Samsung Unveils Quad-Core Exynos Chip For Next-Gen Galaxy Smartphone

The 1.4-GHz Exynos 4 Quad is based on ARM’s low-power Cortex A9 architecture and is the first quad-core processor from Samsung to be built using its 32 nm High-K Metal Gate (HKMG) processing technology. The low-power HKMG technology enables the new chip to deliver double the processing capabilities of its predecessor, the Exynos 4 Dual, while consuming 20 percent less power.

Samsung said a per-core dynamic voltage and frequency scaling (DVFS) technology is also delivered with the new chip to reduce power consumption. The technology allows the Exynos’ four cores to adapt to different levels of voltage as the smartphone’s workloads change. If workloads are light, cores automatically power down to conserve energy. If workloads become more intense, or more applications are run, the cores power back up.

[Related: Samsung Unveils First Android 4.0 Tablet, Galaxy Tab 2 ]

The quad-core model also has its benefits when it comes to a device’s performance. Because the Exynos has four distinct cores, users can multi-task at faster speeds, Samsung said. Video streaming, for instance, can run on one core, while other cores can work in the "background" to update apps, connect to the web, or scan for viruses – without compromising performance.

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"The quad-core processor offers phenomenal multitasking abilities surpassing any single or dual application processor," said Taehoon Kim, vice president of System LSI marketing in Samsung’s Device Solutions unit, in a statement. "Since all the cores must share a single battery, the power management and efficiency in the limited battery capacity are indispensable for mobile computing devices."

The quad-core architecture also means devices running the Exynos 4 Quad processor can more easily run power-hungry apps, such as 3D games or video editing tools.

The new mobile processor is poised to compete against those from other chip makers including Qualcomm and Texas Instruments. The Exynos 4 Quad will also compete against Nvidia’s new quad-core Tegra 3 mobile processor launched in November. Tegra 3 processors, which have built in 4G LTE capabilities, are already shipping today in devices including Asus' Transformer Prime tablet.

But Samsung’s smartphones, which will play host to its new Exynos line of chips, may give the company a leg up over its rivals. Market research firm IDC reported in February that sales of its Galaxy brand of smartphones are "reaching record new levels." In its fiscal fourth quarter of 2011, Samsung broke the 90 million unit mark for the first time in a single quarter, and the 300 million mark for the first time in a year.

Analysts expect the momentum to continue. The Wall Street Journal reported this week that it expects Samsung to announce an 80 percent jump in profit to about $4.4 billion, driven primarily by smartphone sales, when it reports its first-quarter earnings this Friday.