Samsung Exynos Processor [Nov 30, 2011]
Update: Samsung First With Cortex-A15 [The Linley Group, Dec 19, 2011]
Samsung Electronics recently began sampling the Exynos 5250, a dual-core application processor based on ARM’s Cortex-A15. Using Samsung’s 32nm high-k metal-gate (HKMG) process, the CPU is designed to operate at 2.0GHz. The company has thus won the race to sample the first Cortex-A15 products that system developers can evaluate for tablets and other high-end mobile systems scheduled for production in 2H12. Texas Instruments isn’t far behind, reaffirming that its 2.0GHz OMAP5 will sample this month. ST-Ericsson’s A15-based NovaThor LP9600 targets 2.5GHz, but the company is aiming to sample in early 2012.
The Exynos 5250 incorporates several system-level enhancements to support tablet designs. Compared with the Exynos 4212, memory bandwidth doubles to 12.8GB/s, neatly tracking the increase in CPU performance and allowing the Exynos 5250 to support WQXGA (2,560´1,600) displays. The new chip integrates an Embedded DisplayPort (eDP) interface with support for panel self-refresh (PSR) technology, allowing the video subsystem to reduce power for static frames. The chip also provides HDMI 1.4 output and integrates a video engine to enable recording and playback at 1080p full-HD resolution. The Exynos 5250 includes other tablet interfaces, such as SATA and USB 3.0.
Samsung specifies a “more than four-fold” improvement in 3D-graphics performance for the Exynos 5250 compared with the Exynos 4212. The 4212 is supposed to deliver 50% better performance than the currently shipping Exynos 4210, which already delivers better GLBenchmark performance than any mobile processor other than Apple’s A5 chip. To produce a 4x performance boost, the Exynos 5250 must use a new high-end graphics core. Although ARM’s Mali-T604 could meet this performance goal, we believe the Exynos 5250 incorporates the PowerVR SGX MP from Imagination Technologies, which Samsung recently announced it has licensed.
Samsung’s external chip business faces marketing challenges as the company works to establish a unique value proposition that can overcome the perceptions of channel conflict. To offset these challenges, Samsung must deliver a sizable technical advantage over competitors, but the Exynos 5250 specifications do not appear to do so. Even if it does not attract third-party designs, however, the new chip will help Samsung extend the high end of its own smartphone and tablet lineup.
Samsung Announces Industry First ARM Cortex-A15 Processor Samples for Tablet Computers [press release, Nov 30, 2011]
Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., a world leader in advanced semiconductor solutions, announced today the industry’s first dual-core processor samples based on the ARM™ Cortex-A15 core. Designed specifically for high-end tablets, Samsung’s newest 2GHz dual-core Exynos 5250 utilizes 32nm high-k metal gate low-power process technology and will offer system-level designers an exciting new solution intended to meet the graphic-intensive, power-efficient requirements of these next-generation mobile products.
“The ARM Cortex-A15 brings unparalleled performance to our Exynos processor family and the exploding mobile marketplace,” said Dojun Rhee, vice president of System LSI marketing, Device Solutions, Samsung Electronics. “Designers need an application processor platform that delivers full high definition multimedia capabilities, fast processing speed and high performance graphics to meet end users’ expectation for a connected life on the go. The advanced low-power, high-performance processor technology of the new Exynos 5250 continues to deliver an unprecedented level of performance for users to enjoy a completely new mobile experience.”
Samsung’s new dual-core ARM Cortex-A15 based application processor, the Exynos 5250, is capable of processing 14 billion instructions per second (DMIPS, Dhrystone million instructions per second) at 2.0GHz, nearly doubling the performance over a current state of the art Cortex-A9-based dual core processor running at 1.5GHz capable of 7,500 DMIPS.
In particular, the Exynos 5250 design was architected to drive up to an industry leading 2560 x 1600 (WQXGA) display which reflects the significance of advanced display technology transitioning toward ever higher and sharper resolutions. These leading-edge features enable users to enjoy crisper video images on their mobile devices and deliver readability equivalent to real paper for an ultimate electronic reading experience.
To maximize power efficiencies at the system level, the Exynos 5250 has an embedded DisplayPort (eDP) interface that is compliant with panel self-refresh technology (PSR) applied to the timing controller (T-CON). The embedded PSR technology enables static images to be refreshed directly from the frame buffer memory incorporated in the T-CON, resolving the need for regular display refresh instructions to be made by the application processor in cases such as reading static web pages or e-books.
The 3D graphics processing capabilities, enhanced by more than four-fold over the 1.5GHz Cortex-A9 dual-core processor, and a stereoscopic 3D feature raise the bar of user experience on high-specification 3D gaming, user-interfacing and stereoscopic 3D video playback.
Moreover, the Exynos 5250 features a doubled memory bandwidth of 12.8 Gigabytes per second (GB/s) compared to current dual-core processors that support a maximum of 6.4GB/s to enable fast data processing features, superb 3D graphics and high-resolution display. This memory bandwidth is a key requirement for a processor to support WQXGA resolution displays.
Samsung’s Exynos 5250 offers a host of peripheral functions including an embedded image signal processor enabling 8 Megapixel resolution images at 30 frames per second, a full HD 60 frame per second video hardware codec engine for high resolution 1080p video recording and playback, a HDMI 1.4 interface for sharp and crisp multimedia content transmission, along with a diverse scope of embedded booting device interfaces such as SATA, UART, USB and external ports such as USB3.0, eMMC4.5 and eSD3.0.
The Exynos 5250 is currently sampling to customers and is scheduled for mass-production in the second quarter of 2012.
– Samsung’s Exynos site
– Realizing the ARM Cortex-A15: What does the road to 2.5GHz look like? [Nov 9, 2011]
– ST-Ericsson NovaThor SoCs for future Windows Phones from Nokia [Nov 3-24, 2011] (availability: 2H 2012 but at 2.5 GHz)
– Not Just a Faster Horse: TI’s OMAP™ 5 Platform Transforms the Concept of ‘Mobile’ [press release, Feb 7, 2011]: “… 28 nanometer … TI’s OMAP 5 platform is expected to sample in the second half of 2011, with devices on the market in the second half of 2012.” (“OMAP 5, which, according to Talla [TI’s general manager of mobile computing], will feature the industry’s first Cortex A15 mobile processor. This model will come to market at the end of 2012.” From: Texas Instruments: ‘Tablets could become the centre of computing convergence’ [Nov 23, 2011])
– OMAP™ 5 mobile applications platform [product bulletin, July 13, 2011]
– ARM 15 White Paper [Brian Carlson, OMAP 5 Product Line Manager, May 24, 2011]