As part of this year’s first conference talks at HotChips 2018 at the Flint Center for the Performing Arts in Cupertino, California, we’ve had the pleasure to finally hear Samsung’s official microarchitecture disclosure on this year’s most polarising new CPU design, the Exynos M3.
Our first exclusive report on the details of the new microarchitecture back in January. It was clear at this point from that point on that the design was a big one: Samsung had gone for a huge push in terms of performance, resulting in one of the biggest generational jumps of any silicon CPU designer in recent history.
Over the coming months much of the hype for the new Exynos 9810 with its M3 cores fizzled out, with each bit of additional testing revealing less and less enticing results. Starting from some questionable early-on benchmarks at the release of the Galaxy S9 through to our extremely in-depth Galaxy S9 device and SoC review, later on moving to DIY improvements in attempting to resolve some of the lower-hanging fruit in terms of software issues which hampered the real-world performance of the Exynos Galaxy S9. Throughout these pieces, of course, we had little in the way of official information from Samsung – until today we still didn’t know much about how the M3 microarchitecture actually worked.
Rewinding back two years, we briefly covered Samsung’s initial microarchitecture disclosure of the Exynos M1 at HotChips 2016, which was a great thing to see. While I always prefer to stay on-topic in articles, we’ve never really taken the opportunity to talk that much about Samsung’s design teams – understanding the teams that create these products also gives us a great deal of insight into the products. This has been especially evident over the last few years, with us understanding more about the workings inside of Arm’s Cambridge, Sophia Antipolis and Austin Cortex-A CPU design centres.
Samsung’s CPU IP is developed in Austin, Texas, at “Samsung’s Austin R&D Center”, or SARC. The centre was founded in 2010 with the goal of establishing in-house IP for Samsung’s S.LSI division and Exynos chipsets. Staffed with ex-AMD, ex-Intel and various other talented industry veterans, what we saw come out – alongside memory controllers and custom interconnects – was also the of course more visible IPs: Samsung’s first custom CPUs.