On August 31, Huawei will officially release the Kirin 980 processor at the IFA conference in Berlin, Germany, and this will be the world‘s first mobile terminal chip using 7nm process. Thanks to the advanced process technology, Kirin 980 will be improved in quality regardless of processing speed or operating power consumption.
On the CPU, the new architecture Cortex-A76 will be adopted. The A76 can improve performance by 35% compared with the 10nm A75 architecture, reduce power consumption by 40%, and increase the learning speed of the machine by four times.
On the GPU, Huawei will officially enable the GPU architecture developed by Huawei for many years. The theoretical performance will be 1.5 times that of the Qualcomm Snapper 845 Adreno 630 GPU architecture. It will also add the second-generation GPU Turbo technology to truly solve the Kirin series processor. This big problem of “GPU is not good“.
In addition, Huawei will also bring a new NPU independent unit, which means that the machine’s AI strength and intelligent recognition capability will be greatly improved, and continue to expand its advantages with other competitors in processor AIE technology.
There is no doubt that the advent of Kirin 980 will be a “big step” in the development of domestic chips, but as far as the overall situation is concerned, the road to research and development of “China Core” is still difficult.
“Doing chips, no money can’t be”
According to data previously published on the Semiengingeering website, the cost of developing chips at the 28nm node is only $51.3 million; when it is developed on a 16nm node, the cost is almost doubled to $106.3 million; and to the 10nm process chip At the time of R&D, R&D expenses reached $174 million. According to this calculation, the cost of developing a 7nm process chip will be around US$300 million. In the next generation of the more advanced 5nm process technology, R&D expenses will surge to US$554 million.
However, these huge expenses are only the cost of chip IP authorization, architecture, verification, etc., and do not include the cost of fab construction investment to ensure capacity. According to the front-end product, the investment cost of fab construction for the production of 3nm process chips in the future may reach 20 billion US dollars.
The development cost of hundreds of millions of dollars is one of the biggest problems in the development of “China Core”. After all, there are only a handful of domestic manufacturers that can make such a large sum of money.
“Being a chip, even if you have money, you may not be successful.”
The most typical example of this, Xiaomi is one, at least for now, Xiaomi did not succeed. In February 2017, Xiaomi’s first self-developed processor, the “Songuoyu S1”, was launched as an “earthquake” in the domestic mobile phone industry.
According to Xiaomi, the pine cone processor was secretly established in 2014. In October of that year, Songguo was officially established. By joining hands with Datang, it was able to skip the threshold of R&D processors, shorten the design cycle, and spend huge sums of money. The entire process from chip development to mass production was completed in 28 months. This experience, in the words of Lei Jun at the press conference, is “nine deaths.”
At that time, this theoretical CPU performance was comparable to that of Qualcomm Snapdragon 625, GPU surpassed Huawei Unicorn 655, and the overall performance exceeded the “pinecon S1″ of the mid-to-low-end processors on the market at the time, but it was affected by the backward 28nm process, which caused serious fever. All the performance can not be played out, the Xiaomi 5C equipped with this processor is completely “street” in sales.
It is not difficult to see that “process” is the most critical factor affecting the performance of the processor, and it is also the most demanding part of the R&D technology. Previously, MediaTek‘s “Power” processor did not solve the process technology and has been regulated by Qualcomm. At one point, today’s advanced process technology has been firmly grasped by Apple and Qualcomm, and it is also subject to technology, which has caused the pinecone S2 to disappear.
Therefore, the advent of Huawei Kirin 980 is certainly gratifying, but the “China Core” to develop independently is still a long way forward.