Many big-name smartphone brands are trying to develop their own line-up of processors, because they don’t want to rely solely upon on SoC makers like MediaTek and Qualcomm. There have been instances where brands were negatively affected due to badly designed chips. Making an in-house chipset comes with a lot of positives. For one, brands can customise the chipset as per their needs and keeping their future products in mind. Moreover, since they have control over all the low-level software, they can support phones for a longer period of time.
|HiSilicon Kirin 960|
|Fabrication Process||16nm FFC by TSMC|
|CPU||4x 2.36GHz Cortex-A73 +
4x 1.84GHz Cortex-A53
|GPU||ARM Mali-G71MP8 @ 900MHz|
|Memory||2x 32-bit LPDDR4 @ 1866MHz|
DL = 600Mbps
UL = 150Mbps
After Apple and Samsung, Huawei started making its own chipsets (under the HiSilicon brand) for smartphones. HiSilicon is a Chinese fabless semiconductor company, and a wholly owned subsidiary of Huawei. The first in-house processor was used in its phones in 2009, and a few other chips were released over the years. However, the company caught everyone’s attention last year with its Kirin 950 SoC with 64-bit CPUs. It was used in various smartphones from Huawei and its sub-brand Honor. This year, it step up its game with the Kirin 960, which brought improvements across the board.
The Kirin 960 is used in the Honor 8 Pro. The phone, which is a step-up version of the Honor 8, was launched in India a few days ago for ₹29,990. The phone competes with the likes of OnePlus 3T and the LG G6. We had a chance to spend some time with the smartphone to asses its processing performance and here’s why we think it’s one of the fastest phones out there, even when you don’t take its attractive price tag into consideration.
Processing & Multi-Tasking performance
Last year’s Kirin 950 and Kirin 955 chipsets were based on TSMC’s 16nm FF+ fabrication technology, and the Kirin 960 SoC is built using a slightly improved 16nm FFC process. Even though clock speeds went down and there isn’t a difference between the node size, the company has managed to improve the performance of the CPU. The improvement comes from the upgraded CPU cores. Unlike the Kirin 950 and Kirin 955, which use a combination of four Cortex-A72 cores and four Cortex-A53 cores, the Kirin 960 makes use of four Cortex-A73 cores and four Cortex-A53 cores.
We considered Geekbench for CPU performance measurement, and the Kirin 960 inside the Honor 8 Pro scored 1857 points which is similar to the scores we got on the Snapdragon 835-equipped Xiaomi Mi 6 and the Exynos 8895-equipped Samsung Galaxy S8. The Honor 8 Pro also scored 6419 points in the multi-core CPU test in Geekbench 4.1, which is around 400 points more than what the Galaxy S8 could score. We think that the Honor 8 Pro’s performance is quite impressive even if you don’t consider its relatively lower price tag. Similarly performing phones from other brands cost quite a bit more than the Honor 8 Pro.
Thanks to improved architecture, CPU performance is about 10-20% faster in CPU intensive tasks when compared to the CPU inside the Kirin 950 chipset. It is also in the top league when it comes to single-core and multi-core performance. It trades blows with the likes of Snapdragon 835 and the Exynos 8895. Be it the processing performance during web browsing or while loading heavy apps and multitasking, thanks to the swift Kirin 960 chipset, the Honor 8 Pro is one of the fastest phones we’ve used without taking its price tag into consideration.
Coming down to the Honor 8 Pro’s GPU, it uses ARM’s latest Mali-G71. It’s based on ARM’s new Bifrost architecture, offering considerable improvement over the previous Mali-T880MP4 GPU inside the Kirin 950 and Kirin 955 chipsets. Although it runs at the same 900MHz frequency, the new Mali-G71MP8 GPU uses eight shader cores compared to the previous Kirin chipset’s four shader cores, offering significant advantages. While the Galaxy S8 uses 20 shader cores, it also has to drive a much higher resolution (2960×1440 pixels) screen. When it comes to gaming, the on-screen performance is what matters in the end. Since the Honor 8 Pro features a 1920×1080 screen, it offers a very satisfying gaming performance even with just eight shader cores.
We ran the GFXBench and GLBenchmark tests on the Honor 8 Pro, and found that the Honor 8 Pro’s Kirin 960 chipset offered a graphical processing performance similar to phones that use the Snapdragon 821 and the Exynos 8890 chipsets. The Google Pixel and the OnePlus 3T use the Snapdragon 821 chipset, while the Samsung Galaxy S7 uses the Exynos 8890 chipset. All these smartphones perform similar to the Honor 8 Pro, making it a competitive phone when it comes to graphical performance. However, even with its metal body, the Honor 8 Pro didn’t get too hot to handle while we were playing heavy games like the Modern Combat 5 and Asphalt 8: Airborne.
Games also loaded fast, thanks to the faster UFS 2.1 storage and the powerful Mali-G71MP8 GPU used in the Honor 8 Pro. If you’re into puzzle games, turn-based games or platform running games, you shouldn’t even bother about thinking whether the Honor 8 Pro can offer good gaming performance. Those kind of games run smoother even with relatively weaker GPUs.
The Kirin 960 also uses a newer Cat. 12 LTE modem with 4×4 MIMO and quad-channel CA (carrier aggregation), offering higher theoretical download speeds of up to 600Mbps and upload speeds of up to 150Mbps. We weren’t able to test its theoretical limit in India, since the Indian networks aren’t that fast. However, we tested the Honor 8 Pro on Airtel’s as well as Jio’s 4G LTE network, and the phone was able to offer consistent network coverage as well as download speeds.
Then there’s the new UFS 2.1 storage interface, which means that data transferred to and from the internal storage of the Honor 8 Pro much faster compared to phones that have eMMC or UFS 2.0 storage chips. It also supports rapid charging at 9 volts and 2 amperes. The company claimed that it can be fully charged within 2 hours and we found that to be true when we tested the phone. It charged up to 35% in half an hour and fully in 1 hour and 50 minutes.
Overall, the phone performed quite admirably while opening apps or games, switching between multiple apps, and web browsing. Its battery was long-lasting as well, thanks to a 4,000mAh battery and the power-efficient Kirin 960 chipset.
Conclusion: Overall Performance
The Honor 8 Pro with its ultra-responsive Kirin 960 processor, fast LTE modem, and a large 4,000mAh battery, is a true flagship killer in its ₹29,990 price range. Other popular phones in the price category – OnePlus 3T, Samsung Galaxy C9 Pro, and the LG V20 – can’t offer the overall performance that’s similar to the Honor 8 Pro.
It even beats higher priced smartphones like the Galaxy S7, Galaxy S8, and the LG G6 in many performance-oriented aspects and benchmarks. More importantly, the smartphone offers a very satisfying performance in day-to-day tasks as well as gaming, and that too at a very value-for-money price tag of just ₹29,990. Honor absolutely killed it with the Honor 8 Pro, and its killer pricing, let alone its impressive camera and long battery life (which we will cover in a separate article).