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Thursday January 30, 2020 4:49 pm

Samsung Tech Day: A look at How Samsung is Leading the Way to the Future

Samsung flew me down to its annual Tech Day event so I could get an up-close look at the company’s latest announcements, including Samsung Semiconductor’s new mobile smartphone processor and 5G modem, to see how they’ll make our devices better in the future. The yearly event is part of Samsung’s ongoing effort to foster innovation across the technology ecosystem, with hundreds of attendees learning about and discussing the future of consumer and business technology. With all the year-end activities keeping us all busy, I finally put my experience at Samsung Tech Day into words - here’s how Samsung is aiming to lead the future of tech innovation.

Just shy of two months after announcing the Exynos 980, Samsung announced a new chipset at the event, the Exynos 990. The new processor is built on Samsung’s 7nm process, and includes a Mali-G77 GPU that increases graphical performance and power efficiency compared to Samsung’s previous chip by up to 20 percent as well as an octa-core CPU that should be 20 percent faster.

While it may seem strange to some that two major processors were announced in such quick succession, the Exynos 990 seems to be targeted at a slightly different market. The 990 actually lacks the integrated 5G modem that’s found in the 980, meaning it will be better suited to 4G devices. It’s the faster processor of the two, but Samsung would need to pair it with a separate modem — like the 5G Exynos Modem 5123 that it also announced at Tech Day — if it wants to use it as part of a 5G device.

The Exynos 990 also features support for displays with up to a 120 Hz refresh rate, as well as up to six cameras with a maximum resolution of 108 megapixels, like the ISOCELL Bright HMX sensor Samsung announced back in August. These are obviously flagship smartphone features, and Samsung is preparing for the future.

The 5G Exynos Modem 5123, meanwhile, is a new 5G modem that’s also built using a 7nm process. It supports both kinds of 5G, sub-6GHz and mmWave, the latter of which was missing when Samsung announced its previous Exynos 980 chip with an integrated 5G modem. When connected to a 5G network, Samsung says the Exynos Modem 5123 supports a maximum download speed of 5.1 Gbps on sub-6GHz, and 7.35 Gbps on mmWave. This is much faster, by an order of magnitude, when compared to even the fastest smartphones that shipped in 2019.

Samsung doesn’t say which phones the new chips will come to first, but with mass production expected to begin later this year there’s speculation that they’ll find their way into some of Samsung’s next flagship devices, which we should be seeing in the Spring of 2020. However, based on past trends they’re unlikely to be found in Samsung’s devices in the US or China, which have historically used Qualcomm’s chips (the new Snapdragon 865 was announced by Qualcomm at the Snapdragon Summit in Maui.) The new Exynos modem’s millimeter wave support may enable new Galaxy phones to work in the U.S., where the higher-speed, shorter-distance cellular technology is at the core of most early 5G networks. Or Samsung may opt for an upcoming Snapdragon SoC with an integrated 5G modem for greater power savings.

Separately from the smartphone tech, Samsung also announced several other technologies aimed squarely at powering the future of tech:

  • Advanced chip-stacking technology for next-generation mobile flash storage and HBM (High Bandwidth Memory) used in advanced computing systems.
  • Third-generation 10nm-class DRAM is entering mass production, which opens the door to new cutting-edge memory solutions like 512GB DDR5, LPDDR5, HBM2E and GDDR6.
  • Developmental silicon technologies, including Samsung’s 100-plus (1yy)-layer 7th-generation V-NAND for premium memory solutions and next-generation PCIe Gen5 SSDs for future server applications.

In regard to the Tech Day 2019 announcements, JS Choi, President of Samsung Semiconductor, Inc., commented:

“Samsung is focused on harnessing the most semiconductor capabilities to power innovation across key markets. From System LSI devices that are perfectly adapted for real-world 5G and AI to advanced solid-state drives (SSDs) that handle mission-critical tasks and offload CPU workload, we are determined to deliver infrastructure capabilities that are built to enable every wave of innovation.”

After seeing what Samsung is working on, the future we’ve been imagining for the past several years feels so much closer.

To hear more about what Samsung announced at Tech Day, be sure to check out this interview I did with Jim Elliott, SVP of Sales and Marketing at Samsung Semiconductor!

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