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Samsung has a new chipset likely to bring cheaper 5G phones in 2020

Samsung Exynos 980 chipset
(Image credit: Samsung)

Samsung has just announced a new chipset called the Exynos 980 - and given its specs and features, it could be at the heart of many upcoming 5G-connected devices.

The Exynos 980 puts a 5G modem alongside all the usual brains and AI processing power, making it the company's first such all-in-one chip, according to Samsung's press release.

While it might look like this chip could power next year's Galaxy S11, a close look at the specs suggest it will be more prevalent in mid-range smartphones, though it could still be an impressive piece of hardware.

Connectivity is at the forefront in the Exynos 980. that's thanks to the 5G modem which will support sub-6GHz connections, such as Sprint's 5G network in the US or EE's 5G network in the UK. In interviews with TechRadar, Qualcomm didn't confirm whether the Snapdragon 855 and X50 modem combo that powered the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G enabled the phone to hook up to frequencies lower than millimeter wave (mmWave), so the new Exynos chip could connect to sub-6 networks like Sprint 5G.

It also support other connections from 2G to 4G, and has the ability to combine a 4G LTE connection with a 5G connection to stack up the downlink speeds of both, which theoretically enables it reach up to 3.55Gbps. This is called "E-UTRA-NR Dual Connectivity." To top it off, the Exynos 980 will support Wi-Fi 6.

AI is front and center in the Exynos 980 as well, with a neural processing unit (NPU) built into the chip. Instead of sending certain data to remote servers to be processed, the NPU can locally process that data. This keeps it secure.

Not a flagship chip

The Exynos 980 is a complete package, with an onboard CPU and GPU as well. But, based on the CPU, it's not going to be in the highest-end devices.

It combines two Cortex-A77 CPUs with six Cortex-A55 for a blend of high-performance and high-efficiency. It uses a Mali-G76 GPU to handle the graphical needs of games, augmented reality, and the like. 

As capable as those Cortex-A77 CPUs may be, Samsung has relied on custom CPUs to do the heavy lifting in its Exynos 9825 (in the Galaxy Note 10) and Exynos 9820 (in the Galaxy S10) chipset, leaving two Cortex-A75 cores and four Cortex-A55 core to handle the rest. For future flagships, it's likely to keep up this type of CPU configuration.

So, the Exynos 980 chipset is more likely coming to mid-range phones like Samsung Galaxy A-series. And, the new chip will let those phones feature up to 108-megapixel cameras, HDR10+ support, and encoding and decoding of 4K video at 120 frames per second.

Samsung says the chip should begin mass production this year.