Kirin 980 – the little engine under the P30 hood that could!

Kirin 980
100% human

Thomas Bartlett and Val Quinn are waxing lyrical over the new heights set by the camera functionality of the Huawei P30 and P30 Pro. But a lot of that has to do with the Kirin 980 super chip.

The Kirin 980 is a late 2018 processor first seen in the Mate20/Pro and now in the new 2019 Huawei P30/Pro. Technically it is more of a direct competitor to the 2018 Qualcomm SD845 and its sibling Samsung Exynos 9810 found in Australian versions of the Galaxy S9 and Note9.

Interestingly both Huawei and Samsung design their silicon (as Apple does with its A-series) and can design in features no one else has. They can also highly tune their devices to Android – so their expertise counts. It also means they have better control of the supply chain.

The Kirin 980 has a GeekBench score of 3390/10318 for single/multi-core. The later Exynos 9820 (remember it is a Qualcomm SD855 sibling) has a GeekBench score 4510/10253 in single/multi-core.

By comparison, the Kirin 970 in the P20 and Mate 10 is 1866/6600, and the Exynos 9810 found in the S9 and Note9 has 3718/9026. That shows just how far we have come in a year!

Apart from huge performance increases the main addition – let’s call it the secret sauce – to the Kirin 980 is two NPU (neural processing units) and two ISP (image signal processors).

This is in comparison to the Exynos 9802 single units. Simply put, the Kirin has more capacity to use AI to post-process images. Huawei has the edge in AI power.

The Exynos 9820 has a twelve Execution Unit Mali-G76 GPU (Kirin 980 has ten but at a higher Mhz rate), UFS 3.0 storage (the S10 series uses 2.1 – same as the Kirin), and a higher video capture rate.

The Exynos also has Wi-Fi 6 (AX) – although in practice users would not see much difference until AX VHT80/160 routers are available. These processors are neck and neck.

We understand that the Kirin 980 in the P30/Pro may be more highly tuned so actual performance specs may be a little higher. We won’t know until we have the units on review and run throttling tests.

Kirin 980
The secret sauce – AI

Specifications – Kirin 980 and Exynos 9820

Spec Exynos 9820 Kirin 980
CPU Core ARM Cortex ARM Cortex
CPU Config 2x 4th gen custom @2.73GHz
2x Cortex-A75 @2.31Ghz
4x Cortex-A55 @1.95Ghz
2x Cortex-A76 @ 2.6GHz
2x Cortex-A76 @ 1.92GHz
4x Cortex-A55 @ 1.8GHz
GPU Mali-G76 MP12-core
Mali-G76 MP10-core
Memory LPDDR4X-3600 LPDDR4X-4266
Storage UFS 3.0 (2.1 used in GS10) UFS 2.1
Process 8nm FinFET 7nm FinFET
ISP Single Dual
Video capture 8K@30fps or 4K@150fps 4K @ 30fps
Video playback 8K 30fps or 4K 150fps,
10-bit HEVC(H.265), H.264, VP9
4K @ 60fps
Modem 2000 Mbps down
316 Mbps up
1400 Mbps down
200 Mbps up
Wi-Fi AX
BT 5.0
BT 5.0

GadgetGuy’s take

Kirin 980 is a flagship processor that works so well in the Mate20 and now in the P30. I can’t wait to see what the Kirin 990 does in the Mate30 later this year.