Samsung hurls 2GHz chip at Nvidia's tablet push
Latest Exynos processor optimized to drive cutting edge displays and gaming, targeting high end tablet space
Published: 1 December, 2011
Samsung Electronics is chasing Nvidia and others into the high end tablet space with the latest processor in its Exynos family. The 5250 will be a 2GHz chip with heavy focus on heavy duty graphics to challenge Nvidia's Tegra 3 and Qualcomm's new Snapdragons.
The dual-core offering is based on the latest ARM core, the Cortex-A15, and is "designed specifically for high end tablets," according to the vendor's statement. The processor almost doubles the performance of the current top end Exynos, a 1.5GHz dual-core device based on Cortex-A9. The faster clock is one factor in the 5250's hike, but also leading edge manufacturing processes - Samsung is using 32-nanometer high-k metal gate technology.
It is likely to be the first commercial 2GHz system-on-chip in the mobile space. By contrast, Tegra 3 has four cores (plus a fifth low power 'companion' to save energy during routine tasks) but these are Cortex-A9s clocked at 1.3GHz in multicore mode and 1.4GHz in single-core. Texas Instruments also plans to be an early adopter of the latest ARM design in its OMAP family.
Nvidia and Qualcomm tend to talk up the horsepower of their tablet chips, especially for driving processor-intensive games - they are even creating separate sets of games specifically optimized for their silicon. By contrast, Samsung's main pitch in the gaming sector is Exynos's ability to power cutting edge displays, which highlights the increasing cooperation between the Korean giant's various businesses to achieve a complete tablet for advanced device form factors. Samsung says: "In particular, the Exynos 5250 design was architected to drive up to an industry leading 2560x1600 (WQXGA) display...The 3D graphics processing capabilities and a stereoscopic 3D feature raise the bar of user experience on high specification 3D gaming."
Of course, a system which allows breakthroughs in processors and displays to feed off one another will benefit Samsung's own mobile unit and its Galaxy Tab range, which is struggling to seize market share from the iPad. Models with ultra-high resolution screens and even 3D are expected in the spring to up the ante against Apple and shake off accusations of design copying.
Other features of the 5250 include increased memory bandwidth of 12.8Gbps, doubling the current peak of 6.4Gbps for dual-core processors, and again, this is primarily geared to better graphics display. "This memory bandwidth is a key requirement for a processor to support WQXGA resolution displays," said the vendor. It has also added an image signal processor enabling 8-megapixel images at 30 frames per second, an HD video hardware codec engine, HDMI 1.4 interface for connecting to home media devices, and support for USB 3.0. The chip is now sampling and will be in mass production in the second quarter next year.