Samsung previews 8-core Exynos 5 Octa processor

The chip is designed for smartphones and tablets, though Samsung didn't say when it will ship

Samsung has announced its next Exynos processor for smartphones and tablets, an eight-core chip that uses a novel architecture to provide more performance without sucking up battery life.

The Exynos 5 Octa is essentially two quad-core chips in one package -- it has four high-performance cores for demanding tasks like gaming and video playback, and four less-powerful cores focused on conserving energy, for common tasks like texting and email.

The chip will be aimed at high-end smartphones and tablets, said Stephen Woo, president of Samsung Electronics' components business, in a keynote at the International CES in Las Vegas Wednesday that also included a surprise appearance by former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

Woo didn't say when the chip will go on sale, however. It will have to compete with Nvidia's Tegra 4 chip and Qualcomm's 800 series processors, which were announced earlier this week and will appear in devices in the second half of the year.

But Samsung had built a reference design to show what the Octa can do. Woo gave the example of making a restaurant reservation. An Exynos 5 Octa tablet will be able to load the restaurant page, download a reservation app and retrieve the device's GPS location all at the same time, he said.

He also showed a 3D video game to demonstrate the new chip, but the demo gods weren't looking kindly on him. There was an awkward 30-second pause as a Samsung engineer tried to get the game running. In the end it started playing and appeared to show smooth 3D graphics.

The chip offers up to a 70% energy savings compared to current Samsung designs, Woo said, though he didn't say where that number came from. It achieves the power savings by implementing chip design company ARM's big.Little architecture, which is what allows high- and low-performance cores to work together.

Specifically, the Octa chip has four Cortex-A15 cores for tasks like running HD video, and four lower-power Cortex A7 cores for basic work like sending texts and making calls.

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