Samsung took the laurels of announcing the first second-gen 7nm processor - Exynos 9825 - before Huawei this year, unlike what happened with Huawei's Kirin 980 last fall. Samsung was also the first to announce an integrated all-in-one 5G chipset - the Exynos 980 - which solders midrange chippery together with a 5G modem for the first time. Until now, all 5G phones came with one extra Qualcomm, Samsung or Huawei 5G modem tacked on separately that puts extra drag on the battery and RAM capacities.
The Kirin 990 that Huawei just announced, however - the first high-end mobile applications processor combined with an efficient 5G modem in a true system-on-a-chip style - will soon be in phones like the Mate 30 Pro, whereas Samsung has still to tip any handsets where the Exynos 980 will be used.
Both the Kirin 990 processor cores and the 5G modem chip are laid out with the most efficient process available at the moment - a second generation 7nm EUV lithography, just like the Exynos 9825. Here's a quick specs comparison between the two and Snapdragon 855+:
Samsung Exynos 9825
7nm (TSMC FF)
2xCortex-A76 at 2.86GHz
2xCortex-A76 at 2.34GHz
4xCortex-A55 at 1.9GHz
~10.3 billion transistors
2x Exynos M4 @2.73GHz
2x Cortex A75@2.4GHz
4x Cortex A55@1.95GHz
1x Kryo 485 Gold (custom Cortex-A76) @ 2.96GHz
3x Kryo 485 Gold (custom Cortex-A76) @ 2.42GHz
4x Kryo 485 Silver (custom Cortex-A55) @ 1.80GHz
Mali-G76 MP16 (16 cores)
Balong 5G (integrated)
no mmWave, just sub-6Ghz, 4 antennas
Shannon LTE (Category 20)
Downloads up to 2Gbps, 8xCA
Uploads: up to 316 Mbps
Exynos 5100 5G modem add-on, mmWave and sub-6Ghz
Snapdragon X24 LTE (Category 20)
Downloads: up to 2Gbps, 7xCA
Uploads: up to 316Mbps
X50 5G modem add-on, mmWave and sub-6Ghz
Yes, quad-core NPU
Yes, dual-core NPU
8K HDR at 30fps
4K HDR at 150fps 8K HDR at 30fps
Most power-efficient AI and image processing
First BM3D DSLR-level image and Dual Domain video noise reduction support
UFS 3.0 storage support for up to 2.9GB/s speeds
4K HDR Bokeh Video
8K 360 VR video playback
Always-on noise cancelation
Meet the world's first dual-domain noise reduction for video.
Since the special emphasis here is that this is as high-end of a chipset as Apple's A13 in the iPhone 11 would be, built on the same N7+ process by TSMC, and yet will feature an integrated 5G modem, something unheard of so far, we want to focus precisely on the 5G abilities.
Sadly, these don't include the high-frequency mmWave bands that Verizon, T-Mobile and the US carrier networks currently use for 5G in general. In 2020, however, all major US carriers will start rolling out their low-band 5G networks en masse. Needless to say, Huawei has a snowball's chance in hell to have phones on US carriers given the White House administration animosity towards its products but it's cool that we are finally getting a true 5G SoC for high-end phones.
Huawei is keen to underline that its 5G modem is the most power-efficient and signal-friendly one to date, and knowing its leadership in 5G research, we are inclined to take its word without Himalayan pink salt.
Such is the Kirin 990 5G frugality, it mentioned to us, that it surpasses that of Qualcomm's X50 modem, and is more in line with what your current phone consumes to maintain 4G connectivity. Huawei uses machine learning adaptive receiver to increase performance gain in comparison with X50, too.
This is a big step ahead from current 5G phones that have to be equipped with 4000+ mAh batteries just to make ends meet when hooked to a 5G network. Good, meet best, too bad we can't have any of those bad Mate 30 Pro or foldable Mate X boys stateside to test the Kirin 990 performance but we'll find a way once September 19th rolls in.