In today’s smartphone processor market, MediaTek, Qualcomm, and Apple are three pillars, and at most Samsung Exynos, which is declining day by day. However, going back a few years, there are still many veteran players making mobile phone processors, such as NVIDIA, Intel, Texas Instruments, etc. That was the heyday of smartphones.
During this period, there was another major mobile phone manufacturer that also devoted itself to researching chips and wanted to get a share of the pie, that is LG.
At the end of 2014, LG launched the first-generation self-developed chip LG NUCLUN, which was based on TSMC’s 28nm process and used the then-popular big.LITTLE size core architecture. The CPU adopts an eight-core architecture, including four 1.5GHz Cortex-A15 large cores and four 1.2GHz Cortex-A7 small cores; the GPU is Imagination’s PowerVR G6430, the same as the Apple A7 the previous year.
The paper specifications of LG NUCLUN are comparable to the Exynos 5410 on the Samsung S4 the previous year, and it can be regarded as a qualified mid-level and mid-level chip.
LG NUCLUN debuted with the LG G3 Screen mobile phone, which is an experimental model and is only sold in the Korean market, similar to the strategy of Samsung’s Exynos chips in recent years. The LG G3 Screen is similar to the LG G3 as a whole, the screen is larger, and some specifications are reduced.
Jong-seok Park, head of LG’s mobile division, was complacent about his own chips at the time: “NUCLUN opens a new chapter in LG’s history of mobile innovation. With this in-house solution, we will be able to achieve better vertical integration, further enabling product strategy Diversify to deal with more intense competition.”
The ideal is beautiful, the reality is cruel. The LG G3 Screen did not make much waves in the market and soon disappeared from the market.
A year later, the rumors of the second generation of LG NUCLUN finally spread on the Internet. Compared with the previous generation, the specifications of LG NUCLUN 2 have been greatly improved, the processor architecture has been increased from 32-bit to 64-bit, and the core cluster has been upgraded to A72 large core with A53 small core. It will also use the mainstream TSMC 16nm process, and its performance and energy efficiency will be greatly improved compared to the previous generation’s 28nm process.
Not only that, but the industry also reported that LG is working with Intel to create another version of NUCLUN 2, based on the 14nm FinFET process for development – at that time Intel’s 14nm was still a compliment, not inferior to Samsung and TSMC’s 12nm. A symbol of the most advanced craftsmanship in the industry.
Is LG going to make a comeback?
Fate and LG made a joke.
First, at the end of 2015, it was reported that LG canceled the Intel version of the chip plan because Intel 14nm could not give enough production capacity.
Then in mid-2016, the LG NUCLUN 2 running score was exposed online, and the performance was jaw-dropping. Its Geekbench single-core score is 1302, and the multi-core score is 3278, which is only comparable to Qualcomm’s mid-range processor Snapdragon 625.
There is another point that is more unbelievable. It was earlier rumored that NUCLUN 2 will use an eight-core processor, and the running score shows that this processor has only six cores.
In any case, at least the chip has been made, and it should be released on the market next logically, right?
Sadly, it didn’t. In September 2016, the LG V20 was released. Instead of using self-developed chips, it took the last train of the Snapdragon 820. Perhaps LG itself realized that putting such an immature chip on a flagship phone could have unimaginable consequences.
After two falls, LG seems to be still unwilling, ready to make a big vote and directly challenge the current flagship chip.
Before and after the release of the LG V20, new revelations pointed out that LG’s future NUCLUN chips will use Intel’s 10nm process, equipped with the latest A75 and A55 CPU cores. You know, Qualcomm’s next-generation flagship Snapdragon 835 uses Samsung’s 10nm process, but Intel’s 10nm technology is more advanced, and its density is comparable to TSMC and Samsung’s 7nm process.
However, this time, Intel not only failed LG, but also failed itself. Because the process technology is difficult to produce, Intel’s 10nm process has been delayed continuously.
Intel’s 10nm, which was originally planned to be unveiled in 2015, was first extended to 2019, and then it was delayed until the end of 2021 – the current 12th generation processor. During this period, Intel launched the first-generation 10nm processor i3-8121U, but the performance was poor, and the plan to launch 10nm had to be delayed again and again.
Between pulling and pulling, the third generation of NUCLUN has fallen into the sea.
So, LG’s self-developed chips depend on Intel? From the perspective of hindsight, in addition to the external conditions of Intel, some factors of LG itself cannot be ignored.
First of all, LG started late in the chip field, and its technical strength is far behind. Samsung began to make smartphone processors at the beginning of this century, Qualcomm and Huawei also started in the 2000s, and Apple later completed its self-developed chip debut on the iPhone 4 in 2010, but its talent base came from two old chip companies. PA Semi and Intrinsity. It can be said that LG lags far behind in the technology, talents and patent accumulation of self-developed chips.
Second, LG is not fully committed to chip development. Samsung’s Exynos chips are inseparable from long-term and continuous R&D investment, which is fed back through market sales. LG’s self-developed chips have only appeared on one mass-produced model from beginning to end, and they are indisputable in the world. And LG’s indomitable self-developed chips, like its smart phone business, ended without a hitch, leaving a sigh.