Today Samsung LSI announced the new Exynos 1080 SoC, a successor to last year’s Exynos 980. This year’s 1080 is seemingly positioned a little above the 980 in terms of performance as we’re seeing some quite notable gains in features compared to the 980. It’s to be remembered that this is a “premium” SoC, meaning it’s not a flagship SoC, but it’s also not quite a mid-range SoC, fitting itself in-between those two categories, a niche which has become quite popular over the last 1-2 years.

The new SoC is defined by having a new 1+3+4 CPU configuration, as reasonably large GPU, and full 5G connectivity integrated, and is the first publicly announced SoC to be manufactured on Samsung’s new 5LPE process node.

Samsung Exynos SoCs Specifications
SoC Exynos 980 Exynos 1080
CPU 2x Cortex-A77 @ 2.2GHz
+ 6x Cortex-A55 @ 1.8GHz
1x Cortex-A78 @ 2.8GHz
+ 3x Cortex-A78 @ 2.6GHz
+ 4x Cortex-A55 @ 2.0GHz
GPU Mali G76MP5 Mali G78MP10
NPU Integrated NPU + DSP
5.7TOPS
Memory
Controller
LPDDR4X LPDDR4X / LPDDR5
Media 10bit 4K120 encode & decode
H.265/HEVC, H.264, VP9
10bit 4K60 encode & decode
H.265/HEVC, H.264, VP9
Modem Shannon Integrated 

(LTE Category 16/18)
DL = 1000 Mbps
5x20MHz CA, 256-QAM
UL = 200 Mbps
2x20MHz CA, 256-QAM

(5G NR Sub-6)
DL = 2550 Mbps
UL = 1280 Mbps
Shannon Integrated

(LTE Category 16/18)
DL = 1000 Mbps
5x20MHz CA, 256-QAM
UL = 200 Mbps
2x20MHz CA, 256-QAM

(5G NR Sub-6)
DL = 5100 Mbps
UL = 1280 Mbps


(5G NR mmWave)
DL = 3670 Mbps
UL = 3670 Mbps
WiFi Integrated 802.11ax (WiFi 6) Integrated 802.11ax (WiFi 6)
ISP Main: 108MP
Dual: 20MP+20MP
Main: 200MP
Dual: 32MP+32MP
Mfc.
Process
Samsung
8nm LPP
Samsung
5nm LPE

On the CPU side of things, this is the first time we’ve seen Samsung adopt a 1+3+4 CPU configuration, now adopting the Cortex-A78 architecture on the part of the performance cores. One core is clocked at 2.8GHz while the three others are running at 2.6GHz. Qualcomm had first introduced such a setup and it seems it’s become quite popular as it gives the benefit of both performance and power efficiency. The four big cores are accompanied by four Cortex-A55 cores at 2.0GHz.

On the GPU side of things, we’re seeing a quite large jump compared to the Exynos 980 as Samsung is now not only moving onto the new Mali-G78 microarchitecture, but is deploying double the number of cores. It’s possible that previous performance of these “premium” tier SoCs wasn't as well received as there was a large gap in performance compared to their flagship SoC counterparts, so Samsung employing a much larger GPU here is quite welcome, and still leaves room for a much larger configuration for their flagship SoC, which has yet to be announced.

Samsung now also includes a new generation NPU and DSP in the design, and quoted machine-learning inference power of 5.7TOPs which is again quite a sweet-spot for such an SoC.

The new modem now is capable of both 5G NR Sub-6 frequencies as well mmWave, something which was lacking in the Exynos 980. Samsung’s decision to deploy mmWave here is interesting given that outside of the US there’s very little deployment in terms of network coverage as sub-6GHz is being prioritised. Samsung adding this in in what’s supposed to be a more cost-effective SoC means that they’re actually expecting it to be used, which is going to be very interesting.

Multi-media wise, the specifications listed for the SoC show that it actually cut down on the MFC (Multi-Function Codec) decoder and encoder capabilities as it’s now only capable of 4K60 instead of 4K120 in the last generation – maybe a further cost optimisation.

The camera ISP capabilities have been improved, supporting now single camera sensors up to 200MP, and dual-sensor operation up to 32+32MP.

The most exciting thing about the SoC is its transition from an 8LPP DUV process to the new 5LPE EUV process. This is Samsung LSI’s and Samsung Foundry’s first announced 5nm chip which is going to garner a lot of attention when it comes to comparisons made against competitor SoCs on TSMC’s 5nm node. I do expect the Samsung process to be less dense, but we’ll have to wait out and see the actual performance and power differences between the two nodes.

Last year I had noted that the Exynos 980 looked like an extremely well balanced SoC and we did see it employed by third-party vendors such as VIVO, as well as more Samsung Mobile devices. The new Exynos 1080 look to be even stronger and solid in terms reaching a balance between performance and features and still trying to optimise things for cost.

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  • SarahKerrigan - Thursday, November 12, 2020 - link

    Quite a substantial core configuration for a midrange processor. Reply
  • Santoval - Saturday, November 14, 2020 - link

    More accurately "upper midrange". Though I'm very curious to see how Samsung's flagship SoC will differ. Will they just use cherry-binned variants of the same dies with slightly faster A78 clocks (e.g. 1 core with 3 GHz and 3 cores with 2.8 GHz) and perhaps an iGPU with 12 or 14 cores (Mali G78 supports up to 24 cores) that have potentially been disabled in this variant for yield reasons? Reply
  • Santoval - Saturday, November 14, 2020 - link

    p.s. One other option might be to use a Cortex-X1 core for the single "biggest" core (with 3 or 4 A78 cores clocked at 2.8 GHz), though that would be a different design and thus quite more costly. Reply
  • Silver5urfer - Thursday, November 12, 2020 - link

    So that means there will be another SoC for the Samsung top SKU ? If I ever own a Samsung I would only get Exynos because of one reason - Bootloader unlock for NA market. And they announced partnership with AMD right, for the RDNA2, not sure when will we be able to see it materialized. Reply
  • SarahKerrigan - Thursday, November 12, 2020 - link

    I think it's likely the top SKU will have an Exynos with at least one Cortex-X1. Reply
  • Fulljack - Thursday, November 12, 2020 - link

    Last year flagship was Exynos 990. This is Exynos 1080 meant to replace last year's Exynos 980. Arm has stated that they are in partnership with Samsung to deliver Cortex-X1 core in their product with Arm's CXC program. So, expect another announcement later about Exynos 1090 for Samsung's 2021 flagship. Reply
  • yeeeeman - Thursday, November 12, 2020 - link

    And what exactly do you expect to be so special about rdna 2 gpu? Do you think it will beat established mobile vendors in efficiency? I seriously doubt it so I don't understand why people keep harping on it. Other than a curiosity of how it will fare I don't see anything interesting about it. Reply
  • nandnandnand - Thursday, November 12, 2020 - link

    There are some supposed leaked benchmarks of Exynos/RDNA2 showing it trashing Qualcomm Adreno. That has fed into the hype. Other than that, maybe there will be some benefits to having RDNA2+ across desktop/laptop, consoles, and smartphones.

    The real game changer will be when monolithic 3D chips start appearing in smartphones and everything else. 5-10 years from now.
    Reply
  • Diogene7 - Friday, November 13, 2020 - link

    I agree monolithic 3D chips using carbon nanotubes combined with Persistent Memory based on spintronics (MRAM) and/or Nantero carbon nanotube NRAM has the potential to be very disruptive, but unfortunately without Elon Musk style investment, I would think it will appear only somewhere between 2027 - 2035 timeframe :(... Reply
  • Santoval - Saturday, November 14, 2020 - link

    Not sure about NRAM but STT-MRAM has already been used in some products. Still only in small sizes though (up to 256 MB), probably because the latency of STT-MRAM deteriorates fast as it gets bigger (just like SRAM). At very small sizes it is at least as fast as 6T-SRAM, but it is of course persistent and also quite denser, thus takes quite less die space. At larger sizes it has a latency similar to DRAM. Reply

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