Samsung debuts new Exynos chips, questions linger on 64-bit plans

Samsung announces new Exynos six- and eight-core Exynos mobile chips

Samsung announced new 32-bit Exynos chips for smartphones and tablets with six- and eight-CPU cores, but left questions hanging on when the company will launch its first 64-bit chip.

The new chips were revealed after Samsung teased a new chip called Exynos Infinity in a Twitter campaign in the days leading up to the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona. Samsung launched the Galaxy S5 smartphone, which it initially announced with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, though the new Exynos eight-core chip will also be used, according to media reports.

Samsung's eight-core Exynos 5 Octa 5422 is targeted at "premium" smartphones and tablets, while the six-core Exynos 5 Hexa 5260 chip is designed for mid-range phones, the company said in a statement. The chips are based on the older ARM processor architectures called Cortex-A15 and A7, which are usually used in 32-bit mobile devices.

The new Exynos chips are not 64-bit, which keeps the company behind Apple, which caught device makers off guard by putting the first 64-bit A7 chip in the iPhone 5S in September last year. Intel and Qualcomm also launched 64-bit chips at MWC. No 64-bit smartphones outside the iPhone 5S have been announced, though handsets are expected to trickle into the market starting in the second quarter of this year.

Samsung in Twitter messages said the new chips help "innovation and performance come together," and accelerate "possibilities and discovery." Samsung also tried to drum up excitement around the chip by offering a Galaxy tablet as a prize in a contest for those who tweeted #ExynosInfinity.

Samsung's eight-core Exynos 5 Octa 5422 is similar in design to the Exynos 5 Octa 5410, an eight-core chip which was used in the recent Galaxy S4 smartphone, and another eight-core chip, the Exynos 5 Octa 5420, which was part of developer boards. The new chip is 34 percent faster than predecessors, Samsung said. It has four high-power cores for data intensive tasks, while the four low-power cores handle mundane tasks like phone calls, text messaging and music playback.

The Exynos 5 Hexa 5260 has six cores, broken up into two high-power CPUs running at up to 1.7GHz and four low-power CPUs. The chip is 42 percent faster than dual-core Exynos counterparts, the company said.

The new chips can support 2560 x 1440 pixel resolution displays, and is equipped with technology to reduce the power consumed by screens. The eight-core chip can support 16-megapixel cameras, and render 4K video when connected to external displays. The six-core chip is capable of 1080p video.

The chips have CPU cores based on ARM designs. The high-powered cores are based on the Cortex-A15 processor technology, while the low-power ones are based on Cortex-A7. The chips have an implementation of ARM's Big.Little technology, in which chips have an optimal balance of performance and power-saving features to extend the battery life of mobile devices.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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