Huawei Mate 60 Pro achieves 5G speeds with old chip tech

Huawei’s latest flagship smartphone — the Mate 60 Pro — can achieve 5G speeds despite using a chip made using an older 7nm manufacturing process.

The Mate 60 Pro’s launch last week created excitement in China’s tech industry due to rumours that Huawei would launch a new 5G-capable Kirin chipset.

However, the manufacturer reportedly avoided mentioning the chip or whether it has 5G capabilities during its unveiling, leaving reviewers to draw their own conclusions.

In Hong Kong, testing on China Mobile’s network saw it breaching 350Mbps download speeds.

Numerous users on the Chinese social networking site Weibo have also posted tests online showing speeds approaching 1Gbps.

LTE-Advanced (4G) is theoretically capable of download speeds between 300Mbps and 1Gbps.

However, in a live network, those numbers are rarely achieved on 4G and are more likely to be found on 5G — which has become a standard feature on mid-range and high-end smartphones.

Huawei has been unable to equip its flagship smartphones with 5G connectivity from 2021.

Premium releases since then have included the P50, P50 Pocket, Mate 50, P60, and Mate X3 models.

The lack of 5G is due to the US banning companies in its country from selling their hardware or licencing their patents to Huawei.

The Huawei Mate X3 comes with a price tag of R44,999 in South Africa but lacks 5G functionality commonly found on rival flagship smartphones at less than half the price.

TechInsights conducted a teardown of the phone and found evidence that its Kirin 9000s chip was fabricated using Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation’s (SMIC’s) 7nm (N+2) process, a made-in-China design.

“The Kirin 9000s die measured 107 mm2, which is 2% larger than the Kirin 9000 (105 mm2),” TechInsights said.

“From various identifying features on the die, the team concluded the processor is manufactured by SMIC.”

“Initial lab results indicated that this die is more advanced than SMIC’s 14nm process node but presents larger critical dimensions than what TechInsights has observed for the 5nm process.”

“Additional measurements of critical dimensions on the die, including logic gate pitch, fin pitch and lower back-end-of-line metallization pitches, the analyst team concluded the die has 7nm features.”

TechInsights described the development as a manufacturing milestone for the most advanced Chinese foundry it had documented.

“Discovering a Kirin chip using SMIC’s 7nm (N+2) foundry process in the new Huawei Mate 60 Pro smartphone demonstrates the technical progress China’s semiconductor industry has been able to make without EUV lithography tools,” said TechInsights vice chair Dan Hutcheson.

“The difficulty of this achievement also shows the resilience of the country’s chip technological ability.”

“At the same time, it is a great geopolitical challenge to the countries who have sought to restrict its access to critical manufacturing technologies.”

Hutcheson said the development would “likely” result in even tougher restrictions on business with Huawei.

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Huawei Mate 60 Pro achieves 5G speeds with old chip tech