Samsung presented the system-on-chip (SoC) Exynos 2100 at the consumer electronics trade fair CES 2021, which is supposed to power the next generation of smartphones. Means: the mobile processor for the Galaxy S21. Eight CPU cores are used, but for the first time since 2016 in the high-end lineup, they were not developed in-house, but from ARM’s modular system. In addition, Samsung is integrating a 5G modem for sub-6 GHz cellular communications and mmWave, instead of using an extra chip.
The high-performance network consists of a wide Cortex-X1 core with 2.9 GHz clock frequency and three slightly narrower Cortex-A78 cores that accelerate to 2.8 GHz. There are still four Cortex-A55 for low-computing tasks, the Exynos 2100 with 2.2 GHz. An improved cache system for caching data and an optimized scheduler for task distribution further increase performance. Samsung specifically speaks of a 30 percent higher multithreading performance.
GPU from 2022 with AMD’s RDNA
For the graphics unit, Samsung is switching from a Mali-G77 GPU with 11 shader clusters to a Mali-G78 with 14 shader clusters. The mentioned performance increase of 40 percent compared to the predecessor Exynos 990 seems high. The integrated video decoder can handle the AV1 codec, which is being promoted by, among other things, YouTube – still a rarity on smartphones.
The Exynos 2100 could meanwhile be Samsung’s last smartphone processor with a standard GPU from architecture designer ARM: The license deal with AMD should bear fruit from 2022 – the next Exynos top model will appear with an RDNA GPU. Offshoots of the architecture are otherwise used in the desktop graphics cards of the Radeon RX 5000 and RX 6000 series.
5 nm technology
Samsung’s chip division (Samsung LSI) has the Exynos 2100 manufactured in the 5-nanometer process with extreme ultraviolet (EUV) exposure technology at the semiconductor sister company Samsung Semiconductor – Qualcomm’s competitor SoC Snapdragon 888 also comes off the production line in the same process. Interesting: the Cortex A55 and A78 cores in the Exynos 2100 clock almost 400 MHz higher than in the Snapdragon 800, so Samsung’s SoC should be faster on the CPU side. The clock frequencies could, however, have a negative effect on the efficiency and thus the battery life.
The usual improvements come with the AI accelerator, which recognizes image content, for example, and is used for post-processing of photos. The main image sensor can resolve up to 200 megapixels – which, given the pixel spacing, primarily helps in marketing. Smartphones with the Exynos 2100 can accommodate up to six cameras, four of which can be addressed by the SoC at the same time, for example for pictures in night mode.