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UNISOC

UNISOC formerly known as Spreadtrum Communication Inc. is a Chinese semi-conductor company that is headquartered in Shanghai, China. They produce SoCs and modems for smartphones and other electronics.

Spreadtrum was bought by Tsinghua Uni group in July 2013 for $1.78 billion. The Tsinghua Uni group then acquired another company known as RDA microelectronics for $907 million. In 2018, Spreadtrum and RDA were merged and rebranded into what is now known as UNISOC. They are currently the largest producers of SoCs in China.

This new company maintained its Spreadtrum heritage of making low-end SoCs for cheap entry level devices. This is something that they have been quite successful at. Their SC***** line of cheap SoCs are very popular in the low end smartphone market especially in Asia and Africa. Their list of customers include Samsung, Nokia, Lenovo, Teclast, Leagoo, HTC, Transsion (Itel) and many others. The merger also meant that UNISOC could now entered the midrange market. However, their midrange Tiger line up of SOCs have not been very successful.

Besides manufacturing SoCs, they also have a tidy line up of modems spanning from 3G all the way to 5G. Yes, they have manufactured a 5G modem.

UNISOC in 2017, licensed Intel Airmont processor cores with X86-64 architecture from PC giants Intel but they did not do well in the market at all.

Bad reputation

UNISOC has a bit of an image problem which it is trying to correct. Most adults today from the third world have at one time or the other used a phone powered by a Spreadtrum SoC. Spreadtrum SoCs are notorious for being laggy, unable to run simple apps, overheating and they throttle easily.

While the company gets a lot of flak for this, they have always marketed their SoCs as cheap entry level SoCs. These SoCs can carry out the basic tasks well (e.g calls, sms, multimedia viewing and social media use). That is it. It cannot handle high resolution cameras and falls flat on its face when it comes to gaming. It also suffers and heats up quickly during intense and prolonged use.

The companies that buy these cheap SoCs sometimes go on to mislead their customers about the true ability of their phone. They do this whilst selling these phones at rather costly prices. The average consumers rush to buy these devices and are sorely disappointed.

This has contributed to the bad image that has dogged UNISOC over time and is currently fixed in the minds of many smartphone users. The company also have not done themselves any favours as well. Other SoC manufacturers also make entry level SoCs as well using current technology (ARMv8) but UNISOC stuck with the outdated ARMv7.

The present

Thankfully this changed in their Tiger line up of midrange SoCs. These all use an ARMv8.2 instruction set architecture with modern Cortex cores.

The company has also began working on a 5G smartphone platform with an Intel 5G modem. In February 2018, Spreadtrum was introducing high-end smartphones with Augmented Reality.

The UNISOC – Spreadtrum SoC line-up

In 2014, Unisoc released a flurry of entry level SoCs for the market. They all had mostly similar specs and they were all meant for very cheap entry level phones.

Their specs are: core count: quad core, core type: Cortex A7, GPU: Mali 400 series, size: 28nm, ISA: ARMv7, clockspeed: 1.2 or 1.3GHz, memory: LPDDR2 or 3, and 3G capability.

The SoCs are SC5735A (Dexp Ursus NS370) and SC5735. SC7715 is a single core SoC (Samsung Galaxy Ace NXT and Samsung Galaxy Pocket 2). SC77275 is a dual core SoC (Samsung Galaxy Z1, Samsung Galaxy J120H). There is also SC7730A (Lenovo A1900) SC7730S (Samsung Galaxy Z3, Samsung Galaxy Tab 3, Blu C4, Blu Advanced L4). The most popular Spreadtrum SOC of that era was the SC7731C (Flare S series, Cherry Blu, MyPhone). Rounding up this segment is the SC7731G (iTel vision, Huawei Y5C, Archos 40D).

In 2016, they released a new batch of SoCs with similar specs to the ones from 2014. the only difference was that the clockspeed was increased from 1.2GHz to 1.3/1.5GHz and these SoCs had 4G capability. We start off with the SC9830A (Samsung Galaxy J1 mini prime and LYF Flame 7), SC9830 and finally SC9832A (Intex Aqua lineup, Micromax, Lenovo Z7).

In 2017, UNISOC acquired a core license from Intel and made two SOCs which did not do very well in the market. They both had similar specs e.g 14nm, Octa core. the Intel X86-64 architecture and Intel Airmont processor cores. The SC98531 (Leagoo T5C) used a Mali T820 GPU and ran at 1.8Ghz while the SC9861GIA used a PowerVR GT7200 GPU and ran at 2.0GHz. In 2017 these specs were rather decent but they flopped regardless.

In 2018, the company went back to its old ways releasing another flurry of 3G and 4G entry level SoCs. To make matters worse, they reused the same specs from 2014 for all of the 3G SoCs. The SC8810 (Samsung Galaxy Young 2) is a single core 40nm SoC running at 1GHz with a memory of DDR1. The SoC was slower than a snail. Another example is the SC8825 (Lenovo A390t), which is a dual core 40nm SoC running at 1.2GHz.

The rest are SC7731E (Flare S series, Nokia C1, Cherry Mobile, Itel A36, Itel A56, Itel P36, Itel S15/S15 pro, Itel S16), SC7735S (Samsung Galaxy Core 2, HTC Desire 700), SC8735S, SC8830, SC8830A, SC8831G (Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 lite, Samsung Galaxy Tab E, Samsung Galaxy Grand Neo plus, Samsung Galaxy J1 Mini) and finally SC8835S.

The 4G SoCs like the SC9832E (Nokia C2, Samsung Galaxy J2 core, Meizu C9 Pro, Micro Spark Go, Itel A35) and SC9850 (Cherry mobile, Flare A+) also used those specs from 2014 as well.

However, the newer 4G SoCs from that year used a modern ARMv8-A and the size of the transistors were shrunk down from 28nm to 16nm. The new SoCs also used modern Cortex A53 and a LPDDR4 memory. The last big change was the switch from quad core to octa core. They are SC9860 and SC9860GV.

In 2019, the last SoCs that were branded with the Spreadtrum name were released. They were budget SoCs with modern specs e.g ARMv8-A, Cortex A55 cores, PowerVR IMG8322 etc. They are SC9863 (Coolpad 3) and SC9863A (iTel Vision 1, Doogee N10, Teclast P10S, Teclast P20, Teclast P80x, Itel P36pro).

In late 2019, the Tiger line up of SoCs were introduced for the midrange market. They boasted modern specs such as the 12nm size, ARMv8.2A, Cortex A75 and A55, LPDDR4 memory etc. They mostly shared similar specs and used a 2+6 big.LITTLE arrangement. The only difference between them was the choice of GPU.

The Tiger T310 (Hisense F30S) with a PowerVR GT7200 kicks off our list. Next up we have the Tiger T618 (Teclast M40) with Mali G52 MP2 and finally the Tiger T710 with a PowerVR GM9446.

In 2020, the company announced their first 5G SoCs. The Tiger T7510 (Hisense F50 5G) keeps most of the specs from 2019 while the Tiger T7520 is much more modern with 6nm process and Cortex A76 cores. It also uses a Mali G57 GPU.

The UNISOC – Spreadtrum Modem line-up

The modem line by the company is very modest with a 3G modem (SC8803G) and a cat.3 4G LTE modem (SC9610) with uplink speeds of 50mbps and downlink speeds of 100mbps. Finally we have the Makalu IVY510 5G modem.


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