Kirin 970 Deep Dive: Huawei’s New AI Chipset Will Make Better Photos Possible

The Mate 10 will come with smart AF chipset

We’re still in Shenzen, China courtesy of Huawei to check out innovations and technologies that they’ve been cooking up lately, and we had a chance to sit down and learn more about the Kirin 970 chipset that the company will be using on their upcoming Mate 10 flagship phone set to be released on October 16.

Huawei’s Kirin 970 chipset is the first of its kind in the world, thanks to its focus on Artificial Intelligence. AI is fast becoming the next big thing in mobile, and Huawei wants to be at the ground level when AI explodes. While there’s been a measure of AI smarts in the Kirin 960, the Mate 9 and the P10 and P10 Plus thanks to their “born fast, stay fast” philosophy, Huawei’s taking AI to the next level with the Kirin 970.

Aside from the CPU and GPU, the Kirin 970 has an NPU or neural processing unit. It’s a dedicated piece of silicon inside the chipset that’s tasked solely with AI computing tasks that the CPU and GPU are ill-equipped to handle. The NPU in the Kirin 970 is 20x faster than the CPU in tasks that requires photo recognition, for example, needing only around 6 seconds to recognize 200 photos compared to the two minutes that a CPU requires to sort through the same amount of photos.

That means the chip is incredibly suited to AI functions that will ultimately allow your phone to work more efficiently, using less battery. With a smart AI chip on board, the phone can start to recognize patterns about your usage habits that will allow it to tweak the settings to make the device last longer on a single charge. It’ll be able to recognize what time of the day you use most of your apps (during your break time, for example) and put them in a low-power state when you’re not using them, preserving your battery. It can also prioritize resources to apps that you regularly use as well, keeping your phone as fast as the day you bought it from the store.

More interestingly, Huawei says that the NPU is able to recognize what kind of photos you’re taking and adjusting the settings in the camera that will produce the best result. Anybody that’s messed around in Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom knows how much a simple contrast or exposure tweak contribute to an overall better photo, so having a chipset that does all of that for you on the fly when you take a picture is an exciting prospect. A powerful NPU will also bring real-time computer vision, low-power AR as well as overall better machine translation to the device. 

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And unlike the AI efforts of Google, Amazon and Apple, all of the AI smarts that the Kirin 970 brings to the table is all self-contained in the device without needing an outside connection. This means all of the private data that the processor has gathered stays in your device. It also means that the AI smarts of the phone work without needing a constant internet connection.

Kirin 970 is a pretty powerful chipset on its own. It’s an 8-core chip built on a new, more power-efficient 10nm process, and is composed of 4x Cortex A53 cores running at 1.8GHz and 4x Cortex-A73 cores running at 2.4GHz. It’s the first phone to have a Mali-G72 MP12 GPU, has 2160p60 HEVC & H.264 Decoding tech with support for HDR10 and has LTE Cat 18 capabilities. Recent leaks show that the Kirin 970 chipset is capable of download speeds of up to 1.2Gbps.

Huawei’s new Kirin 970 is a promising processor for Huawei’s next flagship, the Mate 10. We’ll find out on October 16 if the rest of the Mate 10 lives up to the hype that the Kirin 970 promises.

What We Know About the Huawei Mate 10 So Far

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