 9000E
Central processor1x Cortex-A77 at 3.13 GHz
3x Cortex-A77 at 2.54 GHz
4x Cortex-A55 at 2.05 GHz
1x Cortex-A77 at 3.13 GHz
3x Cortex-A77 at 2.54 GHz
4x Cortex-A55 at 2.05 GHz
GPUMali-G78, 24 coresMali-G78, 22 cores
NPU2x large core
1x tiny core
1x large core
1x tiny core
modemBalong 5000
5G, sub6Ghz and mmWave
Balong 5000
5G, sub6Ghz and mmWave
ISP6th generation quad-core ISP6th generation quad-core ISP

What’s new with the CPU and GPU

At this point last year, the Kirin 990 raised a few eyebrows to cling to an earlier generation of arm parts. At the time, Dr. Benjamin Wang from Huawei that Arm’s Cortex-A77 is better suited to producing 5 nm than producing 7 nm. Richard Yu also pointed out that efficiency and battery life were major reasons behind sticking with the Cortex-A76. It wasn’t a very convincing argument then, but it wasn’t unreasonable either.

Here we are with the Kirin 9000 at 5 nm and we have Arm Cortex-A77 cores, but not the latest Arm Cortex-A78 upgrade. Huawei now appears to be a year behind Arm’s latest CPU tech, but this isn’t an absolute deal breaker for performance. Huawei claims a 10% performance gain over Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 865 Plus. Although we should always add a pinch of salt to these internal performance metrics.

On the graphics side, Huawei uses the latest Arm Mali-G78 in 24- and 22-core configurations for the Kirin 9000 and 9000E, respectively. Huawei is again very aggressive in terms of performance comparisons and promises 52% more performance in the GFXBench benchmark than Qualcomm’s powerhouse Snapdragon 865 Plus. We’ll surely want to put this to the test ourselves to see if real world performance improves.

Summary of the Huawei Kirin 9000 chipset

Huawei also claims a 2.4x performance gain for AI processing capabilities over its NPU over Qualcomm’s best chip right now. While AI performance is particularly workload sensitive, we should be very careful when making comparisons here. The Kirin 9000 also sees advantages for image processing with its sixth generation quad-core ISP. The ISP has 50% higher throughput than the previous generation and a 48% improvement in video noise reduction.

Finally, the Kirin 9000 offers 25% CPU, 150% NPU, and 50% GPU efficiency over the Snapdragon 865 Plus. However, keep in mind that Qualcomm will be refreshing its high-end SoC in December 2020, which will also benefit from the efficiency gains of 5nm manufacturing.

What to Expect from the Kirin 9000

After some stagnation in CPU and GPU specs between the Kirin 980 and 990, the Kirin 9000 offers a noticeable increase in performance, especially when gaming. Although the lack of a state-of-the-art Cortex-A78 CPU means that the performance compared to the competition is short-lived.

But CPU grunts aren’t everything. Huawei’s latest SoC continues to offer competitive imaging, modem, and machine learning technologies to keep hardware cutting edge. Unless the trade dispute between the US and China changes, the Kirin 9000 will be the last internal chipset from Huawei and HiSilicon. We just have to wait and see what this means for Huawei phones and their latest features.

The Kirin 9000 debuts in the Huawei Mate 40 Pro and Mate 40 Pro Plus, while the Kirin 9000E powers the cheaper Mate 40 model. Be curious how the Kirin 9000 compares to other high-end mobile SoCs.

Next: Can Huawei survive without its custom Kirin chips?

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