Kirin 970 is Huawei’s new flagship SoC with dedicated AI unit

Huawei Kirin 970 AI

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are buzzwords you’re going to be hearing a lot, at least for the next couple of years. At IFA 2017, Huawei has announced its latest flagship mobile processor—the Kirin 970, its first chip that comes with a dedicated Neural Processing Unit (NPU).

“As we look to the future of smartphones, we’re at the threshold of an exciting new era,” said Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei Consumer Business Group. “Mobile AI = One-Device AI + Cloud AI.”

The chip is part of Huawei’s mobile artificial intelligence platform, that features a dedicated Neural Processing Unit (NPU). The NPU enables superfast cloud-based and on-device AI.

Huawei Kirin 970

Similarly, Apple’s A-series processor that powers the iPhone and iPad devices, has a M-series motion co-processor to process tasks like speech from its virtual assistant Siri, and data from its sensors.

This reduces power draw (it can process tasks even when phone is asleep) and saves battery life.


Because AI applications are power intensive, the NPU will to power tasks like image recognition, virtual assistants, personalisation and more.

As an example, the Kirin 970 together with the dedicated NPU, processed 2,000 images per minute in a benchmark image recognition test. Huawei says that this is 20 times faster than if the task was handled by the CPU alone.

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The Kirin 970 is Huawei’s next-gen SoC, built on a 10nm process, packing an incredible 5.5 million transistors within a single square centimetre of silicon.

The chip has an 8-core CPU and a 12-core Mali-G72 GPU. It’s the first commercial chip to use the latest GPU from ARM. Huawei claims the Kirin 970 with the NPU is 25X more powerful, and 50X more efficient than the Kiron 960.

It also includes a dual-ISP, and a high-speed Cat.18 LTE modem.

The power-packed SoC supports 4K video decode/encode (H.265, H.264), can handle 10-bit colour (HDR10), and 32-bit/384K DAC. It also supports dual-cameras (naturally), high-speed UFS 2.1 storage and LPDDR4 (1833Mhz).

The new Kirin 970 is expected to be featured in the upcoming flagship Mate 10 device, set to be announced in October.



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