MediaTek’s System-on-Chip mobile processor business has been stepped up in the last eighteen months with the company having pushed into eight, or octa, core processors and into the new 64-bit architecture, plus developing its own integrated 3G and LTE basebands, or modems. We’ve seen a number of the more established smartphone device manufacturers develop products based around MediaTek processors, such as Sony and HTC, either for the developing market or more recently for their broader market. Writing of HTC, the E9 has recently been revealed using the new MediaTek Helio X10 processor, which is an octa-core, 64-bit processor.
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The story we are covering today is that MediaTek have just chosen to unveil their next generation processor to a select group of businesses, including Xiaomi, Vivo and others. This new processor is to be called the Helio X20, which based on the marketing literature appears to be based around the new ARM Cortex-A72 processor core (an upgrade to the ARM Cortex-A57, which is used in current flagship processors such as the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 and the Samsung Exynos 7420 as used in the Galaxy S6). This processor will feature 10 cores, rather than the more established four or eight. MediaTek’s marketing literature shows that the processor is capable of recording an AnTuTu Benchmark score of around the 70,000 point, which puts it at the top of the current mobile processor league tables (but perhaps not at the very top). We’ve already seen that the Helio X10 MT6795 can exceed 50,000 point scores based around an eight core design. The analyst leaking the story reported that the Helio X20 should go into mass production by the end of the year.
This story is interesting for a few reasons and the first is that MediaTek are indeed raising their game. Bringing a new processor to the market, based on a new architecture with even more cores is by itself an interesting escalation. However, I do need to question how much of a difference adding more processor cores is to the equation. The jump to the new architecture is more relevant for performance, because the overwhelming majority of Android applications are aware of one or perhaps two processor cores. One exception is that of benchmarking applications, which typically scale to the number of processor cores on the device: the more cores, the higher the benchmark result. We also don’t know some of the finer detail of the design, such as if this is a big.LITTLE processor and if so, how is it structured. Do we have a six / four core combination? Or two five core designs?
Nevertheless, MediaTek have an opportunity to press home an advantage to benchmark fans as Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 810 has shown generally disappointing benchmark scores and has been criticized with overheating issues. Qualcomm are of course also developing their own upgraded processors, but another disappointing release could encourage many manufacturers to move towards MediaTek’s processor family.