Samsung to produce 14nm SoC for budget models

The South Korean tech giant is widening the application of its touted 14-nanometer FinFET process to midrange phones as it attempts to stay ahead of rivals.

Samsung Electronics will begin production of the Exyno 7870 System-on-a-Chip (SoC) in the first quarter for midrange smartphones that use its 14-nanometer FinFET process, the company has announced.

It will be the first time the 14-nanometer FinFET process is used for a SoC aimed at midrange phones, previously only used for premium products, the company said. The move is part of a strategy to strengthen its SoC business.

Samsung first applied the 14-nanometer process last year for its own chip the Exynos 7 Octa, or Exynos 7420, which powered its flagship devices the Galaxy S6 series and Note series.

In November last year, it announced the Exynos 8 Octa, or Exynos 8890, a SoC that used its own custom-made cores. The new chip, which is currently being mass produced, is likely heading for the Galaxy S7 series, which will be unveiled at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona next week.

The chip set uses the company's upgraded 14-nanometer process announced last month, which it will also use for main client Qualcomm's upcoming Snapdragon 820 processors.

The 28-nanometer process was used for previous generations of chip sets. Samsung said the 14-nanometer process will make chips on midrange phones 30 percent more energy efficient.

The Exynos 7870 has a LTE Cat.6 2CA modem that supports FDD-TDD (Frequency Division Duplex and Time Division Duplex) joint carrier aggregation. It also has a Global Navigation Satellite System (GNS).

The chip set can handle 1920x1200 resolution WUXGA displays, 1080 pixel videos, and dual cameras up to 16 megapixels.

Production will began in the first quarter of the year and it will likely be used in an upcoming midrange brand made by Samsung.

Samsung's main contract making rival TSMC is using a 16-nanometer process and the two are competing to woo chip designers like Qualcomm, Nvidia, and rising Chinese firms.

The South Korean tech giant began making 14-nanometer chips for clients in late 2014, though it hasn't officially confirmed who they are.

During the fourth quarter earnings call for last year, the company said it plans to widen application of the 14-nanometer process and diversify its client portfolio. Its System LSI division, which handles AP production and contract making, is also currently designing chip sets for automobiles and medical devices.

Samsung and TSMC are now preparing to migrate to the 10-nanometer process.

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