Update 03/07/2023 03:53 PT:
Samsung has written to Tom's Hardware with a statement, aiming to clear up the situation regarding its CPU development teams and plans. "A recent media report that Samsung has established an internal team dedicated to CPU core development is not true," wrote a Samsung representative. "Contrary to the news, we have long had multiple internal teams responsible for CPU development and optimization, while constantly recruiting global talents from relevant fields."
Some interesting rumors have bubbled up in South Korea regarding ambitious new CPU architecture plans from Samsung. Pulse News cites multiple unnamed industry sources for information about Samsung’s plans to reduce its reliance on the Arm architecture. Initially, Samsung is purportedly going to speed up development of a next-gen ‘Galaxy Chip’. The medium-term goal is to transition its laptops and smartphones away from Arm to in-house CPU cores by 2027. A senior ex-AMD engineer is said to be the project team leader.
It is probably fair to describe Samsung’s processor design history as one that isn’t filled with glory. Despite its best efforts over recent years, Exynos processors have been unable to shake their reputation for running hot and not being as performant as Qualcomm’s similar-tier Snapdragon processors. The decision with the latest Galaxy S23 flagship launch to eschew Exynos in favor of Snapdragon was the clearest sign yet that Samsung was fully aware of the superiority of its rival.
Of course, Samsung isn’t happy playing second or third fiddle, so the serious business minds at the corporation have been plotting ways to turn their processor development fortunes around. Samsung reportedly gave up on the idea of internal CPU core development back in 2019, with the dismissal of 300 developers based at the Samsung Austin Research Center in Texas. However, since mid-2021 it has been hiring engineers from AMD and Apple to form a new custom architecture team. Pulse News notes, specifically, that a senior developer that was responsible for CPU development at AMD is now leading a team “dedicated to CPU core development.”
According to the sources, Samsung is aiming to use its own CPU cores for both smartphones and laptops. The first processors based upon this new research and development efforts are expected to arrive in 2025, and they will drop the Exynos branding, instead calling them ‘Galaxy Chip(s)’. However, these first Galaxy Chip products will still probably use CPU cores based on the Arm architecture. Pulse News sources indicate that Samsung will only be ready to roll out its own architecture CPU cores by 2027, if all goes to plan.
Designing a CPU core that doesn’t use the Arm architecture yet remains competitive would be quite a feat for Samsung. That isn’t the only hurdle it must successfully clear though, the issue of software compatibility would also need to be addressed. Also, like when Apple moved from Intel to Apple Silicon, it might need to support some kind of emulation layer, which slows architectural performance gains, to smooth the transition period.
If Samsung’s ‘own’ CPU designs aren’t an all-new architecture but instead use RISC-V cores, it could smooth some of the expected software issues. For example, Google already announced official support for RISC-V architecture processors earlier this year. Getting Microsoft’s Windows OS on the non-Arm and non=x86 notebook products would be another challenge.