Google Tensor
Illustration of a blue system-on-chip adorned with the Google favicon
Illustration of the first-generation Tensor chip
LaunchedOctober 5, 2021; 2 years ago (2021-10-05)
Designed byGoogle
Common manufacturer(s)
ApplicationPixel
GPU(s)Mali
Co-processorTitan

Google Tensor is a series of ARM64-based system-on-chip (SoC) processors designed by Google for its Pixel devices. It was originally conceptualized in 2016, following the introduction of the first Pixel smartphone, though actual developmental work did not enter full swing until 2020. The first-generation Tensor chip debuted on the Pixel 6 smartphone series in 2021, and were succeeded by the Tensor G2 chip in 2022 and G3 in 2023. Tensor has been generally well received by critics.

Development

Background

Development on a Google-designed system-on-chip (SoC) first began in April 2016, after the introduction of the company's first Pixel smartphone, although Google CEO Sundar Pichai and hardware chief Rick Osterloh agreed it would likely take an extended period of time before the product was ready.[1] The next year, the company's hardware division assembled a team of 76 semiconductor researchers specializing in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), which has since increased in size, to work on the chip.[2] Beginning in 2017, Google began to include custom-designed co-processors in its Pixel smartphones, namely the Pixel Visual Core on the Pixel 2 and Pixel 3 series and the Pixel Neural Core on the Pixel 4 series.[3][4]

By April 2020, the company had made "significant progress" toward a custom ARM-based processor for its Pixel and Chromebook devices, codenamed "Whitechapel".[5] At Google parent company Alphabet Inc.'s quarterly earnings investor call that October, Pichai expressed excitement at the company's "deeper investments" in hardware, which some interpreted as an allusion to Whitechapel.[6] The Neural Core was not included on the Pixel 5, which was released in 2020; Google explained that the phone's Snapdragon 765G SoC already achieved the camera performance the company had been aiming for.[7] In April 2021, 9to5Google reported that Whitechapel would power Google's next Pixel smartphones.[8] Google was also in talks to acquire Nuvia prior to its acquisition by Qualcomm in 2021.[9]

Google officially unveiled the chip, named Tensor, in August, as part of a preview of its Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro smartphones.[10][11] Previous Pixel smartphones had used Qualcomm Snapdragon chips,[12] with 2021's Pixel 5a being the final Pixel phone to do so.[13] Pichai later obliquely noted that the development of Tensor and the Pixel 6 resulted in more off-the-shelf solutions for Pixel phones released in 2020 and early 2021.[1] In September 2022, The Verge reported that a Tensor-powered successor to the Pixelbook laptop with a planned 2023 release had been canceled due to cost-cutting measures.[14]

Design

"Tensor" is a reference to Google's TensorFlow and Tensor Processing Unit technologies, and the chip is developed by the Google Silicon team housed within the company's hardware division, led by vice president and general manager Phil Carmack alongside senior director Monika Gupta,[15] in conjunction with the Google Research division.[2]

Tensor's microarchitecture consists of two large cores, two medium cores, and four small cores; this arrangement is unusual for octa-core SoCs, which typically only have one large core. Carmack explained that this was so Tensor could remain efficient at intense workloads by running both large cores simultaneously at a low frequency to manage the various co-processors.[15] Osterloh has stated that Tensor's performance is difficult to quantify using synthetic benchmarks, but should instead be characterized by the many ML capabilities it enables, such as advanced speech recognition,[1] real-time language translation, the ability to unblur photographs,[2] and HDR-like frame-by-frame processing for videos.[15]

Models

Original G2 G3
SoC Launch date October 19, 2021 (2021-10-19)[16][17] October 6, 2022 (2022-10-06)[18] October 4, 2023 (2023-10-04)[19]
Model number GS101 (S5P9845)[8][20] GS201 (S5P9855)[21][22] S5P9865[23]
Development board Whitechapel[8] Cloudripper[21] Ripcurrent[23][24]
Codename ? ? Zuma[22]
Fabrication 5 nm LPE[2][25] 5 nm[26] 4 nm[27]
Manufacturer Samsung[8] Samsung[28] Samsung[29]
CPU ISA ARMv8.2-A[30] ARMv8-A[31] ARMv9[32]
Bit width 64-bit[30] 64-bit[33] 64-bit[34]
µarch Octa-core:[15][2]
2.8 GHz Cortex-X1 (2×)
2.25 GHz Cortex-A76 (2×)
1.8 GHz Cortex-A55 (4×)
Octa-core:[35]
2.85 GHz Cortex-X1 (2×)
2.35 GHz Cortex-A78 (2×)
1.8 GHz Cortex-A55 (4×)
Nona-core:[36]
2.91 GHz Cortex-X3 (1×)
2.37 GHz Cortex-A715 (4×)
1.70 GHz Cortex-A510 (4×)
Security TrustZone (Trusty OS)[37] TrustZone (Trusty OS)[38] TrustZone (Trusty OS)[39][40]
GPU µarch Mali-G78 MP20[2][15] Mali-G710 MP7[35] Mali-G715[36]
Frequency 848 MHz[25] ? ?
RAM Type LPDDR5[25] LPDDR5[35] LPDDR5X[36]
Bus width 4×16-bit quad-channel[25] ? ?
Bandwidth 51.2 GB/s[25] ? ?
ISP NPU edgeTPU[25] edgeTPU[38] ?
Storage type UFS 3.1[41][42] UFS 3.1[43][44] UFS 3.1[36]
Connectivity Modem Exynos 5123[25] Exynos 5300[45] Exynos 5300i[36]
Wireless Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E[41][42] Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E[43][44] Wi-Fi 7[46][47]
Bluetooth 5.2[41][42] Bluetooth 5.2[43][44] Bluetooth 5.3[47]
Navigation Dual-band GNSS[41][42] Dual-band GNSS[43][44] Dual-band GNSS[39][40]

Original

The first-generation Tensor chip debuted on the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, which were officially announced in October 2021 at the Pixel Fall Launch event.[16][17] It was later reused for the Pixel 6a, a mid-range variant of the Pixel 6 series which was announced in July 2022.[48] Despite being marketed as developed by Google, close-up examinations revealed that the chip contains numerous similarities with Samsung's Exynos series.[20][25]

G2

A second-generation Tensor chip was in development by October 2021, codenamed "Cloudripper".[21] At the annual Google I/O keynote in July 2022, Google announced that the chip would debut on the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro smartphones,[49] which were officially announced on October 6 at the annual Made by Google event. The chip is marketed as "Google Tensor G2".[18] The chip was also used to power the Pixel 7a, Pixel Fold foldable smartphone, and Pixel Tablet which was unveiled in May 2023 during the annual I/O keynote.[50] It is the first Android SoC not to support 32-bit applications, instead only supporting 64-bit apps.[33]

G3

Samsung had begun testing Tensor G3 by August 2022, codenamed "Zuma" and expected to debut the following year.[22] Announced in October 2023, the chip was used to power the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro.[19]

Future

The Information reported in July 2023 that Google had suspended development on Tensor G4, codenamed "Redondo", that had been intended to be released in 2024, due to the Google Silicon team missing a 2022 deadline for trial production to begin. Instead, the company had initiated development on Tensor G5, codenamed "Laguna", which was to be designed fully in-house, manufactured by TSMC instead of Samsung, and built on TSMC's 3 nm process.[51][29]

Reception

At launch, Tensor was well received. Philip Michaels of Tom's Guide praised the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro's Tensor-powered features and video enhancements,[52] as did Marques Brownlee and Wired's Julian Chokkattu.[53][54] Chokkattu's colleague Lily Hay Newman also highlighted the chip's security capabilities, declaring them Tensor's strongest selling point.[55] Jacon Krol of CNN Underscored wrote that Tensor delivered "some of the most fluid and fastest performance" on a smartphone,[56] though Android Authority's Jimmy Westenberg was ambivalent.[57] Ryne Hager of Android Police thought the chip's performance was acceptable to the everyday user, but was disappointed that Google did not offer more years of Android updates given it was no longer bound by Qualcomm's contractual terms.[58] TechRadar reviewer James Peckham commended Tensor as a "standout feature",[59] though his colleague David Lumb described the chip's performance as "strong but not class-leading".[60]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c Bohn, Dieter (October 19, 2021). "Sundar Pichai and Rick Osterloh Think the Pixel 6 is Google's Breakout Phone". The Verge. Archived from the original on October 19, 2021. Retrieved October 20, 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Tibken, Shara (October 19, 2021). "Google Pixel 6's Tensor Chip Aims to Make the Android 12 Phone Smarter and Last Longer". CNET. Archived from the original on October 19, 2021. Retrieved October 24, 2021.
  3. ^ Savov, Vlad (October 17, 2017). "Google's first mobile chip is an image processor hidden in the Pixel 2". The Verge. Archived from the original on October 17, 2017. Retrieved December 14, 2022.
  4. ^ Amadeo, Ron (April 4, 2021). "What we're expecting from Google's custom "Whitechapel" SoC in the Pixel 6". Ars Technica. Archived from the original on April 4, 2021. Retrieved December 14, 2022.
  5. ^ Fried, Ina (April 14, 2020). "Scoop: Google readies its own chip for future Pixels, Chromebooks". Axios. Archived from the original on May 5, 2022. Retrieved October 2, 2022.
  6. ^ Langley, Hugh (October 29, 2020). "CEO Sundar Pichai says some of Google's 'deeper investments' in hardware will be revealed next year. Here's what they might be". Business Insider. Archived from the original on October 30, 2020. Retrieved October 2, 2022.
  7. ^ Kerns, Taylor (October 1, 2020). "Google confirms that Pixel 5 drops the Pixel Neural Core chip". Android Police. Archived from the original on October 1, 2020. Retrieved December 14, 2022.
  8. ^ a b c d Bradshaw, Kyle (April 2, 2021). "Exclusive: Pixel 6 will be powered by new Google-made 'Whitechapel' chip". 9to5Google. Archived from the original on April 2, 2021. Retrieved September 16, 2021.
  9. ^ Ma, Wayne (December 23, 2022). "At Apple, a War for Chip Talent Intensifies". The Information. Archived from the original on December 23, 2022. Retrieved October 14, 2023.
  10. ^ Bohn, Dieter (August 2, 2021). "This is the Pixel 6, Google's take on an 'ultra high end' phone". The Verge. Archived from the original on August 2, 2021. Retrieved September 16, 2021.
  11. ^ Lumb, David (August 2, 2021). "Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro are official, and they have a visor-like camera". TechRadar. Archived from the original on August 2, 2021. Retrieved September 16, 2021.
  12. ^ Nieva, Richard. "Google's Pixel 6 phones are coming with a chip designed in-house". CNET. Archived from the original on August 1, 2021. Retrieved September 16, 2021.
  13. ^ Winkelman, Steven (August 17, 2021). "With Pixel 5a, Google Beefs Up the Battery, Gives Snapdragon Chip One Last Hurrah". PCMag. Archived from the original on August 17, 2021. Retrieved August 9, 2022.
  14. ^ Heath, Alex; Pierce, David (September 12, 2022). "Google canceled its next Pixelbook and shut down the team building it". The Verge. Archived from the original on September 12, 2022. Retrieved October 2, 2022.
  15. ^ a b c d e Amadeo, Ron (October 19, 2021). "The "Google Silicon" team gives us a tour of the Pixel 6's Tensor SoC". Ars Technica. Archived from the original on October 19, 2021. Retrieved October 20, 2021.
  16. ^ a b Hollister, Sean; Lawler, Richard (October 5, 2021). "Google just announced its Pixel 6 event on October 19th". The Verge. Archived from the original on October 5, 2021. Retrieved October 6, 2021.
  17. ^ a b Rutherford, Sam (October 19, 2021). "The Pixel 6 Is the Google Flagship We've Been Waiting For". Gizmodo. Archived from the original on October 19, 2021. Retrieved October 20, 2021.
  18. ^ a b Clark, Mitchell; Roth, Emma (September 6, 2022). "Google announces October 6th event to launch the Pixel Watch and Pixel 7". The Verge. Archived from the original on September 7, 2022. Retrieved September 7, 2022.
  19. ^ a b Chokkattu, Julian (October 4, 2023). "Google's Pixel 8 and Pixel Watch 2 Have Arrived. Here's What's New". Wired. Archived from the original on October 4, 2023. Retrieved October 4, 2023.
  20. ^ a b Schoon, Ben (November 3, 2021). "Google Tensor deep dive shows the Pixel 6 chip's Exynos roots, 'beastly' but hindered GPU, more". 9to5Google. Archived from the original on November 3, 2021. Retrieved November 9, 2021.
  21. ^ a b c Mohan, Babu (October 29, 2021). "Google is reportedly already working on a new Tensor chip for the Pixel 6 successor". Android Central. Archived from the original on October 29, 2021. Retrieved October 30, 2021.
  22. ^ a b c Wright, Arol (August 28, 2022). "Samsung is already testing the third-generation Tensor chip, set to debut on the Pixel 8". Android Police. Archived from the original on August 28, 2022. Retrieved September 7, 2022.
  23. ^ a b Groenheijde, Michel (August 23, 2022). "Samsung werkt aan nog een nieuwe Google soc (én een nieuwe Exynos)" (in Dutch). Retrieved March 6, 2024.
  24. ^ Cantisano, Timi (July 3, 2023). "Google's Pixel 8 Pro live images give us our first real look of what's to come". XDA Developers. Retrieved March 6, 2024.
  25. ^ a b c d e f g h Frumunsanu, Andrei (November 2, 2021). "Google's Tensor inside of Pixel 6, Pixel 6 Pro: A Look into Performance & Efficiency". AnandTech. Archived from the original on November 2, 2021. Retrieved November 9, 2021.
  26. ^ Wilde, Damien (October 11, 2022). "Tensor G2 confirmed as 5nm processor, not 4nm as expected". 9to5Google. Archived from the original on October 11, 2022. Retrieved October 13, 2022.
  27. ^ Hardawar, Devindra (October 4, 2023). "Google's Tensor G3 chip is focused on speeding up AI for the Pixel 8 phones". Engadget. Archived from the original on October 4, 2023. Retrieved October 5, 2023.
  28. ^ Vonau, Manuel; Hager, Ryne (October 18, 2022). "Google Tensor G2: All the details on the Pixel 7's custom chipset". Android Police. Archived from the original on October 18, 2022. Retrieved December 14, 2022.
  29. ^ a b Ma, Wayne (July 6, 2023). "Inside Google's Efforts to Develop Custom Chip for Pixel". The Information. Archived from the original on July 6, 2023. Retrieved July 11, 2023.
  30. ^ a b Sarwar, Nadeem (September 6, 2022). "The Pixel 6a should be an amazing $450 gaming phone, but it isn't". Digital Trends. Archived from the original on September 6, 2022. Retrieved October 3, 2022.
  31. ^ Martin, Chris (October 12, 2022). "Google Pixel 7 review: Sleek but samey sequel". Tech Advisor. Archived from the original on October 12, 2022. Retrieved January 5, 2024.
  32. ^ Schoon, Ben (October 4, 2023). "Hands-on: Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro are Google's most promising phones yet, but it all depends on Tensor G3". 9to5Google. Archived from the original on October 5, 2023. Retrieved October 6, 2023.
  33. ^ a b Conway, Adam (October 13, 2022). "The Google Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro are the first Android phones to only support 64-bit apps". XDA Developers. Archived from the original on October 13, 2022. Retrieved October 15, 2022.
  34. ^ Claburn, Thomas (October 4, 2023). "Google introduces phone-shaped housing for its AI tech". The Register. Archived from the original on October 6, 2023. Retrieved October 5, 2023.
  35. ^ a b c Claburn, Thomas (October 6, 2022). "Google reveals Pixel 7 phones with 1.7 Stadias of security fixes promised". The Register. Archived from the original on October 6, 2022.
  36. ^ a b c d e Vonau, Manuel; Winkelman, Steven (October 24, 2023). "Google Tensor G3: The complete guide to the Pixel 8's custom chip". Android Police. Archived from the original on October 29, 2023. Retrieved November 13, 2023.
  37. ^ Kleidermacher, Dave; Seed, Jesse; Barbello, Brandon; Somogyi, Stephan (October 27, 2021). "Pixel 6: Setting a new standard for mobile security". Google Online Security Blog. Archived from the original on October 28, 2021. Retrieved October 28, 2021.
  38. ^ a b Conway, Adam (October 6, 2022). "Google Tensor G2 on the Pixel 7 series picks up where the original Tensor left off". XDA Developers. Archived from the original on October 6, 2022. Retrieved October 7, 2022.
  39. ^ a b "Pixel 8 Technical Specs". Google Store. Archived from the original on October 4, 2023. Retrieved October 4, 2023.
  40. ^ a b "Pixel 8 Pro Technical Specs". Google Store. Archived from the original on October 4, 2023. Retrieved October 4, 2023.
  41. ^ a b c d "Pixel 6 Tech Specs". Google Store. Archived from the original on October 19, 2021. Retrieved October 19, 2021.
  42. ^ a b c d "Pixel 6 Pro Tech Specs". Google Store. Archived from the original on October 22, 2021. Retrieved October 19, 2021.
  43. ^ a b c d "Google Pixel 7 Tech Specs". Google Store. Archived from the original on October 7, 2022. Retrieved October 7, 2022.
  44. ^ a b c d "Google Pixel 7 Pro Tech Specs". Google Store. Archived from the original on October 7, 2022. Retrieved October 7, 2022.
  45. ^ Bradshaw, Kyle (February 18, 2022). "First details of Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro come roaring out: 2nd-gen Tensor, new Samsung modem". 9to5Google. Archived from the original on February 18, 2022. Retrieved August 22, 2022.
  46. ^ Spadafora, Anthony (October 4, 2023). "Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro just got a huge upgrade that beats iPhone 15 Pro". Tom's Guide. Archived from the original on October 5, 2023. Retrieved October 5, 2023.
  47. ^ a b Akhtar, Iyaz (October 4, 2023). "Google Pixel 8 vs. Pixel 8 Pro: What's the Difference?". PCMag. Archived from the original on October 6, 2023. Retrieved October 6, 2023.
  48. ^ Amadeo, Ron (May 11, 2022). "The Pixel 6a is official, and it's set to dominate the mid-range market". Ars Technica. Archived from the original on May 11, 2022. Retrieved August 6, 2022.
  49. ^ Bursztynsky, Jessica (May 11, 2022). "Google announces its first smartwatch, a new budget phone and more". CNBC. Archived from the original on May 12, 2022. Retrieved May 12, 2022.
  50. ^ Elias, Jennifer (April 18, 2023). "Google to launch its first foldable phone, the 'Pixel Fold,' in June". CNBC. Archived from the original on April 18, 2023. Retrieved April 21, 2023.
  51. ^ Weatherbed, Jesse (July 7, 2023). "Google's first truly custom chip for Pixel devices won't arrive until 2025". The Verge. Archived from the original on July 6, 2023. Retrieved July 11, 2023.
  52. ^ Palmer, Jordan (October 19, 2021). "Google Pixel 6 Pro review: The best flagship phone value". Tom's Guide. Archived from the original on October 19, 2021. Retrieved June 7, 2022.
  53. ^ Brownlee, Marques (October 27, 2021). Pixel 6/6 Pro Review: Almost Incredible!. Archived from the original on October 27, 2021. Retrieved October 28, 2021 – via YouTube.
  54. ^ Chokkattu, Julian (October 25, 2021). "Review: Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro". Wired. Archived from the original on October 25, 2021. Retrieved October 28, 2021.
  55. ^ Newman, Lily Hay (October 27, 2022). "The Pixel 6 Tensor Chip's Best Upgrade Isn't Speed. It's Security". Wired. Archived from the original on October 27, 2021. Retrieved August 9, 2022.
  56. ^ Krol, Jacob (October 27, 2021). "Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro review: The best Android phones you can buy". CNN Underscored. Archived from the original on October 28, 2021. Retrieved October 28, 2021.
  57. ^ Westenberg, Jimmy (October 25, 2021). "Google Pixel 6 review: Worth every penny". Android Authority. Archived from the original on October 19, 2021. Retrieved June 7, 2022.
  58. ^ Hager, Ryne (October 25, 2021). "Google Pixel 6 Pro review: Fake it till you make it". Android Police. Archived from the original on October 25, 2021. Retrieved June 7, 2022.
  59. ^ Peckham, James (October 25, 2021). "Google Pixel 6 Pro review". TechRadar. Archived from the original on October 26, 2021. Retrieved October 20, 2021.
  60. ^ Lumb, David (October 19, 2021). "Google Pixel 6 review". TechRadar. Archived from the original on October 19, 2021. Retrieved June 7, 2022.