Samsung Galaxy Note 3 likely to have new Samsung Exynos 5 Octa chip

Galaxy S4 may also get high-performance eight-core processor

11 Jan 2013
Samsung Galaxy Note

Samsung has announced a new system-on-chip processor for high-end smartphones and tablets, the Exynos 5 Octa, which could be due to appear in the upcoming Galaxy Note 3.

The successor to Samsung's popular Galaxy Note 2 'phablet,' earlier rumours had suggested that the device is likely to launch with a large 6.5in Full HD AMOLED display complete with both multi-touch and stylus-based input, a common theme of the Galaxy Note family that helps distinguish the half-phone half-tablet devices from the rest of Samsung's Galaxy line. Thus far, however, no hints had been given about the specifications of the device.

That changed when Samsung announced to the world the launch of the Exynos 5 Octa, a new processor for smartphones and tablets which packs eight processing cores into the space where only four were previously available. Designed as a replacement for the Eyxnos 4 Quad chip powering the Samsung Galaxy S2 and Galaxy Note 2 devices, and an upgrade to the Exynos 5 Dual found in the Samsung-manufactured but Google-branded Nexus 10 tablet, the Exynos 5 Octa promises significant gains in performance and power usage.

Designed around a concept from British chip giant ARM dubbed big.LITTLE, the Exynos 5 Octa combines a quad-core next-generation 28nm 1.8GHz ARM Cortex-A15 processor - an upgrade to the 1.6GHz Cortex-A9 chip found in the Galaxy S3 and the 1.7GHz dual-core Cortex-A15 chip in the Nexus 10 - with a secondary quad-core Cortex-A9 processor running at 1.2GHz. The idea, Samsung explains, is that when the phone or tablet is doing lightweight work - playing music, making a call, browsing the internet - the more powerful Cortex-A15 cores can be completely disabled and the Cortex-A9 cores used instead. The result, Samsung claims, is an improvement in power efficiency of around 70 per cent compared to the Exynos 4 Quad in the Galaxy S3.

For more demanding applications - 3D gaming, for example - the high-speed Cortex-A15 cores can spin up fully, while the Cortex-A9 cores can work on background tasks like managing the modem in a phone or handling notifications on a tablet.

It's not the first time such low-power secondary cores have been used: Nvidia's Tegra 3 and recently-launched Tegra 4 chips feature a fifth companion core alongside four high-performance cores, but Samsung's eight-core design goes significantly further.

Samsung has yet to confirm which devices will get the Exynos 5 Octa - but with the Eyxnos 4 Quad appearing in the Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note 2, it seems more than likely that the Octa will launch in the Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note 3.

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