"HiSilicon Kirin 970 — Android SoC Power & Performance Overview"

If you want to learn about the state of mobile chipsets, AnandTech’s power and performance overview of HiSilicon’s Kirin 970 is a good place to start. It’s not intended to be a comprehensive overview of the SoC, but it’s also easier to read than such a piece.

While you may not care about Huawei or Chinese silicon vendors — you should! — it’s important to follow HiSilicon’s SoC implementations and results, as they among others serve as a barometer of the state of the ARM ecosystem and all mobile SoCs. The company's best effort to date was Kirin 950, which was a very well-implemented chipset.

Real analyses also can and should convey the things that really matter when it comes to SoCs: interconnect implementation, memory access latency, whether the power management works at all, etc. These are some of the things that most often go wrong, or are the most challenging to implement well. The average mobile observer probably only thinks about CPUs and GPUs, but they’re not even remotely the only things that matter.

Andrei is the only person writing publicly who knows how to measure power properly at the rails (or even publish fuel gauge figures), so you can trust these power figures, unlike everything else you may find on the internet. Additionally, his figures provide a good overview and recap of the state of mobile chipsets in recent years.

This is also the best public data we have on 10nm at the moment, and the results echo what I could gather about the node early on (see: Updates). I particularly appreciate his compiling SPEC2K6 for readers' benefit, since that’s a genuine pain to do.

“An increase in main memory latency from just 80ns to 115ns (random access within access window) can have dramatic effects on many of the more memory access sensitive tests in SPEC CPU. Meanwhile the same handicap essentially has no effect on the GeekBench 4 single-threaded scores and only marginal effect on some subtests of the multi-threaded scores.”

This section as well as the other commentary on benchmarks should sound very familiar to subscribers. SPEC is not exactly the best benchmark in the world in terms of real-world representativeness (read: understatement), but it’s the best we’re going to get publicly.

I should note that interpreting benchmark results beyond the basics is tough. You need to really know what’s going on on a low level. Deep learning benchmarking is also complicated, and I’m not a machine learning researcher so I’ll refrain from commenting about that.

The upcoming SoC to watch right now is Exynos 9810. Samsung’s System LSI division really needs to deliver following recent disappointments that failed to live up to the solid Exynos 7420.

Lastly, if you’re hoping for greatness from 7nm, I would argue that it would probably be better to start accepting that Moore’s Law is dead. I’m not the person to write about that, though.