Kirin 950

We're coming at you live from Beijing, China, where Huawei is detailing the new Kirin 950 processor. While Kirin's not a name you hear in the U.S. at all — Huawei's phones in our part of the world ship with other processors — but it's a big deal in Asia, and in China specifically, and it's expected in the rumored Huawei Mate 8. And the 950 is a big step forward for HiSilicon, the Kirin line and Huawei specifically.

The 16nm chipset sports four high-power ARM Cortex A72 processors at up to 2.3 GHz, and four lower-power Cortex A53 processors at 1.8GHz, in the big.LITTLE configuration, with a "tiny" i5 "always-sensing" coprocessor on board as well. It's got a Cat 6 LTE modem on board, and graphics are powered by a Mali T880MP4 processor.

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Kirin 950

And in addition to the on-paper boost in processing speed, the leap to VoLTE (and that'll extends back to the Kirin 920 and 930 as well) and the improvement in voice quality plays a big part in Kirin 950's appeal, Huawei says. And the voice demonstrations during Thursdays morning's press briefing showed the stark contrast in frequency range — a 100 percent increase, Huawei says, ranging from 50 Hz to 7KHz. That means better low- and high-frequency response for voice, with the latency down from 5 to 6 seconds to 05. to 1.5 seconds. Voice quality improves twice over as well. And there's an across-the-board improvement for music.

The other big leap in Kirin 950 comes from using flip transistors and FinFET — the short, short version is that it has to do with power consumption, or, specifically, consuming less power without sacrificing performance, building transistors vertically instead of only horizontally. Huawei's saying a 40 percent increase in performance, with power consumption down by 60 percent. And that ultimately adds up to an additional 10 hours of "normal" use on a device with a 3500 mAh battery.

The included i5 co-processor (and don't think of that in terms of the Intel i5 you're probably more familiar with) is for things like the sensor hub, barometer, gyroscope, magnetometer and acceleration. It's "always sensing" and is four times better than the second-generation i3, with power usage decreased from 90 mA to 6.5 mA.

Kirin 950 test board

As far as graphics power goes, Huawei says the Mali T880 GPU has 100 percent better performance over the Kirin 930, with a similar increase in GFLOPS.

For end users, that means faster, with longer battery life. And, in a word — better. And that's a a huge deal for Huawei, as more than half of China's 4G+ phones are running a Kirin chipset today.

Kirin 950 specs

Category Features
Manufacturing process 16nm
CPU 4x ARM 72 @ 2.3 GHz, 4x ARM 53 @ 1.8 GHz
GPU Mali T880
Co-processor i5 "always-sensing"