In September 2019, Huawei launched its new flagship devices Mate 30 & 30 Pro. These smartphones are powered by Huawei’s latest Kirin 990 chip.
With Kirin 990, Huawei has gone with a Dual-SOC approach by making one chip with 5G Modem for 5G smartphones and the other one for non-5G devices.
Apart from the 5G Modem, these chips differ in some other aspects as well. The 5G variant of Kirin 990 is fabricated using TSMC’s 7nm+ (N7+) EUV process while the 4G variant is manufactured using the older 7nm (N7) process that was also used in the previous-gen Kirin 980.
Kirin 990 5G also has faster clock speeds, thanks to the enhancements in the new N7+ Process and it also has a better AI Accelerator. It is a massive chip with a die size of 113.31 mm². For comparison, Apple A13 Bionic and Snapdragon 855+ have a size of 98.48 mm² and 73.27 mm² respectively. The 4G variant of Kirin 990 is much smaller with a size of 90 mm².
Before we go in depth in the review and benchmarks, here is a quick look at the pros. and cons. of this SOC.
Just like the last year’s Kirin 980, Huawei once again made use of the same LPDDR4x Memory, Cortex-A76 CPU, and the Mali-G76 GPU. But this time around, the CPU clocks are higher and the Graphics Processing Unit features more cores.
With these previous-gen architectures, Huawei won’t be able to compete with Samsung’s Exynos 990 and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 865. Both these SOCs feature LPDDR5 RAM. Samsung’s custom CPU Core and the Cortex-A77 Core in Snapdragon 865 outperform Kirin 990 in the CPU department. The story is similar in the GPU department where Qualcomm’s Adreno 650 and the Mali-G77 GPU in Exynos 990 are way ahead of Kirin 990’s Mali-G76 GPU.
However, Kirin 990 also has a small advantage over Snapdragon 865 and Apple’s A13 Bionic as it uses TSMC’s N7+ Process which is slightly better than the N7P Process used in the other two SOCs. If you want to learn more about the fabrication nodes, you should go through this article.
|Name||Kirin 990 5G||Kirin 990 4G|
|Fabrication Process||TSMC 7nm+ EUV||TSMC 7nm|
|CPU Cores||8 (Octa-Core)||8 (Octa-Core)|
|Core Configuration||2x Cortex-A76 at 2.86 GHz + 2x Cortex-A76 at 2.36 GHz + 4x Cortex-A55 at 1.95 GHz||2x Cortex-A76 at 2.86 GHz + 2x Cortex-A76 at 2.09 GHz + 4x Cortex-A55 at 1.86 GHz|
|GPU||Mali-G76 MP16 at 600 MHz||Mali-G76 MP16 at 600 MHz|
|NPU Configuration||2 Big Cores + 1 Small Core||1 Big Core + 1 Small Core|
|Memory||Quad-Channel LPDDR4x||Quad-Channel LPDDR4x|
|Storage||UFS 3.0||UFS 3.0|
|Modem||5G NR Modem with Download speeds up to 1.4 Gbps||4G LTE Modem with Download speeds up to 1.6 Gbps|
|VoLTE Support||Yes, Dual VoLTE||Yes, Dual VoLTE|
Here’s the specification of both the variants. The only difference you’ll find is in the Fabrication Process, CPU Clock Speeds, NPU Configuration, and the Modem.
While the clock speed of the most-powerful Cortex-A76 Core cluster in both the chips is the same, there’s a difference in the clock speeds of the other two clusters. This should make the 5G variant slightly faster while handling light-weight apps.
In the GPU front, we have Mali’s Mali-G76 MP16 GPU at a clock speed of 600 MHz. This is the same for the chips so you can expect a very similar gaming and 3D performance.
When compared to the Kirin 980, now we have higher CPU Clock speeds (2.86 GHz vs 2.60 GHz) and more GPU Cores (16 vs 10) but the underlying architecture is still the same (Cortex-A76 and Mali-G76). This was pretty unimpressive from Huawei considering the older Kirin 980 was already behind the Exynos 9820 and Snapdragon 855 in performance.
The NPU configuration is different in both the variants and this time around, the AI Performance of the chip has been improved substantially. Both the variants of Kirin 990 outperform Snapdragon 855+ in AI Performance by a big margin. However, AI is still and will remain a big gimmick in the smartphone industry for a while. There is only a limited set of usages such as Scene Detection and Background Blurring in Camera or for Facial Recognization.
To learn more about Kirin 990, you should check it out on Huawei’s website.
Here are some of the synthetic tests on this SOC.
On Geekbench 5, the Kirin 990 5G outperforms Snapdragon 855+ and 855 by a decent margin. However, the difference between the scores of Snapdragon 855+ and the 4G variant is within the margin of error.
On Antutu, the Huawei Mate 30 Pro gets a mammoth score of 458,426 which is 27.7% higher than that of Kirin 980. However, it fails to dethrone the Snapdragon 855+. One of the primary reasons for that would be the superior Adreno 640 GPU in 855+.
Comparison with other SOCs
Comparison with other SOCs
Before I talk about the real-world performance of this chip, let’s have a quick comparison with some of the similar SOCs.
vs Snapdragon 865
Snapdragon 865 is far ahead of Kirin 990 with its superior Cortex-A77 CPU and Adreno 650 GPU.
vs Kirin 980
Both the variants of Kirin 990 offer a decent jump in the performance from the previous generation.
vs Snapdragon 855+
While the Kirin 990 has a slightly better CPU performance, it loses in Graphics performance by a good margin.
vs Exynos 9820
Exynos 9820 is slightly weaker in both CPU and GPU departments.
vs Exynos 990
The new CPU core of Exynos 990 and Mali-G77 GPU makes it superior.
vs Apple A13 Bionic
The A13 Bionic outperforms it in almost every aspect.
Kirin 990 Review
Kirin 990 Review
Kirin 990 devices are extremely powerful and in real-world usage, it would be nearly impossible to observe the difference compared to other flagship SOCs. Here’s my opinion based on the Huawei Mate 30 Pro.
The device feels extremely fluid and light-weight apps such as Social Media, Browsing, and Video Streaming Apps work extremely well. Almost everything I did felt extremely smooth and ran pretty well. There were no lags or any issues that would ruin the user experience.
Kirin 990 has everything to offer that you would expect from a flagship device.
The Gaming Performance is extremely good as well. Popular Android games such as Call of Duty Mobile, PUBG Mobile, and Fortnite run extremely well at the highest settings. You wouldn’t observe any frame drops or stuttering and the device doesn’t get too warm on extended gaming.
While I didn’t have anything to complain about in the Gaming Performance, I would still recommend a Snapdragon 855+ device with a high refresh rate if gaming is the priority for you.
The Kirin 990 5G variant is one of the most power-efficient flagship chipsets out there and it is only behind Apple’s A12 & A13 Bionic chips. But the 4G variant is slightly behind Snapdragon 855+ in terms of power efficiency.
However, Huawei has packed a 4,500 mAh battery with the Mate 30 Pro, which makes it last longer than every phone in the iPhone 11 Series despite the lower power efficiency. You should expect a very long-lasting battery.
In our overall testing of this SOC, we have given it a score of 144 (5G variant) and 143 (4G variant) on Centurion Mark. You can find the scores of all the processors on this page.
List of Phones with Kirin 990 SOC:
- Huawei Mate 30 Pro (5G & 4G)
- Huawei Mate 30