Huawei’s next generation mobile processor, Kirin 980, launched at IFA 2018

Chinese company Huawei has over the last few years used the IFA, the annual consumer electronics trade show hosted in Berlin, Germany, to show to the world the latest mobile processors from its subsidiary, HiSilicon, that can be expected to feature in its mobile devices over the next one year.

At this year’s IFA, things weren’t any different as Huawei Consumer Business Group CEO Richard Yu took the stage in Berlin to show the world the Kirin 980 last week.

The Kirin 980 arrives to the stage to take the place of the Kirin 970 which can be found in Huawei flagship devices from the last 12 or so months – in the Mate 10 and P20 families. In line with this, the new Kirin 980 can be expected to show up in upcoming Huawei flagship-class devices like the Mate 20 and, next year, the next generation of P series smartphones.

The Kirin 970’s legacy includes being the first in the world to incorporate an on-board NPU (neural processing unit) to enable the Artificial Intelligence smarts that Huawei has used for the recent past as a core feature of its premium smartphones, going all the way back to the launch of the Mate 9 2 years ago.

This year, the company is back with world firsts, again. The Kirin 980 is the first in the world to be a product of a 7nm (nanometer) process. Now, that “nanometer” shouldn’t scare you as it is simply a reference to the size of the transistors packed on the chipset, the less smaller transistors the higher the number of them that can be packed on a single chip and the higher the number of tasks that can be accomplished, and is often invoked to indicate a chipset’s superiority. On the Kirin 980, there are 6.9 billion transistors, an increase from the 5.5 billion that are packed in the Kirin 970.

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Huawei is promising performance improvements of up to 75% and power efficiency rise of up to 58% in the Kirin 980 when compared to the Kirin 970 it is replacing.

This is because the Kirin 980 chipset comprises three clusters in an octa-core configuration, (4 for that long endurance, 2 to make sure it performs at the top level even while using resources wisely and a further 2 for when the user cranks it up while doing demanding tasks like, say, playing Fortnite).

It also has two NPUs (the first in the industry) in order to be able to handle even more demanding on-device machine learning which is expected to be central to Huawei’s upcoming devices like the Mate 20 as it seeks to unseat Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9 at the head of the 2018 Android smartphone charts.

The Kirin 980 also has the world’s first 1.4Gbps LTE modem.

To complete the chipset is the first Mali-G76 GPU and that is to say, graphics, more so in gaming apps, should be well-taken care of in the next generation of Huawei mobile devices.

There are also a couple of other features that are “world firsts” as capture in the slide below during Yu’s presentation at IFA 2018.

Since the world is all about the transition to 5G, which if you don’t swallow the hype you’ll know is still a few years away from going mainstream, the Kirin 980 gives Huawei, a company that is expected to be a market leader in the upcoming mobile network standard, a headstart in that direction. The company reportedly plans to launch its first 5G device in 2019.

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