Smartphone SoC bid farewell to "Moore's Law"?

time:2023-04-02 03:18:21 author:Notebook computer
Smartphone SoC bid farewell to "Moore's Law"?

Those who are familiar with the digital world should know that the period of rapid growth in mobile phone sales has passed, and the entire market has also entered the stock market stage from the incremental market stage. Various manufacturers urgently need to rely on innovation to attract consumers. Among many mobile phone configurations, in addition to the constantly changing screen shape, the increasing number of lenses, and the increasing battery life, the most attractive thing for consumers is the change in the processor. Because of this, in the past three months, major mobile phone processor manufacturers have launched their own flagship processors to seize the market in the second half of the year. First, Qualcomm and MediaTek released the Snapdragon 8+ Gen1 and Dimensity 9000+ at almost the same time. Then Apple launched a new generation of flagship processor A16 Bionic, and domestic manufacturer Ziguang Zhanrui also plans to launch a new generation of 5G processors in the near future. Recently, Weibo digital blogger @Digital Chat Station exposed news about the next-generation Qualcomm flagship processor. It is reported that because of the continued use of TSMC's 4nm process technology, next year's Qualcomm flagship chip SM8550 will not be updated for half a year like this year, and the so-called Plus version is expected to be overclocked on the basis of the original chip. It has to be said that we are no longer surprised by this kind of iterative high-end CPU "squeezing toothpaste". The A16 Bionic chip released by Apple the night before has just been exposed to the news that the performance has improved very little. The iterative upgrade of three generations of flagships between 865 and Snapdragon 8 Gen1 does not bring about the experience upgrade. The question is, what happened to these mobile phone processor manufacturers? Will "squeezing toothpaste" really become the norm in the future?

"Toothpaste squeeze" CPU

Although it sounds contradictory, when hearing "toothpaste squeeze" and "high performance" , Many people may have the same name in their minds - Apple. At the new product launch held some time ago, Apple brought us the iPhone 14 Pro series and the new Apple A16 Bionic chip. According to Apple’s official introduction, the A16 Bionic chip is built with TSMC’s 4nm process technology. It still uses the CPU architecture of 2* performance cores + 4* energy efficiency cores, and is still a 5-core GPU. Transistors (1 billion more than previous generation). (Source: Apple conference) Apple officially stated that the A16 Bionic is the fastest mobile phone processor in history, not only the CPU processing performance is 40% higher than that of competitors, but the AI ​​engine computing power has also increased from 15.8 trillion times to 170,000 billion times. Strangely, Apple's own product compared at the press conference was not the A15 processor, but the A13 processor three years ago. If the improvement is really huge, then such a comparison method is obviously unreasonable. Unfortunately, the first benchmark of the iPhone 14 Pro confirmed our suspicions - Apple is "squeezing toothpaste" again. According to the GeekBench 5 database, the A16 Bionic achieved a single-core 1879 and a multi-core 4664 in the test. Comparing the A15 processor's typical score of core 1722 and multi-core 4674, the A16's single-core running score only increased by 9%, and the multi-core even dropped. (Source: Twitter) It is undeniable that even if the A16 Bionic is just standing still, Apple's self-developed chips still far exceed the current Android flagship processors on the market in terms of performance and energy efficiency. The Dimensity 9000+ leads by as much as 40%, and the multi-core lead also has a double-digit gap. However, for consumers, it is somewhat uncomfortable to replace the processor every year but the performance of the processor has not changed. Of course, this situation is not unique to Apple. Taking Qualcomm as an example, in the past three years, Qualcomm has successively released a number of flagship chips including Snapdragon 865, Snapdragon 870, Snapdragon 888, Snapdragon 888 Plus, and Snapdragon 8 Gen1. The CPU performance gap is basically the same, and there is still a big gap from the Apple A14 processor. (Source: Lei Technology Homemade) In addition, Qualcomm has recently released mid-to-low-end new products - Snapdragon 6 Gen1 and Snapdragon 4 Gen1, of which Snapdragon 4 Gen1 adopts 6nm process technology and is equipped with 2*2.0GHz A78 large core +6*1.8GHz A55 small core; Snapdragon 6 Gen1 adopts 4nm process, equipped with 4*2.2GHz A78 large core + 4*1.8GHz A55 small core, the performance of the former is close to Snapdragon 765G, and the performance of the latter is close to Snapdragon 778G. This toothpaste is squeezed, and it can only be said that Qualcomm and Colgate are jointly recommended. (Source: Lei Technology Homemade) Of course, in addition to the performance of squeezing toothpaste, Qualcomm has also had a problem in recent years - that is, high energy consumption. Fortunately, after replacing the more technically mature TSMC 4nm process technology, the current Snapdragon 8+ Gen1 can finally give full play to its performance. It's just that after the lack of process benefits, it is still unknown whether the Snapdragon 8 Gen2 can still have such an immediate improvement.

The reason for the bottleneck

In fact, the performance bottleneck encountered by the mobile phone industry has already experienced countless times in the traditional PC industry. . In my opinion, in the next year or two at least, the application of CPU and GPU in the field of mobile phones will enter a bottleneck period, and it will be difficult to make new rapid progress. As for the main reason why the mobile phone CPU enters the bottleneck period, I personally think that there are the following three points: First, the benefits of the chip manufacturing process have come to the bottleneck period. For processors, even if the architecture remains the same, as long as the number of transistors can be continuously increased, the performance can be improved, and the new process technology can increase the number of transistors on the premise of the same die area. From 2015 to 2020, the chip process technology has progressed from 28nm to 5nm, and the performance improvement brought by this is also obvious. However, at present, it seems that the 4nm process technology is already the limit of TSMC. According to foreign media reports, due to low yield and general energy consumption, TSMC's first-generation 3nm process, TSMC N3, has been rejected by Apple, at least in the short term. With the veto of 3nm's largest customer, TSMC may directly abandon the N3 process and focus all its energy on the research of the N3E process. Second, the problem of energy consumption limits the rapid development of CPU. In recent years, Qualcomm's flagship CPU products have suffered a lot of criticism. Under the combined effect of AMD's X1/X2 ultra-large core architecture, Samsung's immature process technology and high main core frequency, the use of these flagship CPUs The products generally have obvious heating phenomenon, and the excessive energy consumption seriously affects the user's experience. Even the Apple A15 Bionic, a chip with a particularly prominent energy consumption ratio, will inevitably overheat and reduce the frequency in the case of long-term use. Unless the heat dissipation problem of the mobile phone can be solved, blindly increasing the main frequency will only affect the user's daily experience, and mobile phone manufacturers will inevitably limit the release of the extreme performance of the mobile phone CPU. (Photo source: Jingdong Mall) Third, there is currently no "killer application" that supports performance improvement. Let's look at this question from the perspective of mobile phone manufacturers. For ordinary consumers, is it really necessary to apply processors such as Snapdragon 8+ Gen1/Dimensity 9000+/A16 Bionic to mobile phones? How much opportunity does the average consumer have to use these processors to their limits? In addition to those "fans" who are keen on games, the main group for mobile phones must be ordinary consumers. Today, with the accelerating pace of life, mobile phones are used in people's hands for nothing more than the following uses: socializing, reading, playing games, and multimedia. Except for playing large-scale games, none of these needs is required by current mid-range processors. Can't be done. In fact, the current low-end processors, such as Dimensity 1100/Dimensity 1200/Snapdragon 780G/Snapdragon 778G, can basically run mainstream games "Honor of Kings" and "Peace Elite" smoothly. Even for large-scale games such as "Genshin Impact", the current mainstream mid-range processor Dimensity 8100 can achieve good running results. Without the "killer app", why does a mobile phone need such super-high performance and running scores?

Probably not a bad thing?

In summary, in the absence of "killer applications", in order to better control the energy consumption ratio, we can boldly predict that the future Snapdragon 8 Gen2 chip/A17 Bionic chip will still use TSMC 4nm Process creation, even in the future for a long time, the process technology of mobile phone CPU will not be greatly improved, and processor performance "squeezing toothpaste" is inevitable. But in my opinion, the "squeezing toothpaste" of the high-end CPU of the mobile phone may not be a bad thing. On the one hand, in recent years, with the unremitting efforts of MediaTek, the performance of mid-range CPUs in mobile phones has collectively improved by leaps and bounds, and the energy consumption ratio is even stronger than that of many high-end CPUs. Qualcomm's flagship CPU decentralization strategy has also allowed more Multiple consumers can experience more powerful performance at an affordable price. On the other hand, the performance bottleneck of the high-end CPU of mobile phones will also make mobile phone manufacturers pay more attention to the improvement of experience. It is hoped that in the next one to two years, the development direction of smartphones should be towards more user-friendly functions and experiences, so that the practice of simply competing for core hardware performance becomes a thing of the past. This is what ordinary consumers are more willing to see. future.

(Responsible editor:Monitor)