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posted by martyb on Monday November 04 2019, @10:12PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the further-development-would-cost-an-ARM-*and*-a-leg dept.

Samsung Confirms Custom CPU Development Cancellation

The fate of Samsung's custom CPU development efforts has been making the rounds of the rumour mill for almost a month, and now we finally have confirmation from Samsung that the company has stopped further development work on its custom Arm architecture CPU cores. This public confirmation comes via Samsung's HR department, which last week filled an obligatory notice letter with the Texas Workforce Commission, warning about upcoming layoffs of Samsung's Austin R&D Center CPU team and the impending termination of their custom CPU work.

The CPU project, said currently to be around 290 team members large, started off sometime in 2012 and has produced the custom ARMv8 CPU microarchitectures from the Exynos M1 in the Exynos 8890 up to the latest Exynos M5 in the upcoming Exynos 990.

Over the years, Samsung's custom CPU microarchitectures had a tough time in differentiating themselves from Arm's own Cortex designs, never being fully competitive in any one metric. The Exynos-M3 Meerkat cores employed in the Exynos 9810 (Galaxy S9), for example, ended up being more of a handicap to the SoC due to its poor energy efficiency. Even the CPU project itself had a rocky start, as originally the custom microarchitecture was meant to power Samsung's custom Arm server SoCs before the design efforts were redirected towards mobile use.

See also:
Samsung Is Shutting Down Its Custom CPU Core Department; Will License ARM's Performance Cores for Future SoCs
Samsung Might Still Design Semi-Custom Cores; AMD-based GPU Nearing Commercialization
Samsung sadly sings of memory, all alone in the moonlight, as downturn slashes profits by 56%


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Related Stories

Samsung Announces Exynos 2200 SoC with AMD RDNA2 Graphics 5 comments

Samsung announces Exynos 2200 with AMD "Xclipse" GPU

Now, the Exynos 2200 is finally official. The headline feature is a new "Samsung Xclipse 920 GPU" that was co-developed by AMD. Samsung says the GPU uses AMD's RDNA 2 architecture, the same as AMD's Radeon desktop GPUs, and will bring "hardware-accelerated ray tracing" to mobile devices.

David Wang, the SVP of AMD's Radeon division, said, "Samsung's Xclipse GPU is the first result of multiple planned generations of AMD RDNA graphics in Exynos SoCs." Previous reports have indicated that Samsung isn't just eyeing smartphones but eventually wants to put together an Apple M1-fighting ARM laptop chip.

The CPU is about what you would expect from a 2022 ARM chip. The 4 nm SoC has one Cortex X2 CPU for single-threaded performance, three Cortex A710 cores, and four low-power Cortex A510 cores, just like Qualcomm's 2022 chip, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1. These are all new ARM v9 cores, with the X2 and little cores both being 64-bit only.

Despite finally announcing the Exynos 2200, Samsung's announcement does not put to bed any questions about a troubled development of the Exynos 2200. The press release and product site are both lacking many of the details that are typically disclosed at this point. For instance, Samsung has not made any performance claims about the Exynos 2200 CPU or GPU. If you read through the Exynos 2100 press release from this time last year, you'll see claims like 30 percent better CPU multi-core performance and 40 percent faster graphics.

Leaks have pointed to thermal issues with the Exynos 2200 which could potentially lead to lower performance than its main competitors: Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, MediaTek's Dimensity 9000, and Apple's A15.

Also at The Verge, SamMobile, and Bloomberg.

Related: Samsung Ends Development on Custom ARM Cores, Signals Layoffs at Austin, Texas R&D Center


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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 04 2019, @10:26PM (7 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 04 2019, @10:26PM (#915983)

    They didn't use them even in their own phones.

    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Monday November 04 2019, @10:33PM (1 child)

      by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Monday November 04 2019, @10:33PM (#915987) Journal

      That's what comes to mind, but apparently they do use Exynos in lower/mid range phones.

      But what about the most important phones?

      Samsung Galaxy S9 [wikipedia.org]
      Global: Exynos 9810
      USA/Canada/China/HK/Japan/Latin America: Qualcomm Snapdragon 845

      Samsung Galaxy S10 [wikipedia.org]
      Worldwide: Samsung Exynos 9 Series 9820
      USA, Canada, China, Japan and Latin America: Qualcomm Snapdragon 855

      Exynos is for the second class citizens.

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      • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 04 2019, @10:45PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 04 2019, @10:45PM (#915998)

        I bet patents have something (at least a little) to do with it. Qualcom's legal dept is no joke.

    • (Score: 2) by driverless on Tuesday November 05 2019, @03:39AM (4 children)

      by driverless (4770) on Tuesday November 05 2019, @03:39AM (#916109)

      I'm surprised no-one has mentioned RISC-V yet, surely that would solve all of Samsung's problems.

      Yeah, OK, I'm trolling. If a company the size of Samsung can't get an architecture that we've had decades of experience with working too well then what hope is there for a brand-new architecture that we have close to zero experience with? Still, felt I should drop in RISC-V before a True Believer did.

      • (Score: 2) by takyon on Tuesday November 05 2019, @03:58AM

        by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Tuesday November 05 2019, @03:58AM (#916116) Journal

        Sammy is going to use bog standard ARM cores but pair them with powerful AMD GPU cores.

        Actually, they could create "semi-custom" ARM cores which are not the same as "custom".

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      • (Score: 2) by driverless on Tuesday November 05 2019, @06:45AM (2 children)

        by driverless (4770) on Tuesday November 05 2019, @06:45AM (#916155)

        Just in case people missed this, I'll pull out this particular quote since it's especially relevant for RISC-V:

        Samsung confirmed the choice was based on business and competitive merits. A few years ago, Samsung had told us that custom CPU development was significantly more expensive than licensing Arm’s CPU IP. Indeed, it’s a very large investment to make in the face of having the up-hill battle of not only to designing a core matching Arm’s IP, but actually beating them.

        That's a multibillion dollar global technology corporation saying that, and even they can't make it work.

        • (Score: 2) by takyon on Tuesday November 05 2019, @06:46PM (1 child)

          by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Tuesday November 05 2019, @06:46PM (#916437) Journal

          Apple and Qualcomm seem to be making custom ARM work. Western Digital is pouring a lot of money into RISC-V (albeit not for performance cores).

          I like the patents explanation. Maybe Samsung just didn't have the ability to make something that much better than standard ARM cores without stepping into Qualc's line of fire. It also might have come down to their in-house fabrication technologies being worse than TSMC's (during certain years).

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          • (Score: 2) by driverless on Wednesday November 06 2019, @12:19AM

            by driverless (4770) on Wednesday November 06 2019, @12:19AM (#916621)

            Both of those are somewhat special cases. Apple, another multibillion-dollar corporation, does everything it can in-house no matter what the cost, and the CPU with all of its Apple-specific custom features is pretty much the crown jewels of the iEverything ecosystem. Qualcomm, yet another multibillion-dollar corporation, makes its living by selling Arm-based chipsets to half the planet (and litigating against the other half), so making sure theirs are better is a requirement to stay profitable. WD in contrast makes hard drives. Their SweRV core may end up buried inside some product internally, but the fact that they're open-sourcing all their IP around it indicates they're not viewing it as terribly strategic.

  • (Score: 2) by Snotnose on Tuesday November 05 2019, @01:10AM

    by Snotnose (1623) on Tuesday November 05 2019, @01:10AM (#916064)

    they didn't think their current group could meet, let alone beat, the Qualcomm silicon.

    Point your finger as you will, but when your team is getting beat in the marketplace it's time to polish up that resume

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