Huawei officially unveiled its latest flagship processor at IFA 2019 with the Kirin 990 5G. The chipset that will power the upcoming Mate 30 series is the first flagship processor to come with a built-in 5G modem. While Samsung technically was the first to launch a processor with an integrated 5G modem with the Exynos 980, Samsung’s new processor is meant for mid-range phones.
In both cases, the benefits of having a 5G modem integrated into the processor itself include less space consumed since you don’t have to deal with a separate chip. For reference, the Kirin 990’s design takes up less than 36% space compared to Exynos 9825 and 5100 Modem or a Snapdragon 855 and X50 combo. Since you have to deal with one less chip, the Kirin 990’s design consumes less power, improving on overall battery life.
— Huawei Mobile (@HuaweiMobile) September 6, 2019
As for its 5G feature, the Kirin 990 only supports sub-6GHz bands and not mmWave bands. It should not be a big deal according to Huawei, as Japan is the only country so far that widely adopts mmWave bands.
While the Kirin 990 is 5G-ready, Huawei also has a 4G-only version of the Kirin 990, which is meant for markets that won’t see 5G in the next few years.
As for its other key features, the Kirin 990 is made using the 7nm+ EUV process and uses the same 2/2/4 core configuration found on the Kirin 980. However, all cores have higher clock speeds, with the more powerful cores running at 2.86Ghz (compared to 2.6Ghz on the Kirin 980). On the GPU side, the Kirin 990 uses a 16-core Mali-G76 GPU—a first for any processor.
On the NPU side, the Kirin 990 makes use of Huawei’s in-house DaVinci architecture that was first seen with the Kirin 810. The 5G version comes with two big and one small NPU cores, while the 4G version comes with one of each. While it still supports LPDDR4X RAM, the Kirin 990 now supports UFS 3.0 storage, which should introduce speed gains for the internal storage.
When it comes to imaging, the Kirin 990 is the first Kirin processor to natively support 4K video recording at 60 FPS—this feature has been available with flagship Exynos and Snapdragon processors for a while, and Huawei is finally catching up. In addition, the Kirin 990’s 5th-generation ISP introduces DSLR-like noise reduction, along with support for 64-megapixel sensors.
We expect to know more about the Kirin 990 come September 19 during the Mate 30 series launch.