Samsung Electronics has rolled out a new quad-core mobile applications processor using the company's 32-nanometer process technology. Called the Exynos 4 Quad, the new 1.4-GHz chip -- which is based on ARM's quad-core Cortex A9 technology -- is destined for the Galaxy S III smartphone launching next month.
The Galaxy S III will offer "uncompromised performance and ground-breaking multitasking features, thanks to Exynos 4 Quad's powerful performance and efficient energy management technology," said Hankil Yoon, a senior vice president of Samsung's mobile communications division.
According to Samsung executives, the Exynos 4 Quad is a crucial element in providing smartphone and media tablet customers with a PC-like experience on mobile devices -- especially those designed to run on high-speed 4G LTE data networks, which are rapidly rolling out around the world.
"Given the diverse functionalities consumers are demanding from their mobile devices today, the Exynos 4 Quad meets those high-performance needs while keeping power consumption very low," said Taehoon Kim, vice president of System LSI marketing at Samsung.
A Drop-in Design Upgrade
The Exynos 3 Single -- also known as Hummingbird -- is the chip already deployed in Samsung's Galaxy S smartphone and the original Galaxy Tab. The company's Exynos 4 Dual, which plays full HD videos without encoding, is inside Samsung's Galaxy S II smartphones (3G and 4G), as well as the Galaxy Tab 7.7 and 7.0 Plus tablets.
The 32-nm Exynos 4 Quad consumes 20 percent less power than the 45-nm Exynos 4 Dual while doubling processor performance, Samsung said. Samsung's latest mobile applications processor also is pin-to-pin compatible with the Exynos 4 Dual, which means that designers will be able to drop the new quad-core chip into their current designs without having to re-engineer products.
Moving to a new process technology certainly helps reduce power consumption in chips for mobile applications. However, semiconductor industry analysts note it is only one of the factors that microprocessor makers can use to optimize power consumption performance in battery-operated mobile devices.
For example, the new HTC One S smartphone runs Qualcomm's first 28nm dual-core processor. However, ABI Research said the new Qualcomm chip is not as power-efficient as expected.
"The current drain for most tests was in line with the prior generation's design, and the video encode was actually poorer, although the actual cores were found to draw 33 percent less power," said ABI Research Vice President of Engineering Jim Mielke.
Conserving Battery Life
According to Samsung, the Exynos 4 Quad has been expressly designed to deliver hot-plug functionality to support on-off switching for each of the mobile application processor's four cores. The new chip also features per-core dynamic voltage and frequency scaling, which dramatically reduces power consumption by adapting different levels of voltage and frequency when changing workloads.
The Exynos 4 Quad's S5M8767 companion chip is designed to scale up or down the processor's dynamic voltage, depending on the clock speed, in 6.25mV steps. As a result, processor power consumption is optimized to extend battery life to the maximum at the system level.
Other power savings benefits come into play whenever parallel processing and workload sharing among the new chip's four cores is required. According to Samsung, the Exynos 4 Quad is particularly well-suited for heavy-load applications such as 3D games, video editing, and calculation-intensive simulation -- activities which would otherwise drain battery life quickly.
"The quad-core processor offers phenomenal multitasking abilities surpassing any single or dual application processor," Kim said. "Since all the cores must share a single battery, the power management and efficiency in the limited battery capacity are indispensable for mobile computing devices."