Huawei lets us glimpse Mate 30's power with 5G Kirin 990 chip

Huawei's homegrown Kirin 990 chip hints at what to expect from its new flagship phone.

Katie Collins Senior European Correspondent
Katie a UK-based news reporter and features writer. Officially, she is CNET's European correspondent, covering tech policy and Big Tech in the EU and UK. Unofficially, she serves as CNET's Taylor Swift correspondent. You can also find her writing about tech for good, ethics and human rights, the climate crisis, robots, travel and digital culture. She was once described a "living synth" by London's Evening Standard for having a microchip injected into her hand.
Katie Collins
2 min read

Soon to be inside the Huawei Mate 30.

Katie Collins/CNET

In years past, Europe's biggest electronics show, IFA, was the place Huawei chose to unveil a new Mate, the biggest of its flagship phones. That's not the case in 2019. We won't see the Mate 30, the latest in the series, until Sept. 19, when it's due to launch in Munich.

But ahead of its unveiling, Huawei did give us a preview of what's widely expected to power the Mate 30. The company showed off the Kirin 990 at the Berlin trade show on Friday -- the update to last year's Kirin 980, which was the first commercially available 7-nanometer system on a chip. Huawei's homegrown phone chip is its answer to Apple's own-brand A series chipsets and Qualcomm's Snapdragon processors, the preferred chipsets of most manufacturers of Android phones.

The Kirin 990 is a full 5G system on a chip with over 10 billion transistors, which promises to enable best-in-class 5G experience, new AI capabilities, improved energy efficiency and top performance across the board. The graphics processor has been boosted from 10 to 16 cores, promising a leap in graphics performance over its predecessor, and according to Huawei, over its competitors.

As well as improved graphics, the Kirin 990 should help any phone it's inside to produce clearer, crisper photos. The chip is packed with dSLR-level image noise reduction -- we look forward to checking out the resulting images and seeing if we can notice a difference.

On the 5G side, the 990 is the first 5G SOC with 5G modem, compared to its rivals, which use 4G SOCs combined with 5G modems. The chip can facilitate download speeds of 2.3Gbps and upload speeds of 1.25Gbps. It contains four sub-6 antennas, but no mmWave, meaning that while it'll work on most European 5G networks, it's not currently compatible with most networks in the US.

We hope to see the Kirin 990 in action when the Huawei Mate 30 debuts later this month. If previous Mates are anything to go by, this is likely to be an exciting phone launch -- so be sure to check back on launch day for all the news and our first impressions.