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Kirin 970: Huawei chip has AI hardware and fastest LTE

Tuesday, September 5th, 2017 | Gadgets

Huawei presented the Kirin 970 at the Ifa 2017 in Berlin. The system-on-a-chip will be plugged into the Mate 10, but the smartphone will only appear in a few weeks. The SoC follows the Kirin 960 and is characterized by a number of outstanding innovations: integrated hardware for artificial intelligence, 10 nm manufacturing processes, the latest state-of-the-art ARM graphics unit and the most powerful LTE modem at present.

The chip is manufactured at the TSMC with 10 nm, the former was 16FCC (FinFet Compact) – according to Huawei the Die measures less than 100 instead of 110 mm². The number of transistors is 5.5 instead of the previous 4 billion. The CPU cores are the same as before (4x A73 @ 2.4 GHz and 4x A53 @ 1.8 GHz), since the Cortex A75 and the Cortex A55 were not yet ready. Efficiency is increasing by one-fifth, and the performance is likely to be low. The cores hang on an interconnect of ARM, probably a CCI-550.
The graphics unit is new: Instead of a Mali-G71-MP8, there is a Mali-G72-MP12, which is 50 percent more data cores. The G72 has a revised pipeline design, which saves a lot of the surface area. Although the new GPU clocks lower (well below 1 GHz rather than slightly), thanks to more shaders it is 20 percent faster and 50 percent more efficient. The 64-bit interface hangs LPDDR4X-1833, the Kirin 960 supports UFS 2.1 for storage.

    Overview of Kirin 970 (Photo: Marc Sauter / Golem.de)

New is the integrated NPU (Neural Processing Unit). It creates 1.92 teraflops with half precision (FP16) and is designed for inferencing. The NPU can perform various tasks based on a trained neural network, such as analyzing photos. Other chips use the CPU cores as well as the DSP plus the graphics unit and are nevertheless slower and far less efficient. With Caffe, Caffe 2, Tensorflow and Tensorflow Lite, Huawei supports the common frameworks.
According to the manufacturer, the chip needs only 30 milliwatts for AI calculations, while the SoC is usually at 25 milliwatts with a peak power consumption of 1 watts in normal operation. The NPU can not be switched off (Power Gating) other than the GPU. Huawei sees in addition to better photos, among other things, the thread distribution on the CPU cores in favor of a longer battery life, for speech recognition or for virtual reality with Google's Daydream. In general, Huawei would like to encourage app developers to use the local AI hardware rather than the cloud.
Huawei has the currently fastest LTE modem
In the Kirin 970 is no Bluetooth, but a fast LTE modem: With Cat18 / Cat13, it even breaks Qualcomms X16 in the Snapdragon 835. It reaches 1.2 Gbps downstream and 150 Mbps upstream by 4×4 MIMO plus fivefold Carrier aggre- gation for twelve streams as well as 256QAM. Other improvements include an improved 14-bit dual ISP for photos and a dedicated media engine that decodes 4K60 and encodes 4K30 – with HEVC (H.265) and HDR10, of course. Ergo 4K-60-Hz panels are supported.
The new chip is used for smartphones and tablets, integration into smart TVs or licensing to other manufacturers will not be. For the beginning of 2018, Huawei plans a developer board with the Kirin 970, a prototype of which was already exhibited at the Ifa 2017 for demos.


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