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Samsung Moves Exynos 5 Octa (5430) To 20 nm, Focuses On Reducing Power Consumption

Samsung is getting ready to put its Exynos 5 Octa chip (more specifically, the 5430 variation) on the 20 nm manufacturing process. The first device to get this chip will be the recently-announced Galaxy Alpha smartphone.

With a new manufacturing process, there are usually four ways a chip maker can go:

  1. it can increase performance as much as possible while keeping power consumption and die size the same as before;
  2. it can shrink the die size (to cut costs) while keeping the performance and power consumption the same as before (this one rarely happens);
  3. it can reduce power consumption as much as possible while keeping performance and die size the same as before;
  4. a combination of all three -- less power consumption, some increased performance, and possibly a die shrink, too -- although chip makers tend to keep the die size more or less the same after they've found the optimal size for a certain category of product.

Usually, chip makers go for the first option, but in this case, Samsung seems to have chosen the fourth option, with an emphasis on the power consumption reduction aspect. While reducing power demand by about 25 percent compared to the same chip on the 28 nm process, Samsung is only giving a slight 12.5 percent clock speed boost to its Mali-T628MP6 GPU (from 533 MHz to 600 MHz per core).

As for the CPU, Samsung seems to have knocked 100 MHz off its clock speed compared to the Exynos 5 Octa found in the Galaxy S5, but it's not clear yet whether that will result in a degradation in CPU performance. It's likely that Samsung has managed to optimize the CPU and/or the drivers a little more to get at least as much performance out of it as before.

The Exynos 5 Octa has had its share of driver issues in the past due to the difficulty of taking full advantage of the big.Little architecture and its 8-core Heterogeneous Multi-Processing, but if the engineers have figured out new ways to optimize the drivers, we could see a slight performance boost.

The Exynos 5430 includes a few new features, too, such as a dedicated Cortex A5 core used for audio decoding (called "Seiren"), a multi-format codec, h.265 hardware decoding (no VP9 decoding, though) and dual ISPs.

Since it didn't get a huge boost in graphics performance, its GPU only supports resolutions up to 2560 x 1600, while Tegra K1 and Adreno 420 can handle up to 4K. That doesn't necessarily mean that those chips will be powering 4K phone displays anytime soon, but it does mean that they may be more battery efficient at the 2560 x 1600 resolution.

We should see the Exynos 5430 in a few smartphones (starting with the Galaxy Alpha) in the next few months, especially if Samsung continues the slim-phone trend. Since the focus seems to be so much on reducing power consumption for the Exynos 5430 rather than increasing performance, and because Galaxy Alpha is the first one to get it, it is likely Samsung created this chip specifically for very slim smartphones.

The upcoming Exynos 5433, which should appear in the Galaxy Note 4, may focus more on performance and less on reducing power consumption, but that depends entirely on how thin they plan to make the device.

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Lucian Armasu
Lucian Armasu is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He covers software news and the issues surrounding privacy and security.