Huawei has announced their brand new Kirin 960 CPU, replacing last year’s Kirin 950. Normally these processor announcements are ho-hum and don’t amount to much more than “it’s faster and better than what we had before” but the Kirin 960 is making the jump to a new architecture with four A73 cores.
If you keep up with CPU specifics, you probably know that most high-end processors use big.LITTLE configurations that have four powerful cores and four energy efficient cores that handle different tasks, depending on what the phone needs at the time. They’ve all also used ARM’s Cortex A72 cores for the fast side and Cortex A53 cores for the efficient side.
The Kirin 960 will use ARM’s newer Cortex A73 cores, marking an evolution of architecture on the faster cores to a smaller and more efficient design, which should be the first time we’ll see this in action in a consumer device.
Without digging too much into the nitty gritty details about that new core architecture, the Kirin 960 should see some significant performance improvements, including 10% faster single core speeds and 18% faster multi-core speeds, which brings the Kirin processor slightly ahead of the heavy hitters from Qualcomm and Samsung. The new ARM Mali-G71MP8 GPU will also offer an improvement in daily usage and gaming, especially since it takes advantage of Vulkan’s efficiency.
But outside of the usual improvements, Huawei has done a few things to make the CPU more attractive for other smartphone OEMs, including building their own CDMA modem solution right into the Kirin 960. Most of the world uses GSM, but by being able to offer a homegrown CDMA modem they’ll be able to expand the Kirin line to phones that are offered in China and the US where CDMA is still commonly used. Don’t expect to see a Kirin phone launch next week, but it’s definitely something to keep an eye on next year.
The Kirin 960 will also support new camera features such as 4k video recording and dual-camera systems, like what was offered in the Huawei P9 and Honor 8. Those devices had to use extra hardware for the second sensor, but newer phones will find everything they need right in the chip by itself.
We can likely expect the first batch of Kirin 960 phones to hit shelves over the next few months.