Samsung wants to become the queen of SoCs for mobile devices: to succeed in its goal, and in fact undermine Qualcomm, it has entered into important partnerships with Arm and AMD, no less, to substantially improve the performance of the AP or Application Processor, or what we we normally call "the processor", and the GPU, which are just two of the components of a complete SoC (if you already know the difference between the terms, please skip the next paragraph).
The processor and GPU (Graphics Processing Unit), we said, are just two of the many components found in a SoC (system-on-chip) for smartphones or tablets: there are also cache memory chips, very often modems, DSPs, ISPs, AI coprocessors and much more. yet. A Snapdragon 865 or an Exynos 990 are SoCs, while the processors they contain are generally the union of several cores (usually 8) that often differ from each other in power and energy saving characteristics. For example, a Snapdragon 865 has a very high-power core to handle the most intensive tasks, a group of three other high-power cores for intermediate operations, and finally four less powerful cores that consume less for tasks that don't require too much power. . This is accompanied by GPUs, which are also generally multi-core.
We know that the Exynos 990 was not the SoC that Samsung hoped for, mainly because of the processor and the GPU: we have seen firsthand how the performance differences in the same smartphone with the Samsung and Qualcomm chip are clear and favor the latter. Apparently, this defeat served Samsung as a wake-up call that something was not working as it should: the company would come to the conclusion that it was unable to compete at the levels it would like – not by itself, at least. The stop to the development of proprietary chips would have already happened last year, and the first immediately tangible consequence is that the Galaxy Note 20 family in Europe has received exactly the same SoC, not even a revised version – an Exynos 992 was rumored.
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So Samsung would have asked Arm (which, incidentally, is in the process of changing owners these days) and AMD for a hand. Arm is expected to work with Samsung on the development of a custom solution based on the Cortex-X program, announced this spring, while AMD is expected to help in the development of a more powerful GPU, capable of fighting on equal terms with Qualcomm's Adrenos.
The year of the great challenge – and the revenge for Samsung – is 2021. Huawei, with its HiSilicon, is in all likelihood out of the game due to the American sanctions that prevent it from doing business with TSMC and other foundries of the caliber. only: the Chinese government has promised important incentives to national foundries to become more competitive, with very ambitious goals – by 2020 it wants to produce at least 40% of the semiconductors it will need at home, by 2025 it wants to even rise to 70% – but it is difficult to imagine that they will be able to fill the gap with the best in the world (TSMC, in fact, and Samsung, in fact) in a short time.
So is there still a two-way race with Qualcomm, which is already strong in the best mobile GPU line on the market and will most likely also take advantage of the Cortex-X program? Not really: Mediatek also has its ambitions. In particular, the company aims to invade the global market with its 5G SoCs of the Dimensity family, which for now have only been made available in China. It is true that in terms of pure power they lag a little behind, but they have an excellent 5G modem and a much higher quality / price ratio. This is not a detail to be overlooked: it is said that, also due to the new generation network, the prices of top-of-the-range chips are continuing to rise. So much so that some producers, such as Google, are even deciding to do without it.