THE Samsung stopped making custom cores for processors Exynos, ending the Central Processing Unit project and laying off 290 US employees. Rumors say that the Korean will adopt the ARM design without many modifications to its next CPUs; however, it will continue to develop graphics and artificial intelligence chips for mobile phones.
“Based on a thorough assessment of our System LSI businesses [integração de sistemas em larga escala] and in the need to remain competitive in the global market, Samsung has decided to transition part of our research and development teams in the USA in Austin and San Jose, ”says the company in a statement to the Android Authority.
The layoffs occurred at the Samsung Austin Research Center in Austin, Texas; and at the Advanced Computer Lab in San Jose, California. The 290 employees will remain in office until December 31.
The two research centers will continue to function: teams are still working on artificial intelligence chips, graphics chips and systems-on-a-chip. It is worth remembering that Samsung and AMD are collaborating on future GPUs for the Exynos line.
Samsung Exynos failed to overcome ARM technology
When it comes to CPUs, some companies license ARM designs and make few modifications, like Huawei and MediaTek. Other manufacturers prefer to customize the cores to achieve higher performance or lower power consumption; this is the case with Qualcomm and its Snapdragon 800 line (including 855).
Samsung fell into the second category: some Exynos processors use “Mongoose” cores with a custom design. This started on the Exynos 8890, present on the Galaxy S7, and continued into the following generations, going up to the new Exynos 990 – which is expected to appear on high-end phones from 2020.
However, Samsung’s processors have been losing in performance to Qualcomm for some time. The Galaxy S9 with Snapdragon 845 is faster than the model with Exynos 9810; and the Galaxy S10 + with Snapdragon 855 outperforms the version with Exynos 9820 in benchmarks of real use.
Worse, Exynos processors perform less than processors that follow ARM designs, such as Huawei’s HiSilicon Kirin line. Energy consumption is also higher. That is, Samsung was unable to differentiate itself by customizing the chip cores, and decided to throw in the towel.
A few years ago, Samsung told the AnandTech that creating custom cores is significantly more expensive than licensing ARM designs. After all, it is necessary to make investments to achieve and to overcome what ARM offers.
Market analysts believe that with the layoffs in Austin, Samsung will fully embrace ARM reference designs for its future processors, rather than customizing them. This has been done for some time now on the CPUs of intermediate phones, including the future Exynos 980.