MediaTek Unveils Deca-Core 10nm Helio X30 Chipset

MediaTek have officially announced their next generation, ten core mobile System-on-Chip, the Helio X30. The X30 follows on from the Helio X20 originally released over a year ago. The Helio X20 was followed by a higher clocked, but otherwise similar, Helio X25. However, MediaTek's new 64-bit Helio X30 features a revised processor architecture and is being built on TSMC's new 10nm FinFET manufacturing process. The Helio X30 supports up to 8 GB of LPDDR4 RAM and UFS 2.1 for fast access to internal storage. It will support dual cameras of up to 26-megapixels in resolution and for the modem, MediaTek have incorporated Category 12 LTE and the chipset can aggregate up to three carrier bands. Graphics are handled by an integrated PowerVR 7XT quad core GPU, which should be powerful enough for virtual reality work.

For application cores, the Helio X30 is using a revised deca-core design. There are three tiers of processor cores, which may be considered in a similar way to gears in an vehicle's transmission. The chipset determines the best combination of cores to operate depending on the workload it is experiencing. The lowest tier consists of a quad core cluster of ARM Cortex-A35 cores, clocked at up to 2.0 GHz. The ARM Cortex-A35 is a high efficiency, low powered application core designer for light workloads. The middling tier consists of a quad core ARM Cortex-A53, which has been a mainstay of the chip industry for some time now. This particular cluster may be clocked at up to 2.2 GHz. Finally, the high performance cluster consists of a dual core ARM Cortex-A72 unit, which may be clocked at up to 2.8 GHz. The ARM Cortex-A72 is an improved high performance ARM processor core and a successor to the ARM Cortex-A57.

The Helio X30 is significant for two reasons and the first is that MediaTek have included three different reference ARM Cortex designs, combining the low powered, high efficiency Cortex-A35 with the jack-of-all-trades Cortex-A53 and the high performance Cortex-A72 cores. Of perhaps more importance is that MediaTek are moving to a 10nm manufacturing process size. The smaller the process size, the potentially quicker the chipset can be (as the electrons have less of a distance to travel) and the lower the voltage required to drive the chipset. Lowering the voltage is especially important because heat production and power consumption are proportional to the square of the voltage applied. A relatively small reduction in voltage needed significantly reduces the power consumed and waste heat produced by the chipset. As to when the MediaTek Helio X30 will be available, the company is citing delays in 10nm manufacturing. The new chipsets may not be available in consumer smartphones until the middle of 2017, so we have almost a year to wait.

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David Steele

Senior Staff Writer
I grew up with 8-bit computers and moved into PDAs in my professional life, using a number of devices from early Windows CE clamshells and later. Today, my main devices are a Nexus 5X, a Sony Xperia Z Tablet and a coffee cup.
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