MediaTek have today announced a new 64-bit processor, the MT8173, based around the highest performance processor yet developed by ARM Holdings, the Cortex-A72 core design. MediaTek have designed this System-on-Chip (SoC) for tablets, aiming to bring improved performance and battery life to new models. The MT8173 is designed with 4K Ultra HD content in mind. Under the skin, the MT8173 uses a familiar big.LITTLE architecture, which sees lower powered, but battery sipping, cores paired up with higher performance, but thirstier, cores. This particular processor uses a different configuration compared with many high performance big.LITTLE cores in that it mates a dual core Cortex-A53 with a dual core Cortex-A72. As is common with many modern big.LITTLE processors, the MT8173 is able to run all four cores at the same time. it's equipped with the Imagination PowerVR GX6250 GPU and supports OpenGL ES 3.1, OpenCL standards. The SoC supports a 120 Hz mobile display and 4K 30fps hardware video playback. The processor has a clock speed of up to 2.4 GHz and offers up to six times the performance of the MT8125, a popular 1.2 GHz quad core Cortex-A7 processor released in 2013.
The use of a pair of dual core processors is what sets the MT8173 apart from many dual / quad-core arrangements, but here MediaTek have studied the market and how applications work: many applications are only aware of one or two processor cores. Of course, Android is a fully multitasking operating system and this is the reason why some dual core devices suffer occasional slowdowns, although with a sufficiently powerful processor these are few and far between (such as the HTC Nexus 9). By providing the MT8173 with a very powerful dual core A72 processor for the heavy lifting but backed up when necessary by the lower powered A53 cores, this processor should perform very well without those extra four cores.
ARM's CPU Group's General Manager, Noel Hurley, said this of MediaTek's relationship with ARM Holdings: "MediaTek has been a strong adopter of ARM big.LITTLE processing architecture, extending it with CorePilot, to deliver extreme performance, while maintaining power efficiency. Decisively and quickly incorporating the second-generation of our 64-bit technology into a market-ready product, underscores the partnership between ARM and MediaTek."
MediaTek will be demonstrating the MT8173, which is available now for early customers. It's expected to appear in commercially available tablets in the second half of the year. What do you think of MediaTek opting for a quad core processor, split between a dual core high performance and a dual core, high efficiency design? Are you interested to see the new tablets with this processor onboard? Let us know in the comments below.