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Huawei Kirin 980 First Look: Faster, Smarter, Better

The upcoming Huawei Mate 20 Series is set to be another leap forward in smartphone tech progression. To be officially announced on October 16, the Mate 20 flagship model has been brewing in the rumour mill a lot lately, with its purported triple rear camera setup the focus of all the buzz. The only non-rumour aspect of the phone is that it will be powered by the all-new Kirin 980 chipset and we got a little sneak peek of what it is capable of.

Last year’s Kirin 970 that powers the likes of the Mate 10 and P20 brings on-device artificial intelligence (AI) in smartphones to the fore, and the Kirin 980 further brings significant upgrades and improvements to the table with a series of firsts. It is the world’s first commercial 7nm SoC as well as the first with dual-NPU (neural processing unit) which has been three-years in the making from 2015. The 7nm process technology enables Kirin 980 to pack as much as 6.9 billion transistors, more than the 5.5 billion transistors on the 10nm Kirin 970. This translates to an all-round 75% increase in performance and 58% increase in power efficiency over its predecessor.

Compared to its peer – the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 powering most, if not all flagship-level Android phones, Kirin 980’s performance is up by 37% while power efficiency is 32% higher. In real-world usage, apps will open noticeably faster when compared side-by-side. Meanwhile in the connectivity department, Kirin 980 has 20% more bandwidth while 22% lower latency than Snapdragon 845. What’s more, Huawei has integrated the world’s first modem supporting LTE Cat.21 with a peak download speed of 1.4Gbps, and it is also 5G-ready.

Kirin 980 will have a major impact in imaging too thanks to its new Dual ISP (image signal processor) which promises 46% increase in camera processing speed, 23% increase in recording power efficiency and 33% recording latency improvement. Huawei’s chipset is capable of recognising 4,500 images per minute at the speed of 6 seconds per 500 images, almost doubles that of Snapdragon 845 on the Samsung Galaxy S9 at around 2,371 images (12 seconds per 500 images) while Apple’s A11 Bionic chipset on the iPhone X manages to record 1,458 images (25 seconds per 500 images) in the same time frame. Comparison of pictures taken by a phone fitted with Kirin 980 and one with Snapdragon 845 shows Kirin 980 producing much sharper details and accurate colors.

A live demo was shown during the briefing to show the Kirin 980’s prowess in gaming performance. Running NBA2K18, Kirin 980 was able to maintain a solid 59-60fps (frames-per-second) throughout its entire runtime, which is definitely impressive for a graphically-heavy 3D mobile game with console-quality graphics.

While all of these are impressive-sounding numbers, consumers would have to wait till they get their hands on the Mate 20 to truly feel the power and efficiency the Kirin 980 brings. That will probably come in November/December the earliest.

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