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Huawei Introduces Kirin 980: 7nm & Many World Firsts

At the IFA 2018 in Berlin today Huawei unveiled the new Kirin 980, the world's first 7nm smartphone SoC (system-on-a-chip) with a dual-core NPU (Neural Network Processing Unit).

At the IFA 2018 in Berlin today Huawei unveiled the new Kirin 980, the world’s first 7nm smartphone SoC (system-on-a-chip) with a dual-core NPU (Neural Network Processing Unit). The Kirin 980 improves performance by 20 percent, energy efficiency by 40 percent, and boosts transistor density by 1.6 times compared to last year’s Kirin 970. It is believed the Kirin 980 may be included in Huawei’s upcoming Magic2 and Mate 20 smartphones.


Huawei CEO Richard Yu says Kirin 980 is the most powerful and smartest mobile processor ever. The SoC establishes an impressive number of world firsts:

  • First commercial 7nm SoC
  • First ARM Cortex-A76 Based CPU
  • First Dual-NPU
  • First Mali-G76 GPU
  • First 1.4 Gbps Cat.21 Modem (peak download rate of 1.4Gbps is highest in the industry)
  • First SoC supporting 2133MHz LPDDR4X

Architecture design firm ARM says the 7nm chipset on ARM Cortex-A76 can improve performance by 35 percent, power efficiency by 40 percent, and increase machine learning processing speed by four times compared to a 10nm chipset on Cortex-A75. The 7nm chipset boosts Kirin 980’s performance and power efficiency by 75 percent and 58 percent respectively. The Kirin 980 has eight cores: two 2.6GHz A76, two 1.92GHz A76, and four 1.8GHz A55. The cores are assigned tasks in a manner that maximizes energy efficiency.

The Kirin 980’s GPU is a high-end Mali G76, based on new ARM architecture that shows a 76 percent performance increase over its previous generation. The Kirin 980’s frequency is 720MHz, which is lower than the 970’s 747MHz but reduces energy consumption. Compared with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, the Kirin 980 has 22 percent higher game performance and uses 32 percent less power.

The dual NPU is a standout feature of the Kirin 980 that will accelerate AI applications such as facial recognition, object detection, and object segmentation. It can process 4500 pictures per minute and is 2.2 times faster than the Kirin 970 NPU. Huawei says the dual NPU performance is almost two times higher than the Snapdragon 980 and three times higher than the Apple A11.

On the Internet side, Kirin 980 supports LTE Cat.21 with peak download speed of 1.4Gbps. It does not, however, support 5G Networks.

The Kirin 980 has a total of 6.9 billion transistors stacked in less than 100 square millimeters, 25 percent more than the Kirin 970’s 5.5 billion.

The Kirin 980 release is a result of Huawei’s tremendous commitment to and investments in AI chips. The Guangdong-based tech giant becomes just the fourth company in the world to demonstrate 7nm chip manufacturing capability, joining Intel, Samsung, and TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company).

Author: Alex Chen | Editor: Michael Sarazen

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