Samsung have been making SoCs for a long time now. 12 years to be exact. For most of that time, they have used ARM’s IP cores, but for a brief period of time, they dabbled into making their own custom cores. These were known as Exynos Mongoose custom cores or the Exynos M series. This is their story.
It is no longer news that ARM’s designs are the best fit for smartphone processors. This is very true now, just as it was twelve years ago. Almost everyone then used ARM’s CPU designs. This was the case until Apple decided to break the tradition and customize the CPU cores for their SoCs.
The Custom Core arms race begins
In 2012, Apple decided to start using their own in-house CPU cores. Nothing out of the ordinary happened until Apple announced the iPhone 5S with the 64-bit Apple A7 SoC. This sent ripples through the Smartphone world.
Up until then, everyone else were content with using 32-bit processors. Thus the scramble to join the 64-bit train began.
After Qualcomm’s disaster with the rushed Snapdragon 810, they (Qualcomm) decided to rethink their approach to this whole custom core 64-bit business. The resulting new Kryo cores and the Snapdragon 835 were a success.
This was enough for Samsung to show its hands and dive into the business of custom CPU cores.
Exynos Mongoose custom cores
Samsung soon announced their own custom core as well. They called them Exynos Mongoose Custom cores. Older Qualcomm Snapdragon custom cores were known as Krait (a snake) and the Mongoose is a snake eater 😂. It was a direct challenge to Qualcomm. This was the first in what was meant to be a long line of custom cores, collectively known as the Exynos M series.
Samsung had hoped that the Exynos M series of custom cores would help them compete with both Apple and Qualcomm.
Exynos SoCs usually had a set of Exynos Monsoon custom cores paired with ARM Cortex A53/55 IP cores. They were all paired with Mali GPUs and appeared on Samsung’s flagships from the Galaxy S7 series to the S20 series (2016-2020).
For a time, it seemed as though the Exynos M series cores would give Samsung a competitive edge over their rivals, Apple and Qualcomm. Alas, this was not to be.
Year in year out, Apple and Qualcomm kept pushing the bar and it was clear that they (Samsung) were not going to catch up. To make matters worse, Mediatek have not only caught up, but have surpassed Samsung.
It was in light of these events that Samsung decided to close down the Custom Core Research and Development (2020) unit. Thus the Exynos Mongoose Custom cores are no more. Instead, Samsung decided to use IP cores from ARM for their new SoCs like the Exynos 1080, 2100 and 2200 instead.
Do you think that Samsung would go back to making custom cores in future?
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