Huawei’s Kirin 960 chipset competes head on with Exynos 8890 and Snapdragon 821

Huawei Logo
Huawei's Logo While It Was Showcasing Its Products At A Both At MWC 2016 In Barcelona, Spain.

Huawei, the largest smartphone brand in China, has been doing quite well in the SoC segment as well. The Chinese smartphone and telecom infrastructure brand owns an in-house arm named HiSilicon that develops processing chipsets for mobile devices. After announcing the mid-range Kirin 650 SoC earlier this year, the company recently announced its Kirin 960 chipset, which will compete head-to-head with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 821, Samsung’s Exynos 8890, and MediaTek Helio X25 processors. Let us have a look at the Huawei’s Kirin 960 has to offer.

Huawei HiSilicon 960: Specifications & Features


The HiSilicon Kirin 960, which is based on TSMC’s 16nm FinFET process, features an octa-core 64-bit CPU with big.LITTLE implementation: four high-performance ARM Cortex-A73 cores clocked at 2.4GHz and four power-efficient ARM Cortex-A53 cores clocked at 1.8GHz. The CPU works in tandem with the ARM Mali-G71MP8 GPU that is clocked at 900 MHz. The Kirin 960 processor is compatible with LP-DDR4 RAM at 1800MHz. The SoC also comes with an improved dual-14-bit ISP, an i6 sensor hub, an integrated Cat. 12 LTE modem with 4x CA (carrier aggregation), and 4×4 MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output).

The processor can be used with faster UFS 2.1 storage chips and it can encode and decode HEVC videos at 4K (2160p) resolution. H.264 video encoding for 4K videos is possible as well. Huawei chipsets have always been slightly weaker in terms of graphical performance due to the company deciding to embed relatively weaker GPUs. However, the company has used the latest Mali-G71 GPU (with eight cores) inside its Kirin 960 chipset. The Mali-G71 GPU uses ARM’s latest Bifrost architecture, and offers better performance than its previous high-end GPU, the Mali-T880.


Huawei HiSilicon Kirin 960 vs. Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 vs. Samsung Exynos 8890

Huawei HiSilicon Kirin 960 vs. Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 vs. Samsung Exynos 8890
Huawei HiSilicon Kirin 960 vs. Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 vs. Samsung Exynos 8890

The Kirin 960 still uses ARM’s stock CPU cores compared to Qualcomm’s Kryo and Samsung’s Exynos M1 custom CPU cores. However, the company showcased that its chipset scored higher than all its Android counterparts in Geekbench 4 benchmark’s single-core and multi-core tests. Only Apple’s A10 Fusion was able to score more than Kirin 960 in the Geekbench 4 single-core test. Moreover, the company also claimed that ARM’s new Mali-G71MP8 GPU, which is used in the Kirin 960, is slightly more powerful than Adreno 530 and Mali-T880MP12 GPU from the Snapdragon 820 and Exynos 8890.

Huawei’s slideshows also showed how Kirin 960’s single-core and multi-core memory latency is better than that of its competitors. Since the Kirin 960 uses faster UFS 2.1 storage controller, sequential read/write and random read speeds are better than all of its competing chipsets. However, the Snapdragon 820 and the Exynos 8890 are still faster than Kirin 960 in terms of random write speeds. Whether or not these tests mean any significant advantage to Huawei remains to be seen. As of now, no third-party smartphone manufacturer is using Huawei’s SoC offering in its devices.

First Smartphone With HiSilicon Kirin 960? The Huawei Mate 9

Huawei Mate 9

Now that we’ve compared the Kirin 960 with the competing chipsets from Qualcomm and Samsung, you might be interested to know which smartphone would be the first to feature this new chipset. Well, the upcoming Huawei Mate 9 looks like the first smartphone that will feature this high-end Kirin 960 processor from Huawei. The Android 7.0 Nougat-powered Huawei Mate 9 will come with a 5.9-inch 1080p IPS LCD display with a 2.5D glass, up to 6GB RAM, up to 256GB internal storage, and a microSD card slot.

In the camera department, the Mate 9 is expected to come with 20MP dual cameras with Leica SUMMARIT lenses, dual-tone LED flash, laser and phase-detection autofocus, and an 8-megapixel front-facing camera. It will also feature a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, 4G LTE, dual-band gigabit Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS (with A-GPS, GLONASS, & BeiDou), NFC, a USB Type-C port, and a headphone jack. It is expected to come with a 4000mAh battery with the company’s SmartPower rapid charging technology.

The Huawei Mate 9 is expected to be offered in four variants:

  1. 3GB RAM + 64GB ROM
  2. 4GB RAM + 128GB ROM
  3. 4GB RAM + 256GB ROM
  4. 6GB RAM + 256GB ROM (Pro) – $1300

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Asif has more than six years of experience in reporting consumer technology, and has been quoted in various esteemed publications, including TheVerge, TWiT, and SamMobile. Asif has immense interest in CPUs, GPUs, mobile chipsets, camera sensors, and apps.