In the mobile industry, the role of the Chipset or processor and graphics is inseparable. It is different if viewing the world of PC, the primary processor or CPU and graphics processor or GPU is generally present separately. Although the possibility technology PC processor to have an integrated graphics processor.
The CPU and GPU are generally integrated into a circuit board (motherboard) in which there is a chipset. This Chipset serves various computerized tasks and connects various hardware on the motherboard.
In the mobile industry, chipsets play more than just connecting CPU, GPU, memory, and more. A Chipset or system-on-chip (SoC) is hardware in which there are various components for organizing data processing, graphics processing, camera processing (ISP), Modem, and others.
Arguably, the chipset is a complete package which is the main “brain” behind the capabilities of a mobile phone. All the features presented by a mobile phone must be supported by the itself.
Inside the proccesor of a mobile device, there are controllers for video, audio, screen display, RAM type used, modem (for Internet needs), and other new features such as quick battery charging support or features to maximize AI.
Interestingly, the size of the small but in it, there are many functions. Imagine with a small shape, there is plenty of space for the CPU, GPU, modem Manager, ISP (Image Signal processor), NSP, and others. It is certainly possible because not arbitrarily constructed but through a fabrication process and based on certain architectures.
To imagine how the position of each component in the chipset, can be saved in the image below.
The picture above is the architecture of a chipset or system-on-chip (SoC). Seen in such small size, chipset maker or designer is able to include all functions and become “small brains” of a smart device called the smartphone.
From the explanation above, it is obvious that the chipset is a “core package” that concerns all of it. So is not just CPU and GPU only but the regulator to produce a good image, processors to get good internet signal, RAM, and other functions.
So, how can small hardware have various functions to run a device?
We need to thank ARM Holdings, the company that designed the ARM processor architecture.
As information, a processor for a device was born based on the architecture made. There are RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computer) and both types of CISC (Complex Instruction Set Architecture).
A simple explanation of the differences between these architectures exists in the type of instruction and their use. RISC is a type of processor architecture with simple instructions but capable of offering okay and power-efficient performance.
While RISC is a set of instructions for more specific computing tasks. This ARM architecture has been present in the ’80s for mild computing. As the mobile industry skyrocketed, ARM’s architectural processors were widely used. In fact, almost all mobile devices use ARM architecture.
While CISC is a type of processor architecture with more complicated instructions. However, CISC is able to offer firmer performance despite being more wasteful of power. Therefore CISC is used as a base x86 architecture which is then used for complex computerized as well as processors from AMD and Intel.
Thanks to the popularity of mobile device usage, it certainly makes ARM Holdings as an ARM architecture design more famous. Just be aware that ARM Holding has a different business system with Intel and AMD.
Intel and AMD perform processor production ranging from designing, producing, to selling the processor itself. While ARM Holdings only designs. This design is being sold to other companies through the purchase of licenses. Samsung, Qualcomm, Apple, and others all produce with license design from ARM.
The architectural design made by ARM itself consists of a processor design called Cortex and GPU called Mali. Then this design was bought by another manufacturer. This manufacturer is what we call chipset manufacturer.
Smartphone Chipset Manufacturer
The chipset manufacturer who bought the ARM architecture license then created its own.
The first license ARM provided was to use an ARM-designed processor design. If uses a processor with the name Cortex and Mali GPU, this means that the manufacturer of the chipset chooses to use the ARM processor design.
The second license is a license for custom-cores. This license allows the manufacturer to redesign its processor Origin compatible with ARM architecture. The feature of this chipset manufacturer can be seen from the processor name and its graphics processor that does not use the name Cortex and Mali.
So, who is the manufacturer of the chipset for smartphones or other mobile devices? The answer, there are about 5 big players whose fifth has an ARM architecture license. There are also other chipset manufacturers that rarely sound.
Many of these chipset manufacturers make smartphones have different types. What are the types? Check out the following discussion.
Types of chipsets used in smartphones
Now, after discussing the chipset architecture and the manufacturer, let us know the most common types used in samrtphone.
Snapdragon is the most famous. The chipset was developed by Qualcomm, an American company that later focused on delivering for various platforms. Qualcomm itself has the licensed design licensing permission from ARM.
Because of these licensing permissions, there are some Snapdragon chipsets that do not use the Cortex processor. This is because QUALCOMM develops its processor under the name Kryo. In addition, graphics processors or GPU present in the Snapdragon are not Mali but Adreno.
The Adreno was originally owned by ATI Radeon under the name Imageon. In 2006, ATI Radeon was purchased by AMD. The acquisition led to Imageon, the development project for mobile graphics processors abandoned. In 2009, Qualcomm bought an Imageon from ATI (which was already owned by AMD) and transformed it into Adreno, an anagram of Radeon.
The combined Kryo processor and Adreno graphics are widely found in upscale and intermediate Qualcomm chipsets, call it Qualcomm Snapdragon 865, Snapdragon 855 and 855 +, Snapdragon 845, Snapdragon 730 and 730G, Snapdragon 675, 665, 439 and others. Snapdragon itself is most liked by users, no wonder many mobile phone vendors who choose Snapdragon as the best choice chipset.
Similar to Qualcomm, Apple has a license to develop its own processors with an ARM architecture base. Apple developed its chipset with an easy name that is series A which then followed letters such as A7, A8, A9, and so on.
Since the A10 series, Apple added an additional name behind their very own chipset series. For example, A10 has the official name Apple A10 Fusion. Next, there is A11 with the name A11 Bionic.
The name Bionic was retained when Apple released its successor generation chipset, the A12 Bionic. Apple’s A12 Bionic is what the brains of the chipset are in the Apple iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR series. Apple then brought Apple A13 Bionic to the brains of iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max.
Similar to their proprietary operating systems and products, the chipset developed by Apple is also present exclusively for Apple devices, not just for smartphones of course. An example is Apple’s A12 Bionic variant, the A12X Bionic being used as the “brain” of the iPad Pro 11-inch and the third-generation iPad Pro 12.9.
MediaTek is one of the fairly large chipset manufacturers. This Taiwanese-based company consistently presents chipsets with high features but at an affordable price. Initially, MediaTek was known as a manufacturer of less-than-good chipsets. Many consider phones with the chipset from MediaTek often fast heat and the performance is less toned.
MediaTek also comes up with some good chipsets like Helio G90T and Dimensity 1000. In the middle class and cheap price classes, many Mediatek chipsets are okay. Some local mobile vendors are also many who use MediaTek as a chipset because the production cost is cheaper.
MediaTek has a processor named Cortex but for GPUS, sometimes using Mali, sometimes also using PowerVR. It could be that MediaTek has a semi-custom ARM license that allows manufacturers to develop certain parts of a chipset.
In addition to being known as a reputable mobile manufacturer, Samsung is also known as a chipset manufacturer. Samsung developed its own chipset with the name Exynos. This Chipset is not inferior to performance when compared to Snapdragon, even performance tends to compete.
The Exynos Chipset itself is widely used in Samsung’s mobile phones. But not only Samsung, but other manufacturers like Vivo also have smartphones with the Exynos chipset. Meizu, another Chinese manufacturer owns several mobile phone products using the Exynos chipset.
The Exynos itself consists of the Cortex and Mali GPU processors. Rarely does Samsung change these two parts. Either a license that Samsung uses but Exynos comes in as a good chipset, most for the Exynos 9820 used in Samsung Galaxy S10 series devices.
5. HiSilicon Kirin (Huawei)
Through a subsidiary named HiSilicon, Huawei developed their own chipset. Huawei’s own Chipset is Kirin originating from ARM architecture. This Kirin Chipset is specially made for Huawei and Honor mobile phone, a Huawei sub-brand.
The Kirin Chipset was initially less so calculated considering that Huawei phones with Kirin rarely got the spotlight. Only when Huawei released the Huawei P20 Pro with Kirin 970, Kirin was considered as a capable chipset. Huawei also presented its successor, the Kirin 980 and Kirin 990 5G, which are more high-performance.
One interesting thing about the Kirin chipset is the addition of features in it. Huawei is embedding two important features for Kirin chipsets, namely HiAi and GPU Turbo. From Namaya, the HiAI feature is clearly a feature for optimizing artificial intelligence capabilities.
GPU Turbo itself is a feature on the Kirin chipset that serves to increase the chipset capability in running popular games. Really interesting Chipset is not it?
The other chipset manufacturer is UNISOC. The Shanghai-based company owns several chipsets under the name UNISOC. Unisoc is widely used by cheap mobile phones. An example is Advan G5 that has a UNISOC SC9863A. Other local producers of SPC also provide mobile phones with the chipset from UNISOC.
Unisoc’s own Chipset was formerly known as Spreadtrum. Spreadtrum is a chipset manufacturer that was acquired by Tsinghua Unigroup. Tsinghua Unigroup acquired a company called RDA Microelectronics.
Simply Infor, the RDA Microelectronics is a semiconductor company that designs, develops, and markets frequency-system and radio-frequency semiconductor products for mobile, connectivity and broadcast applications.
In 2018, Spreadtrum and RDA Microelectronics merged and rebranded under the name Unisoc. This UNISOC then presents a 5G chipset with a 6nm fabrication called Unisoc T7520.
In fact, many other companies also want to try producing chipsets themselves. Xiaomi tried to manufacture its own with Surge, unfortunately not developed. The business focus is certainly a concern too.
Therefore, now and in the future, the chipset in the smartphone will still be mastered by 5 big players (sequences 1 to 5). And whoever controls the market, ARM, as its design license holder remains the champion.