Huawei Kirin 980: what is the next-generation mobile processor capable of


Kirin 980 is the world’s first mobile processor manufactured using the 7-nm process technology. It was presented at IFA 2018, but now the processor runs on Huawei’s flagship smartphones. The manufacturer said that the novelty is capable.

At the IFA 2018 International Consumer Electronics Show, Huawei Consumer BG CEO Richard Yu introduced the new Kirin 980 mobile processor, the first commercial processor to be created using the 7-nanometer process developed by TSMC. Now the novelty is used in smartphones. We tell all the details about the processor.

Key features of the new Kirin 980 processor

The processor accommodates 6.9 billion transistors, which allowed to achieve a significant increase in productivity and energy efficiency compared to previous-generation devices.

For the first time, cores based on the ARM Cortex-A76 with a dominant clock frequency of up to 2.6 GHz were used in the processor . The designs of the Kirin central processor subsystem and flexible scheduling mechanism are optimized to achieve optimal energy efficiency with high computing power.

The Kirin 980 was also the first commercial processor with a Mali-G76 graphics module. Thanks to optimization technology and reduced power consumption, the Mali-G76 allows users to comfortably play demanding multi-player video games.

Kirin 980 supports the world’s fastest LPDDR4X RAM, which operates at frequencies up to 2133 MHz and is equipped with a dual neuro module. Dual NPU delivers high performance in AI processing and offers enhanced support for intelligent applications.

Another Kirin 980 feature is support for the LTE Cat.21 communication standard, which allows you to maintain a consistently high data transfer rate in the most difficult scenarios and environmental conditions. This standard provides record download speeds of up to 1.4 Gb / s.

Kirin 980 also uses Huawei’s ISP 4.0 image processing technology , which has 46% higher pixel bandwidth, which allows you to support more cameras, significantly reducing noise and improving color reproduction. All these features allow users to take clear photos and smooth videos in almost any environment. The HiAI ecosystem offers advanced features for developing intelligent applications and a convenient environment for developers.

Kirin 980 sets industry direction

The production technology of mobile processors directly affects their speed and energy consumption. The 10nm process is the most common today, and the Kirin 980 is the first commercial chip in the world to be manufactured using the latest 7nm process developed by TSMC. The new technology increases the density of transistors by 1.6 times, allowing you to increase the performance of the integrated circuit by 20% compared with the 10-nm process. At the same time, the energy efficiency of the new chip increased by 40%.

The improvement of processor manufacturing technology goes along with the sequential evolution of the chip design. Physically, a silicon semiconductor can be reduced to 7 nm before the electrons begin to flow uncontrollably from one gate to another. To come close to this 7-nm limit, the Kirin 980 had to overcome the limitations of existing semiconductor technology, as well as the three-dimensional resistance and capacitance of transistors.


Huawei developers began basic research on the new 7nm process three years ago. To effectively solve all the problems of mass production, the best industry experts were assembled for integrated circuits and system design. Due to the heterogeneous architecture of the converged system and optimization of CPU, GPU, NPU, ISP and DDR, the Kirin 980 contains 6.9 billion transistors on an area of ​​less than 1 cm2. Powerful CPUs, GPUs, DDRs, smart NPUs, high-quality ISPs and a fast modem provide the processor with high energy efficiency.

To guarantee smooth operation in various modes and conditions of use, the first 7-nm Kirin 980 chipset went through many tests aimed at checking performance and energy efficiency. A comprehensive check of all components gives the most reliable guarantees of stability and comfort for users of mobile devices.

High energy efficiency: CPU and Mali-G76

We use smartphones almost continuously, so they require smoothness, fast response and high speed. Not surprisingly, the main requirement for the new processors of mobile devices was to increase productivity.

Kirin 980 was the first mobile processor in the world, built on the basis of Cortex-A76 cores. Compared to the previous generation, Cortex-A76 cores have 75% higher performance and 58% higher energy efficiency. In addition, the Kirin processor’s CPU subsystem was developed based on the previous generation multi-core architecture.

In addition to adapting and optimizing terminal services in the CPU core, the scheduling algorithm and CPU bus were carefully designed to meet the high expectations and user requirements for speed and battery life.

By the way, the first smartphone that runs on the Kirin 980 processor was the Huawei Mate 20 Pro – a review of the model . 

The Kirin processor’s CPU subsystem utilizes an intelligent flexible scheduling mechanism that forms a 3-tier energy-efficient architecture. It includes two super-large Cortex-A76 cores, two large Cortex-A76 cores, and four small Cortex-A55 cores.

Compared to the traditional big.LITTLE design, the 3-tier energy-efficient architecture provides more accurate level planning. This allows not only flexible adaptation of the processor to high, medium and low load, but also significantly reduces the overall power consumption in real mixed operation scenarios.

How does the Mali-G76 graphics module work?

The Kirin 980 is equipped with the Mali-G76 graphics module, which has 46% higher performance and 178% higher energy efficiency. The module supports the innovative technology of intelligent planning of modulation clock frequency developed by Huawei. This mechanism predicts the load on the processor, real-time analyzing the frame rate, smoothness of the image and data coming from the touch screen.

Scheduling technology increases the accuracy of predicting the load generated by each frame by 30% compared to traditional forecasting methods, especially in game scenarios. This allows you to effectively increase the average frame rate and significantly reduce the effect of jitter and freezing during games.

As an example, consider the resource-intensive 3D game NBA2K18, which has a maximum frame rate of 60 fps. The new Kirin 980 processor provides almost maximum performance on it, which provides a high level of comfort for mobile gamers, significantly exceeding the average market values.

Advanced Image Stabilizer 

As one of the key features of modern smartphones, photography is always in the focus of attention of Kirin processor developers. To ensure high quality images, Kirin 980 uses a proprietary fourth-generation image processing processor (ISP) that supports multi-camera configurations. Its pixel bandwidth is 46% higher than the previous generation.

Color rendering and halftone can now be adjusted by zone, in addition, the processor is equipped with a new color reproduction function in HDR mode, which is able to control the contrast of the image by highlighting objects in different parts of the frame.

The Kirin 980 supports advanced multi-channel noise reduction technology that significantly reduces noise when shooting in low light and night mode to create clean, detailed shots. Another new ISP feature is motion tracking.

For shooting moving objects, the accuracy of autofocus was significantly increased, and the percentage of successful responses of the face detection and recognition system increased to 97.4%. Also, the Kirin 980 uses a completely new video processing chain that reduces processing delay by 33%.

Intelligent Kirin 980 processor features 

The first processor equipped with artificial intelligence technologies – Kirin 970, introduced in 2017, opened the possibility of local artificial intelligence for users. Today, the Kirin 980 offers an even more powerful and functional toolbox for processing applications using artificial intelligence technologies.

Due to its dual neuromodule and high computing power, the Kirin 980 supports intelligent recognition of faces, objects, image segmentation, real-time translation and other functions that are executed directly on a mobile device.


With the help of deep neural networks, this processor is capable of performing a wide variety of actions in real time, providing users with high comfort and intuitiveness in everyday tasks. The Kirin 980 recognizes 4,500 images per minute, which is 120% faster than the Kirin 970.

Due to the high frame rate (up to 30 fps) and the ability to recognize the poses of several people in a frame, Kirin 980 allows you to get clear and vivid pictures of dancing people or sprinters at a distance, drawing joints and lines in real-time. 2019

Kirin 980 supports common AI platforms such as Caffe, TensorFlow, and TensorFlow Lite. It has high compatibility with deep learning systems and provides a whole set of full-fledged compilation tools, including offline compilation, online compilation and 8-bit quantization.

All this significantly reduces the engineering complexity of the local deployment model and the use of the industry’s largest computing ability by taking advantage of the neural computing module. In addition, the processor supports heterogeneous computing on CPUs, GPUs, NPUs, and DSPs, making it easy to automatically plan deep learning algorithms.

Thanks to artificial intelligence, support for frameworks and a large set of compilation tools, Kirin 980 offers developers of smart applications ample opportunities for research and innovation.

Reliable connectivity and Internet speeds of up to 1.4 Gb / s 

As smartphone users spend more and more time in applications and games, and use a wide variety of services, from contactless payment of purchases to navigation and search on the Internet, their life is increasingly dependent on the speed and stability of wireless communications. The new Kirin 980 processor has improved communication features of the 4G standard.

Kirin 980 received support for the LTE Cat.21 standard. In addition to download speeds of up to 1.4 Gb / s, it is able to flexibly use combinations of frequency ranges of various telecom operators. This allows users to guarantee high speed data transfer in any network around the world.

The developers of the Kirin processor took into account the requirements of real-time online applications, such as resource-intensive multiplayer games, which are highly dependent on the quality of communication with data networks. Engineers were able to achieve a stable and smooth gameplay in the most difficult conditions – for example, in high-speed trains, in the subway, on highways and in crowded spaces.

For testing the processor, more than 100 experienced players were involved, who tested the devices for more than 30,000 hours in the 50 largest cities in the world, identifying possible problems associated with mobile networks. As a result of this test, the Kirin 980 underwent additional optimization, which reduced the number of lags and friezes in order to guarantee maximum comfort for mobile gaming fans around the world.

In addition, the Kirin 980 was equipped with the world’s fastest mobile Wi-Fi Hi1103 chip, supporting a frequency of 160 MHz. The theoretical peak download speed of this combination is 1.7 Gbit / s, which is 1.7 times higher than the industry average last year. This allows users to get the maximum possible speed of access to the network in offices, at home and in public spaces.

Moreover, the Hi1103 chip supports industry-leading ultra-precise dual-frequency L1 + L5 GPS positioning. The L5 frequency range increases positioning accuracy by a factor of 10, making it possible to determine location with high reliability in difficult urban conditions and on high freeways.

HiAI 2.0 Intelligent Ecosystem 

In 2017, Huawei introduced the HiAI mobile platform and made it available to application developers and partners. Since then, the company has been successfully collaborating with experts from around the world, working on the creation of a package of intelligent applications that will bring the beginning of the era of artificial intelligence.

After a breakthrough in the speed of local artificial intelligence, Huawei officially launches the HiAI 2.0 ecosystem, offering higher computing power for artificial intelligence applications and more convenient interfaces, operators and easy-to-use SDKs for developers. All this significantly shortens the cycle of creating intelligent applications and increases the efficiency of development and integration.

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