Huawei Kirin 990 Review, Specifications, and Benchmarks

Kirin 990 is the follow-up processor to the Kirin 980 that we saw last year in devices like Huawei V20 Pro and Huawei P30 Pro. The Kirin 990 is going to go in the Huawei Mate 30 Pro as well as other Huawei high-end smartphones in 2020. Kirin 990 has got a lot of performance improvements over Kirin 980, especially in machine learning, image processing capabilities, and network capabilities. Here are some noteworthy fields Huawei has worked upon in their new chip Kirin 990 in comparison with the previous generation chip Kirin 980.

Kirin 990 Specifications

 

Kirin 990 Review and Benchmarks

5G Ready Chip

Kirin 990 is a 5G ready chip, it has the 5G modem built right into the SOC. Most processors need a separate 5G modem to work, So Kirin 990 saves 36% area used for a separate modem space in the Snapdragon X50 modem of Snapdragon 855 and the Exynos Modem 5123 Samsung Exynos 9825 which is also power efficient move by Huawei which will give its user longer hours of battery life. The Kirin 990 supports both 4G and 5G networks in a single package and can transfer data over both simultaneously to ensure a solid connection.

Kirin 990 does not have millimeter-wave frequency bands. Huawei is mainly looking to market its phones in China and Europe. So you are going to get Sub 6 GHz frequencies on this chip. Huawei does have the Balong 5000 modem that is separately attached to the soc to produce mmWave capable phone. Being compatible with different bands and frequencies, this single chipset allows you to connect with 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G networks satisfying various requirements easily no matter where you are. It offers a peak download speed of 2.3 Gbps and an upload speed of 1.25 Gbps.

CPU Speed Boosts

Instead of using the Arm Cortex-A77 Huawei has used the same Arm Cortex-A76 which they had used in Kirin 980. Instead of working on the new Arm Cortex-A77 architecture, they tried to drive out more power from the Arm Cortex-A76.

They are using the same 2+2+4 cluster configuration as in Kirin 980 with two Arm Cortex-A76 clocked at 2.86 GHz up from 2.6 GHz, two Arm Cortex-A76 clocked at 2.36 GHz up from 1.9 GHz which is a notable boost in the CPU clock frequency. Four Cortex-A55 core used to handle background and low-power tasks with maximum energy efficiency. They are clocked at 1.95 GHz it seems that they handle some demanding task in the background.

Cache configuration is the same for all cores as in Kirin 980.

Huawei claims that the Kirin 990 is 10% faster than the Snapdragon 855. But the result does not match with what they claim.

Here are some standard test for CPU for the Kirin 990 and Kirin 980 which shows how better the new chipset Kirin 990 is over the previous generation Kirin 980 soc.1

 

kirin 990 vs kirin 980

 

 

More GPU Cores

Huawei is trying to make their GPUs better and faster. They used the same Mali-G76 in their new flagship Kirin 990. They downclocked the frequency of GPU in Kirin 990 to 600 MHz as compared to 720 MHz in Kirin 980 but they are using 16 GPU cores in Kirin 990 as compared to 10 cores in Kirin 980 whereas Samsung used 12 Mali-G76 cores in Exynos 9820.  The “smart cache” is designed to offload memory bandwidth when running demanding applications, such as games, and is shared between the CPU, GPU, and NPU. Huawei states this can reduce DDR bandwidth requirements by 15% and improve power consumption by 12%.

Huawei claims that Kirin 990 is 6% better in performance and 20% more energy efficient than the Adreno 640 GPU of Snapdragon 855.

Here are some standards GPU test to compare the performance of the Kirin 990 with the Kirin 980 GPU.

 

 

The Kirin 990 really does offer good gaming experience to its users without shuttering, lagging, and frame drops. It will give you visually enhanced and smooth gaming experience in Huawei Mate 30 series.

 

New NPU

A neural processing unit (NPU) is effectively an AI portion of the chip, it is used for things like face unlock, fingerprint unlock and all those things that are going to use machine learning to be able to make it work better.

In the 5G version of the chip, Huawei is using two big core NPUs for more demanding workloads and a small core NPU for always-on applications. They say it has got 2X better performance than the Kirin 980, this means that AI-based tasks like would work a lot faster and would be more secure in the Kirin 990. Their aim is to provide the best balance of power efficiency, with the little NPU offering up to a 24x power efficiency improvement for workloads like screen unlock facial recognition.

The 4G version of the chip comes with 1 Big core NPU for regular tasks and 1 small core NPU for heavy processing.

 

ISP

The Kirin 990 comes with a 5th generation ISP (Image Signal Processor). Huawei mainly focussed on noise reduction. The Kirin 990 is capable of producing vivid photos of natural views, city architectures, and stunning night shots. Their new ISP does a 30% noise reduction in photos and a 20% noise reduction in the video. Huawei uses bigger sensors than traditional smartphones, for better image quality. The key to these improvements comes from the introduction of block-matching and 3D filtering (BM3D) noise reduction support in hardware which is used in DSLR cameras.

The Kirin 990 supports up to 64-megapixels camera and 4K 60fps encoding and decoding for photos and videos

Antutu Scores- Kirin 990 vs Kirin 980

Antutu score shows the overall performance test comparison scores between two processors.

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