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Just about a week after revealing its prototypical foldable smartphone to the world, Samsung unceremoniously took the wraps off its latest flagship system-on-chip: the Exynos 9820. The newest octa-core silicon in its 9 Series lineup packs an improved neural processing unit (NPU) for on-device artificial intelligence (AI) applications, a fourth-generation custom processor, and an LTE Advanced modem that’s capable of downlink speeds of up to 2.0-gigabits per second (Gbps).

“As AI-related services expand and their utilization diversifies in mobile devices, their processors require higher computational capabilities and efficiency,” said Ben Hur, vice president of System LSI marketing at Samsung Electronics. “The AI capabilities in the Exynos 9 Series 9820 will provide a new dimension of performance in smart devices through an integrated NPU, high-performance fourth-generation custom CPU core, 2.0Gbps LTE modem, and improved multimedia performance.”

According to Samsung, the Exynos 9820’s new “tri-cluster” architecture — consisting of two custom-designed cores, two high-performance ARM Cortex-A75 cores, and four energy-efficient Cortex-A55 cores — is designed on an 8-nanometer FinFET process and delivers a 15 percent multi-core performance boost when paired with the improved task scheduler. Single-core performance is 20 percent better than in the previous generation, meanwhile, and overall power efficiency is 40 percent improved.

Samsung claims the aforementioned NPU performs AI tasks around 7 times faster than the Exynos 9820’s predecessor. Notably, the Exynos 9820 is the first Samsung system-on-chip with a dedicated AI chip, following in the footsteps of Huawei’s Kirin NPU and Apple’s neural engine.

The Exynos 9820 is no slouch when it comes to graphics performance. The onboard Mali-G76 MP12 graphics processing unit (GPU) has wider execution engines with double the number of lanes, offering a 40 percent and 35 percent performance and power efficiency improvement, respectively, compared to the Exynos 9810.

The image signal processor (ISP) has also been upgraded. The Exynos 9820 supports up to five sensors — including an infrared sensor — and delivers faster autofocus. It can also juggle sensors up to 22 megapixels on the front and rear or 16-megapixel dual-camera setups, and it’s capable of high dynamic range (HDR) recording in 10-bit color and encoding and decoding 8K videos at 30 frames per second, or 4K videos at 150 frames per second.

On the connectivity side of the equation, the Exynos 9820 packs an LTE-Advanced Pro modem that supports LTE Category 20, offering downlink speeds of up to 2.0Gbps with 8 times carrier aggregation (CA) and an uplink speed of up to 316Mbps. That downlink speed is up from 9810’s maximum of 1.2Gbps, and it’s thanks in part to accoutrements like 4×4 Multiple-Input, Multiple-Output (MIMO), 256-QAM (Quadrature Amplitude Modulation), and Enhanced Licensed-Assisted Access (eLAA) technology.

Finally, like the Exynos 9180 before it, the Exynos 9820 has a security chip that stores and manages personal and biometric data (such as facial and fingerprint scans) in isolation.

Samsung says it expects the Exynos 9820 to be in mass production by the end of 2018.

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