Samsung has been one of the world’s largest chip manufacturers for the past few years — although that’s primarily due to the company’s memory and storage chips rather than application processors.

But Samsung does make a lot of Exynos processors that power its smartphones, tablets, and other products. Up until now, these have included a combination of CPU cores licensed from ARM and custom cores developed in-house.

Now it looks like Samsung is going all-in on licensing its designs from ARM.

The Austin American Statesman reports that Samsung is laying off 290 people at an Austin R&D facility and according to industry analyst Patrick Moorhead, this the result of Samsung “shutting down its custom CPU core development.”

Samsung tends to use those custom CPU cores for its flagship smartphone chips — like the Exynos 9820 that powers Galaxy S10 smartphone models sold outside of the United States. That chip features:

  • 2 x 2.73 GHz Samsung Mongoose 4 higher-performance cores
  • 2 x 2.31 GHz ARM Cortex-75 high-performance cores
  • 4 x 1.95 GHz ARM Cortex-A55 energy-efficient cores

According to AnandTech’s in-depth Galaxy S10 review, the Exynos 9820 is a big improvement over Samsung’s previous-gen chip, and it’s competitive with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 processor.

But it’s unclear how much the company gains by developing custom CPU cores rather than licensing designs from ARM — so it’ll be interesting to see how the company’s next-gen chips stack up against the competition in the coming years.

It is possible that Samsung may have found at least one way to stand out — earlier this year the company announced it would be licensing graphics technology from AMD for use in upcoming chips including smartphone processors.

Samsung’s custom CPU cores will likely appear in at least one more processor. The recently announced Samsung Exynos 990 chip features two new Samsung Mongoose CPU cores, two Cortex-A76 cores, and four Cortex-A55 cores. it’s expected to support LPDDR5 memory, 120 Hz displays, and 108MP photography, among other things.

 

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3 Comments

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  1. I guess ARM is getting too good at making improvements to stock Cortex cores that it doesn’t make financial sense for Samsung to continue trying their own spin on things.

  2. I wanted to see their future Custom SoC, like a 2021 5nm Quadcore Mongoose M6 + Quadcore Cortex A58, running a ImaginationTechnologies PowerVR GPU. Maybe it can shake the competition against Apple.

    That plan is scrapped. Instead we’re going to see the Standard Cortex A78 + A58, and Mali-G78 chipset. A combination that will probably be emulated by Qualcomm and HiSilicon, and maybe even MediaTek.

    Whilst Intel moves forward with their new architecture, AMD improves Ryzen, and RISC-V gets more advanced each year. Losing competitors in the market isn’t a good thing, but this decision they made is probably business-wise.

  3. Not surprised. Could be that process nodes are slowing down or cost cutting… or both. Good news for Qualcomm.