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Google's Tensor chipset explained: Core Pixel features amplified

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Google Tensor explained: Here's what Google's new SoC is
Google has just officially announced thePixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, which are bound to release in the fall, along with some key specs and details that will certainly make the wait a bit more bearable. Similarly to the way Google teased the Pixel 4 by announcing it, the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro are now official without a complete specs sheet or a price tag. Being Pixels, it's natural that the cameras will be the most intriguing feature of the upcoming devices, but get this, unlike previous years, Google is skipping the Qualcomm Snapdragon chipset for a custom system that will power its upcoming flagships.

What is the Google Tensor core?


The "Tensor" name isn't new; in fact, it is shared with TensorFlow, which is Google's all-encompassing machine-learning hardware. Yet, it now graces the custom chip that Google has apparently had four years in the making.

The rumor mill agrees the Tensor is in fact the mythical Whitechapel chipset that Google has referenced throughout the years. It has reportedly been developed in concert with Android's superstar, Samsung, and probably shares quite a lot of design similarities with the ARM Exynos chipsets that power a vast majority of the South Korean company's international models. As far as specs go, Tensor is most certainly a 5nm, eight-core chipset.

Aside from that, we don't know any raw specifics about the chipset. We don't know how fast it is or what manufacturing process has been used. We'd probably receive this information only after the Pixels become officially official later this year. But get this - with the Tensor chipset, the rudimentary hardware specs come secondary to the main purpose of the chipset, which is the strong emphasis on on-device artificial intelligence and machine learning.


Google's Tensor chipset: Photography on steroids


Surely, it will have to cope with run-of-the-mill regular smartphone operations, but its main strength will be its on-device AI prowess and machine-learning capabilities, which will introduce many benefits to Pixel 6 users. While it's true that all Pixels since the first one have used AI in some form or another, the Pixel 6-series will most certainly improve on that a lot. For example, Pixel photography has always been AI-assisted and that's one of the main reasons great camera performance has become such a signature Pixel feature, and from the looks of it, the Pixel 6-series will elevate that to the next level with the help of the Tensor chipset. Google promises entirely new photography features as well as improvement to existing ones.

Google specifically states that thanks to Tensor, the Pixel 6 will treat users to a completely revamped camera system. Yet, we've certainly heard that kind of marketing talk before so it remains to be seen what improvements the custom chipset will bring to the table.

Google's Tensor chipset: Video to finally be good?


It seems that the Tensor chipset will be so adept that it will be capable of applying HDR effects to each and every frame of a video. This will address a sore weak point of Pixel phones - video. While it's true that Pixels have always shined in terms of still photography, it probably won't be too subjective to say that video-recording hasn't been a highlight of any Pixel phone so far. Last year's Pixel 5, for example, was quite a compromise in terms of capturing video thanks to its unapologetically mid-range nature, hardly matching the contemporary Galaxy or iPhone flagship in this regard.

Google's Tensor chipset: Security overwhelming


Tensor will feature a Titan M2 security chip on deck, a successor to the Titan M that has been taking care of security on previous Pixel phones. No further details about the security of Google's custom chip have been shared, but the company seems pretty proud with what's been accomplished so far, bragging that the Pixel 6-series will seemingly have the most layers of hardware security in any phone so far. 

Google's Tensor chipset: An answer to Apple's M1


Custom chipsets seem to be all the rage right now, as most manufacturers are either developing or already using such chipsets. Samsung has its Exynos line, Huawei has the Kirin system, and Apple uses Bionic and M1 in its iPhones and MacBooks, respectively. It only makes sense that Google would want to "join" the custom chipset fray.

However, don't think that Qualcomm, one of Android's hardware darlings, would be in any danger due to the seeming loss of yet another partner in the face of Google. To the contrary, Tensor won't be the exclusive chipset for all of Google's phones in the future. Qualcomm will reportedly"continue to work closely with Google on existing and future products based on Snapdragon platforms", meaning that mid-range Pixels of the "a" series would probably feature upper mid-range or mid-range Qualcomm chipset in the future. This will probably ring true for the ephemeral Pixel 5a, while future Tensor chips will be mainstay for Pixel flagships.

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