The US-sanctioned Chinese company Huawei may return to the market for mobile processors with a new chip from the series Kirin. This will be perfected SoC that has the potential to overtook the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 flagship on Qualcomm in popular benchmarks.
The chip is codenamed KC10 and will likely be launched as the Kirin 9010, GizmoChina reported. It is capable of achieving 1.3 million points in the AnTuTu test, while the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 hovers within 1.27 million points, and the new Apple A17 is at the level of 950 thousand points.
Currently, the KC10 exists in the form of an unknown number of engineering samples. It’s entirely possible that Huawei will show just one demo chip. The company has not commented on rumors that it is getting back into the mobile processor business.
Huawei is under sanctions from the US, which forced it to freeze further development in mobile processors and leave behind a significant part of the Kirin developments made over the years.
But even if it introduces a new Kirin 9010 processor, Huawei will face a manufacturing problem. Neither it nor its subsidiary HiSilicon, which was engaged in the development of processors, have their own factories. And contract manufacturers are unlikely to accept orders from either company, fearing the wrath of US authorities.
Kirin processors have been around since 2012, until May 2020 they were manufactured by the Taiwanese company TSMC. Former US President Donald Trump unleashed a trade war with China and began to destroy Huawei, including by forcing TSMC to refuse cooperation with it.
In the fall of 2020, Huawei still gained access to TSMC factories – it was allowed to produce chips with a 28nm topology and older technological processes. For Huawei, this was unacceptable – modern processors of the highest class cannot be made with 28-nm technology. As a result, the Kirin project was frozen until better times.
The company SMIC operates in China – a local competitor of TSMC, which is significantly behind in technical terms. It has barely mastered the 14nm technology process, which is also not enough at a time when Apple, Qualcomm or MediaTek will soon introduce the first 3nm chip for smartphones.
But even the production of chips on the 14-nm topology at the SMIC plant is very difficult – the company is under US sanctions, and such equipment is already prohibited for it. And soon the Americans will completely ban the import into China of lithographic equipment with a topology newer than 40 nm.
It follows that Huawei will not be able to use SMIC services, at least not in the case of the new Kirin 9010. At the same time, SMIC capabilities would be sufficient for the production of mid-range chips, and it seems that Huawei is working in this direction.
According to GizmoChina, the company is currently preparing a low-cost Enjoy 60 smartphone based on an unnamed Kirin processor – probably on par with the five-year-old Kirin 710 with four powerful Cortex A73 cores, the same number of energy-efficient Cortex A53 cores and quad-core Mali G51 MP4 graphics. The Kirin 710 came out in 2018, manufactured on a 12nm process. Perhaps Huawei will make a similar chip on the 14nm SMIC process.