Samsung outs the Exynos 4212 dual-core chip

Samsung, in its role of semiconductor giant rather than gadget maker and lawsuit target, has announced a new entry into the Exynos application family: a dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 offering called the Exynos 4212.

Built on a 32nm process size using high-K metal gate technology, the company claims that the 1.5GHz dual-core system-on-chip design offers a 25 per cent increase in processing power and a 50 per cent increase in 3D graphics grunt over the its previous Exynos chip.

Those figures are impressive, but there is a slight fudge-factor involved: the previous generation Exynos chip, found in the Samsung Galaxy S II, runs at a mere 1.2GHz. As a result, that 25 per cent performance gain comes almost entirely from the clockspeed boost, and is something that Galaxy S II owners can already experience using a modified kernel capable of overclocking the chip.

Although Samsung isn't detailing the technology behind the 3D graphics portion of the chip, it seems likely that - as with previous Exynos chips - it's using a relatively unmodified Mali design from ARM. Using off-the-shelf IP isn't a new approach for Samsung, and it's something that ARM itself actively encourages of its customers.

"Have you noticed it doesn't even say ARM there? It's not part of our corporate strategy to push our brand through our partners," explained ARM's Ian Smythe in an interview earlier this year, referring to the Exynos chip found in the Galaxy S II.

In addition to the central processing cores and the GPU, Samsung's latest system-on-chip design includes an HDMI 1.4 interface with support for 3D footage and hardware accelerators for digital still image capture, video recording and playback at 1080p, and an image signal processor.

All in all, it sounds remarkably like a speed-bumped version of the 'dual-core application processor' found in the Samsung Galaxy S II - officially designated as an Exynos 4210, which is available in 1.2GHz and 1.4GHz flavours - and that's no bad thing: benchmark results show the astounding performance of that chip, and a version with a 300MHz speed boost will be no slouch.

As usual, Samsung appears to have reserved the first production run for itself: the company's upcoming Samsung Galaxy S II HD LTE, which will be launched in its native Korea first, includes a 1.5GHz dual-core chip with surprisingly similar specifications to today's announced part. Now, however, third-party companies are free to buy the same chip for inclusion in their own products, much as Apple did for its original A4 and A5 processors.

"As innovative technologies appear on the mobile landscape, the market continues to embrace further developments and performance acceleration in mobile computing," Samsung VP Seh-Woong Jeong claimed during the chip's unveiling. "Samsung is addressing this trend with its powerful low-power Exynos family of processors based on its proven design technology and cutting-edge process technology for performance and power improvements at the system level."

The Exynos 4212 is expected to sample to select customers towards the end of the year, with the first third-party devices hitting the market shortly thereafter - giving Samsung's own Galaxy S II HD LTE a head-start over the competition.