While the majority of premium Android phones use Qualcomm’s Snapdragon series CPUs to power their devices, Samsung is one manufacturer that offers a proprietary chip - the Exynos series.
These processors can usually be found powering Galaxy S series and Note series in areas except in the US and China due to a contract Samsung signed with Qualcomm. And for Samsung users around the world, there's a new Exynos CPU right around the corner.
Samsung has revealed its newest chip, the 7nm Exynos 990, at its Annual Tech Day (via Tech Radar and The Verge), as well as a new Exynos Modem, the 5123. These are most likely the chips we’ll see within the Galaxy S11 and Note 11, with the 5123 imbuing them with 5G compatibility.
This differs from the similarly named Kirin 990 CPU, which is built for Huawei and Honor phones by HiSilicon and contains a 5G modem within it. The processor Samsung announced before the 990, the Exynos 980, has 5G capabilities built in, but it doesn’t support mmWave 5G, while the new 5123 modem does.
Gaming and graphically intensive apps should look good on the Exynos 990, thanks to its use of the Mali-G77 GPU design. It also supports up to six cameras and a maximum resolution of 108MP, which happens to be the resolution of its ISOCELL Bright HMX sensor, revealed in August.
The Exynos 990 can also handle up to a 120Hz refresh rate, so hopefully we’ll see a smooth 90Hz display on a Samsung device in the near future, like OnePlus and Google have done with the 7T and 7 Pro or the Pixel 4 respectively.
The Exynos chip series may be in jeopardy however. Twitter-based leaker Ice Universe alleged at the beginning of October that Samsung was laying off all staff members at the Austin-based facility where Exynos is developed. These reports were not confirmed, and other accounts say the layoffs were confined to individual projects, not the entire staff.
It means in the worst-case scenario that this could be the last time we’ll see a Samsung smartphone powered by a Samsung-made CPU. This is not great for Samsung, but could be good news for consumers, since benchmarks indicate that the Snapdragon chips were far better than the equivalent Exynos chips. We will have to wait and see whether this trend will continue with the 990.