Huawei has today (or last night, Chinese time) announced its latest HiSilicon Kirin 960 processor, expected to debut in a new device next month and likely many more devices in 2017.
I’ve written a lot about Huawei devices, and no Kirin-powered phone, or tablet, I’ve used has ever been what you could call slow. Huawei also had support for fast Cat 6 4G (300/50Mbps) for longer than most rivals, and battery life has always been good to excellent.
But the elephant in the room was always the GPU performance. Although, to give some context, not everyone uses their phone in such a way to have made it a big issue. In other words, nobody should think the GPU performance was bad, it just wasn’t exceptional.
For gamers or those who like to compare benchmarks, it was Huawei’s weak spot.
This is hopefully set to change, with a major step change in performance afforded by a jump from an ARM Mali-T880MP4 GPU to ARM’s Mali-G71MP8 GPU, each clocked at 900MHz.
This new GPU is expected to feature in Samsung’s Galaxy S8 next year, giving Huawei the lead – for a few months at least.
On the CPU side, Kirin 960 now consists of 4 Cortex A73 cores clocked at 2.4GHz, and 4 Cortex A53 cores at 1.8GHz. This compares to 4 Cortex A72 cores at 2.3GHz and 4 Cortex A53 cores at 1.8GHz on Kirin 950.
The Huawei P9, this year’s current flagship, comes with Kirin 955 and a higher 2.5GHz clockspeed. Suffice to say, Kirin 960 will inevitably have faster variants in the coming months – possibly including the Huawei ‘P10’ due next spring.
One thing promised to benefit from the extra graphical horsepower will be VR applications, as well as there being full support for Vulkan – a low overhead API for high-performance 3D graphics.
4K/Ultra-HD (30fps) video recording will now be possible, and camera post-processing improved further too, which should work particularly well alongside future Leica-branded handsets.
Faster storage memory will also make for other improvements in day-to-day improvements in performance, switching from eMMC 5.0 to UFS2.1.
Having fallen behind the likes of Samsung, HTC, LG, Sony and most recently Google on 4G speed support this year, Huawei’s new Cat 12/13 modem will allow future devices to support the faster speeds being rolled out around the world, including EE in the UK (which recently turned on Cat 9 LTE for speeds of 450/50Mbps).
Cat 12 boasts download speeds of up to 600Mbps and 100Mbps up, while Cat 13 bumps upload speeds to 150Mbps, at the expense of download speed. Cat 9 and faster speeds will take a while to roll out, but it’s always good to have a device that’s ready. The same model will also benefit Huawei’s portable hotspots and LTE/4G routers, now able to offer faster speeds for mobile broadband.
International support is also improved with a wider range of radio frequencies supported, from 330MHz to 3800MHz, making it possible for phone users to enjoy 4G speeds pretty much everywhere.
The first device to use Kirin 960 is expected to be the Mate 9, to be announced at the start of November.