Samsung has launched a new quad-core, 32nm HKMG processor today that it intends to showcase as part of the Galaxy S3, which will be officially launched next week. The new chip contains up to four Cortex-A9 cores running at 1.4GHz. It’s the first Exynos to utilize per-core scaling and voltage adjustments — previous devices, including Nvidia’s own Tegra 3, have eschewed individual core clock-gating (NV has claimed this actually reduced power by avoiding the need to implement power-hungry traces and gates).
According to Samsung, the new quad chip is capable of higher performance and lower power consumption than any of its 45nm cousins; the company hasn’t stated what GPU powers the device but its rumored to be a quad-core version of the Mali-400 that was used in the Galaxy S2.
Whether or not customers will be able to make effective use of a quad-core device, or whether we’ll see the Exynos 4412 squeezing into phones instead of tablets remain open questions. The shift to 32nm and the addition of clock gating and independent voltages should give the 4412 a power profile similar to Samsung’s older dual cores. Software optimizations remain an open question — if code isn’t written properly, the extra cores simply won’t be used enough to make a significant difference.
Samsung isn’t giving much detail in the way of ancillary specs, but the company has demoed a video of the 4412 powering a WQXGA (2560×1600) display (embedded below). That’s significantly higher than the iPad 3′s 2048×1536 and could be interpreted as a sign that the company plans to outspec the iPad with upcoming new tablets of its own. Candidly, we’re not sure that’s the best way to go about beating Apple. Many of the tablets that launched after the original iPad offered superior screen resolutions, WiFi speeds, 3D performance, or HSPA+ capabilities that Apple’s first-gen tablet lacked — and they all crashed and burned, nearly without exception. It’s been the low-cost Android tablets like the Kindle Fire that’ve gained the most traction with users, and they’ve done it by competing at significantly lower prices.
Texas Instruments is still on track to release an OMAP5 SoC later this year; that chip will be built around a dual-core Cortex-A15 chip also built on 32nm. We expect the Cortex-A9 quad-core will offer an overall performance boost compared to what Samsung currently has on the market, but those wanting to buy devices at the cutting-edge of the technology curve would be well advised to wait for A15 powered equipment — or grab a device powered by Qualcomm’s Krait SoC.
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