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Huawei Introduces World’s First Flagship 5G SoC in Challenge to Samsung and Qualcomm

Huawei did not disappoint when the IFA 2019 opened this morning, announcing the new Kirin 990 5G, whose built-in 5G modem makes it the world’s first-ever 5G flagship chipset.

In recent years Huawei has used the IFA (Internationale Funkausstellung Berlin) — one of Germany’s oldest industrial exhibitions — to showcase the company’s newest SoC (system on a chip) releases for its flagship smartphones.

Huawei did not disappoint when the IFA 2019 opened this morning, announcing the new Kirin 990 5G, whose built-in 5G modem makes it the world’s first-ever 5G flagship chipset. The Kirin 990 5G and Kirin 990 SoCs will power Huawei’s next-generation flagship smartphone the Mate 30, which is due to be unveiled Sept. 19 in Munich, Germany.

Both the Kirin 990 and its 5G version feature two Arm Cortex A76s running up to 2.86GHz, two A76s at 2.09GHz (2.36GHz) and four A55s at 1.86GHz (1.95GHz) along with 16 core Mali-G76 GPU.

While the Kirin 990 only supports up to 4G, the Kirin 990 5G with its embedded Balong 5000 modem processor supports both current 5G networking modes — standalone (SA, 5G independent networking) and non-standalone (NSA, 5G network deployment based on LTE). Huawei says Kirin 990 5G delivers a maximum download speed of 2.3Gbps and a maximum upload speed of 1.25Gbps.

In comparison, Samsung’s recently released next-generation Exynos 980 chipset with an integrated 5G modem achieves up to 2.55 Gbps in download speed and up to 1.25Gbps upload speed. Huawei Consumer Business Group CEO Richard Yu notes that the maximum theoretical download speed under the 3GPP R-15 protocol standard 100MHz bandwidth is 2.34Gbps, and that “Any claim above 2.34Gbps is non-standard.”

The Kirin 990 5G is manufactured with TSMC’s 7nm process, which uses extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography to enable a smaller die size. The SoC packs 10.3 billion transistors, 1.5X times more than its predecessor Kirin 980’s 6.9 billion transistors.

A standout selling point of Kirin 990 5G is its built-in neural processing unit (NPU) based on Huawei’s Da Vinci architecture, which Huawei says can deliver 4.7X times better AI performance than Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855. The NPU features two powerful Ascend Lite cores for complex AI computation and one lower-power Ascend Tiny core for tasks such as facial and voice recognition.

As Synced has previously reported, the Huawei NPU delivers tensor computation, high efficiency, and high performance under half precision FP16 and INT8 data types.

In the AI Benchmark test — a widely recognized evaluation metric that measures real-world performance of mobile SoCs — the Kirin 990 5G scored 52403 in AI performance, significantly higher than the Unisoc Tiger T710 and Snapdragon 855 Plus.

The Kirin 990 5G also adds a new fifth-generation Dual ISP that boasts block-matching and a 3D filtering algorithm for noise reduction in images, raising the bar for low-light photography. Its built-in Kirin Gaming tech has also been upgraded to improve the mobile gaming experience.

Also announced at the IFA was Huawei’s Kirin A1 chip, designed for empowering wearable devices such as wireless earphones, headbands, smart speakers, smart watches, and so on. Huawei’s wireless earphones FreeBuds are now embedded with the Kirin A1 chip.


Journalist: Tony Peng | Editor: Michael Sarazen

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