Today Samsung LSI announced the new Exynos 1080 SoC, a successor to last year’s Exynos 980. This year’s 1080 is seemingly positioned a little above the 980 in terms of performance as we’re seeing some quite notable gains in features compared to the 980. It’s to be remembered that this is a “premium” SoC, meaning it’s not a flagship SoC, but it’s also not quite a mid-range SoC, fitting itself in-between those two categories, a niche which has become quite popular over the last 1-2 years.

The new SoC is defined by having a new 1+3+4 CPU configuration, as reasonably large GPU, and full 5G connectivity integrated, and is the first publicly announced SoC to be manufactured on Samsung’s new 5LPE process node.

Samsung Exynos SoCs Specifications
SoC Exynos 980 Exynos 1080
CPU 2x Cortex-A77 @ 2.2GHz
+ 6x Cortex-A55 @ 1.8GHz
1x Cortex-A78 @ 2.8GHz
+ 3x Cortex-A78 @ 2.6GHz
+ 4x Cortex-A55 @ 2.0GHz
GPU Mali G76MP5 Mali G78MP10
NPU Integrated NPU + DSP
Media 10bit 4K120 encode & decode
H.265/HEVC, H.264, VP9
10bit 4K60 encode & decode
H.265/HEVC, H.264, VP9
Modem Shannon Integrated 

(LTE Category 16/18)
DL = 1000 Mbps
5x20MHz CA, 256-QAM
UL = 200 Mbps
2x20MHz CA, 256-QAM

(5G NR Sub-6)
DL = 2550 Mbps
UL = 1280 Mbps
Shannon Integrated

(LTE Category 16/18)
DL = 1000 Mbps
5x20MHz CA, 256-QAM
UL = 200 Mbps
2x20MHz CA, 256-QAM

(5G NR Sub-6)
DL = 5100 Mbps
UL = 1280 Mbps

(5G NR mmWave)
DL = 3670 Mbps
UL = 3670 Mbps
WiFi Integrated 802.11ax (WiFi 6) Integrated 802.11ax (WiFi 6)
ISP Main: 108MP
Dual: 20MP+20MP
Main: 200MP
Dual: 32MP+32MP
8nm LPP
5nm LPE

On the CPU side of things, this is the first time we’ve seen Samsung adopt a 1+3+4 CPU configuration, now adopting the Cortex-A78 architecture on the part of the performance cores. One core is clocked at 2.8GHz while the three others are running at 2.6GHz. Qualcomm had first introduced such a setup and it seems it’s become quite popular as it gives the benefit of both performance and power efficiency. The four big cores are accompanied by four Cortex-A55 cores at 2.0GHz.

On the GPU side of things, we’re seeing a quite large jump compared to the Exynos 980 as Samsung is now not only moving onto the new Mali-G78 microarchitecture, but is deploying double the number of cores. It’s possible that previous performance of these “premium” tier SoCs wasn't as well received as there was a large gap in performance compared to their flagship SoC counterparts, so Samsung employing a much larger GPU here is quite welcome, and still leaves room for a much larger configuration for their flagship SoC, which has yet to be announced.

Samsung now also includes a new generation NPU and DSP in the design, and quoted machine-learning inference power of 5.7TOPs which is again quite a sweet-spot for such an SoC.

The new modem now is capable of both 5G NR Sub-6 frequencies as well mmWave, something which was lacking in the Exynos 980. Samsung’s decision to deploy mmWave here is interesting given that outside of the US there’s very little deployment in terms of network coverage as sub-6GHz is being prioritised. Samsung adding this in in what’s supposed to be a more cost-effective SoC means that they’re actually expecting it to be used, which is going to be very interesting.

Multi-media wise, the specifications listed for the SoC show that it actually cut down on the MFC (Multi-Function Codec) decoder and encoder capabilities as it’s now only capable of 4K60 instead of 4K120 in the last generation – maybe a further cost optimisation.

The camera ISP capabilities have been improved, supporting now single camera sensors up to 200MP, and dual-sensor operation up to 32+32MP.

The most exciting thing about the SoC is its transition from an 8LPP DUV process to the new 5LPE EUV process. This is Samsung LSI’s and Samsung Foundry’s first announced 5nm chip which is going to garner a lot of attention when it comes to comparisons made against competitor SoCs on TSMC’s 5nm node. I do expect the Samsung process to be less dense, but we’ll have to wait out and see the actual performance and power differences between the two nodes.

Last year I had noted that the Exynos 980 looked like an extremely well balanced SoC and we did see it employed by third-party vendors such as VIVO, as well as more Samsung Mobile devices. The new Exynos 1080 look to be even stronger and solid in terms reaching a balance between performance and features and still trying to optimise things for cost.

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  • Santoval - Saturday, November 14, 2020 - link

    Even 5, 10 or 40 years from now the heat management issue of 3D stacked chips will remain. Lakefield barely managed to work without active cooling between the dies despite having a mere 7W of TDP. As AnandTech's review showed its "big" Sunny Cove core is only used in short bursts for "quick responsiveness", not for sustained single threaded code execution. Why? Because with passive cooling its thermal load cannot be handled.

    3D chips, particularly with TDPs above 5W require active cooling with something like microfluidics between the dies to function properly, but this type of cooling has never made it out of labs and beyond the R&D stage (probably due to the high cost and high complexity of implementation). Below 5W 3D chips can probably work with good passive cooling solutions though.
  • Tams80 - Friday, November 13, 2020 - link

    There's no reason to doubt that AMD can produce something good.

    After all Qualcomm's Adreno graphics was created by ATI who were bought by AMD, who then sold off their mobile graphics. Adreno is an anagram of Radeon.

    So the design chops and pedigree are there at AMD.
  • Ej24 - Friday, November 13, 2020 - link

    Wow. Adreno. Radeon. Never noticed. Is this genuinely on purpose or just a happy coincidence?
  • Spunjji - Monday, November 16, 2020 - link

    100% on purpose.
  • thomasg - Saturday, November 14, 2020 - link

    The most exciting part about RDNA in mobile SoCs would be, that there are great open source drivers, which could be adapted to mobile (and very likely could be used by default), which would greatly enhance community efforts, such as LineageOS.
  • Spunjji - Monday, November 16, 2020 - link

    "Do you think it will beat established mobile vendors in efficiency"
    Possibly, yes. ARM's GPU efficiency has always been sub-par; the only real innovators have been Qualcomm (evolved from old ATi tech) and Imagination (via Apple). RDNA 2 looks pretty fierce on the power efficiency front even compared with Nvidia, and AMD have learned a lot about designing for low-power low-bandwidth SOCs recently; the biggest questions are about area efficiency and how low they can scale the design.
  • SydneyBlue120d - Thursday, November 12, 2020 - link

    Can we dream of no hi-end Exynos this year? Only Snapdragon 875 worldwide?
  • ToTTenTranz - Thursday, November 12, 2020 - link

    2021 might be seeing Samsung's first SoC with a RDNA GPU.
    I wouldn't claim clear victory to Qualcomm just yet. It will be Radeon vs. Adreno.
  • eastcoast_pete - Thursday, November 12, 2020 - link

    Four Big A78 cores sound pretty "grown up" to me; should be a substantial increase over the 2+6 BigLittle 980 with only 2 big cores, plus some generational uplift. This "premium mid-range" SoC might well reach SD865 performance levels, maybe not so on the graphics side, but still competitive - not bad at all. I look forward to your review of a phone with that SoC inside.
  • Wilco1 - Thursday, November 12, 2020 - link

    It should be similar to SD865+ CPU performance since 2.8GHz Cortex-A78 is about the same as 3.0GHz Cortex-A77.

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