Everything we know about the Pixel 7 chip

We know a lot about the upcoming Google Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro, but the chipset that will power those phones remains a bit of a mystery. Whether it was a boon or a curse, Google stays true to its custom chips and the Pixel 7 is expected to debut a new incarnation of Tensor with the GS201. And, like last year, what little we know is quite unusual.

So far, the leaks for the upcoming GS201 Tensor haven’t happened at the same speed as the original Tensor chipset. It wasn’t until April 2021 that we knew a lot about the original GS101, but this year Google has managed to keep a tighter ship, limiting as much as we do and filling the spec table with lots of “unknown” labels.

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Specifications

For those who just want a table, here’s to you:

Code name of the development board Cloudripper
Model number GS201
Nuclei 2x “super-large”, 2x large, 4x small Cortex-A55
GPU Unknown
Production node Samsung PLP 4nm
Modem g5300b
Other characteristics Unknown

The second generation Tensor GS201 will be built by Samsung on its 4nm node using what is called panel-level packaging. This is a tricky way of saying that the chips will be made from a square wafer rather than a round one, reducing waste. This probably won’t impact the chip’s performance much in real-world devices, but it’s elegant and could cut costs – potentially useful when we’re still in the midst of a chip shortage.

According to some recent dives into the startup logs of a Pixel 7 Pro prototype, the Tensor GS201 may still retain the 2 + 2 + 4 core cluster configuration used by the original Tensor GS101, with two “super-large” cores, two more. typical large nuclei and four small nuclei. Details in the logs indicate that the small cores in the GS201 May still being Cortex A55, as the registry notes a workaround implemented specifically for them. These are the same small cores used in the original Tensor GS101 chipset and a design that dates back to 2017.

It’s unclear what design the GS201’s other cores might be. The latest generation Tensor used ARM Cortex-X1 for its “super-big” cores and A76 for its large cores. With chipset competitors that have since moved to the X2, we could see X2 for the big cores in the GS201, though that hasn’t been confirmed, and there are several generations of base design that Google or Samsung could choose to replace the A76 if they so wished.

Unsurprisingly, the GS201 will again be paired with a modem manufactured by Samsung, according to details identified in previous teardowns. The specific model identified this time is the g5300b. If Samsung follows the same naming conventions it did on the previous Tensor, this could be related to an Exnyos Modem 5300 variant, which has not yet been formally announced.

Mass production of the chipset is expected to begin in June 2022, according to a report.

Other characteristics

Smartphone chipsets aren’t just a list of cores; other details within them can affect performance. One of the main reasons Google chose to make their own chipset with the original Tensor was for advanced machine learning applications. With the rise of ambient computing, so-called heterogeneous computing, which means pushing specialized workloads onto different or custom hardware components rather than just general-purpose CPUs, is likely to have a greater impact on the perceived performance of the device than the large gains at single thread. It’s not just about one or two great benchmarks, but how we actually use our phones. More and more, this is for things like speech recognition, translation, fancy camera functions, AR / VR, and other more highly specialized workflows. And for that, you need more than a handful of recent ARM cores and a GPU.


The original Tensor included parts of Google’s HDRNet image processing pipeline in hardware, providing more specialization and direct performance for Google’s workloads than a generic ISP. Google also provided it with a dedicated security core (paired with a separate Titan M2 chip with “Trusty OS”). While details like these have not yet leaked for the GS201, you can probably bet that Google will continue to add these kinds of highly specialized tweaks. After all, features like these are the only reason a company would choose to create a custom smartphone chipset. Otherwise, Google would have simply used something from Qualcomm, as it has done in the past.

Details are not leaked yet, the GS201 will almost certainly have further optimizations and improvements in Google’s heterogeneous processing strategy, implementing other new camera and machine learning features in the hardware where they can be done faster and more efficiently. At I / O, everything Google said about the upcoming chipset was that it will bring “even more AI-heavy innovations and useful personalized experiences through voice, photography, video and security.” And while the original Tensor GS101 was heavily based on Samsung’s Exynos designs, we may see future models, such as the GS201, diverge from this base over time and as Google’s requirements change.


It’s also worth pointing out that Google’s main 2 + 2 + 4 configuration is unique. So far, other chipset makers haven’t followed in Google’s footsteps by including more than one “super-big” core. In an interview with Ron Amadeo of Ars Technica, Phil Carmack of Google (VP and GM of Google Silicon) said that this specific configuration was chosen to increase efficiency with “medium” workloads by being able to dedicate more resources to an activity to do it quickly, returning faster to a low-power state:

“When it comes to a steady-state issue where, for example, the CPU has a lighter load but is still moderately significant, you will have the double X1s running and, at that level of performance, that will be the most efficient. . You could use the two frequency-reduced X1s so they’re ultra efficient, but they still have a pretty heavy workload. A workload you normally would have done with two A76s, at most, is now skimming the throttle with two X1s. “

Devices

The GS201 Tensor is expected to debut with the Pixel 7 series of phones, which will include the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro. If history is any indicator, we might see it coming to a future Pixel A series as well (likely Pixel 7a in 2023). Google plans to release a Tensor-powered tablet as well, though it’s unclear whether it will use the GS201 or some other chip, as it is expected to land in 2023.

Another hardware codename has been tied to the GS201, but based on the name itself – Ravenclaw, a portmanteau of “Raven” (Pixel 6) and “claw” for the big names of Pixel 7 series cats (Cheeta and Panther) – which could be a test device meant to include Pixel 7 hardware inside a Pixel 6 body. Google used a similar naming scheme for a Pixel 5 with Pixel 6 internals.


Made by Google

With the GS201 going into production reported starting June 2022, the incoming chip-related leak rate is likely to increase soon, and Google also has a history of taking charge during leak season to dribble their own feature highlights. . We will likely know more very soon. The longest time we’ll have to wait, either way, is until the Made by Google event this fall, when the Pixel 7 series is scheduled to launch.

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