Huawei Introduces Kirin 970 Mobile SoC with Built-in Neural Processing Unit for Artificial Intelligence Applications

Huawei has unveiled their latest Kirin 970 SoC for premium smartphone at IFA 2017. The processor features an 8-core CPU, and a new 12-core GPU, but what makes this new processor stands apart it a dedicated Neural Processing Unit (NPU) to accelerate tasks used for artificial intelligence, with the company claiming the NPU delivers 25 times the performance with 50x greater efficiency compared to a quad core Cortex A73 processor for AI computing tasks. In practical terms, Kirin 970 could process 2,000 images per minute in an unnamed benchmark image recognition test.

Image Source: Roland Quandt

The press release also mentions the processor will pack 5.5 billion transistors packed into 1 cm² and be manufactured using a 10nm “advanced processor”. But they did not go into much further details about the specs, so instead, I used info from Anandtech and the slide above to derive Kirin 970 technical specifications:

  • CPU – 4x ARM Cortex A73 cores @ up to 2.4 GHz, 4x ARM Cortex A53 cores @ up to 1.8 GHz
  • GPU – 12-core Mali G72MP12 GPU
  • NPU – Kirin NPU delivering up to 1.92TFLOPS (FP16)
  • DSP – Image DSP with 512-bit SIMD
  • Sensor Hub – i7 Sensor Processor
  • Memory I/F  – LPDDR4X @ 1866MHz
  • Storage I/F – UFS 2.1
  • Video – 4K video decoding with HDR @ 60 fps, 4K video encoding @ 30 fps
  • Audio – 32-bit codec, 384 Kbps
  • Camera – Dual camera ISP with face & motion detection
  • Cellular Connectivity – Worldmode LTE Cat 18 with up to 1.2 Gbps download; Dual LTE SIM card support
  • Security – InSE and TEE security engines
  • Manufacturing Process – 10nm

Huawei also uploaded a promo video making clear in no-uncertain terms that the new processor will transform your phone into a digital version of the overly attached girlfriend who “is always here in real-time”, “only for you”, “ready to learn even more” (about you)…

Huawei Mate 10 will be the first smartphone based on Kirin 970 processor, and will launch on October 16th in Munich, Germany.

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13 Replies to “Huawei Introduces Kirin 970 Mobile SoC with Built-in Neural Processing Unit for Artificial Intelligence Applications”

  1. Only two camera interfaces? That’s going to keep it out of flagship phones which have at least three cameras today–probably more in the near future.

    Two back side cameras–wide and narrow or B/W and color.
    At least one front side selfie camera–maybe a second one for narrow/wide.

    Back side 3d sensing cameras?
    Front side IR camera for facial recognition?

    Two camera interfaces just doesn’t cut it anymore.

    1. One is a fake review left before the product was even launched. The second one used an 1 amp power supply because ‘the plugs fit’.

  2. There isn’t too much changes since 960 to cook a new 96Board. I would expect them to keep HiKey updates to at least 2 years cycle. The next one will probably bring DynamIQ + A75/A55 thus would make sense to bump HiKey.

  3. @willmore
    Willmore, those are the Image Signal Processors (ISPs)… not dedicated camera interfaces. There is nothing keeping this phone from having three (or more) cameras. I can probably only use two of them at same time though. Some ISPs can also handle multiple sources with the same ISP. For instance there is only one ISP on the Snapdragon 835 (Spectra 180) but it can handle one 32MP capture or two 14MP captures at the same time. I can’t find any details on the 970’s ISP’s other than it has two of them.

  4. “DSP – Image DSP with 512-bit SIMD”

    isn’t neon 128-bit SIMD engine ? if so, i’m sure some developers will be very interested in playing with this DSP.

  5. @nobe
    NEON is freely accessible in the CPU, fully supported by all toolchains, autovectorizers, etc, whereas this DSP will be behind an unknown-quality proprietary SDK, NDA letters, etc. And in general, camera DSPs are very specialized in their purpose.

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