Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Early benchmarks for MT6795 show high performance, suggest use of eight Cortex-A53 cores

MediaTek originally announced the MT6795, a SoC targeting the premium-level and performance segments of the smartphone market, in July 2014, with expectations of devices being commercially available to end users before the end of 2014. However, the chip was delayed (problems with the memory controller were reported) and competitive benchmark results are only now beginning to surface for the chip.

According to the announcement, the SoC was to have an octa-core CPU configuration with clock speeds up to 2.2 GHz, a strong dual-channel memory interface with support for LPDDR3 up to 933 MHz, 2K (2560x1600) display support. Other reports and information have suggested that it uses a PowerVR G6200 GPU, similar to the one used in MediaTek's MT6595, which can be seen as 32-bit predecessor of the new chip.

Confusion about processor cores, octa-core Cortex-A53 seems likely

The actual CPU cores used inside the MT6795 continue to be source of confusion. Initially understood to be an octa-core Cortex-A53 CPU configuration clocked at a high frequency, later a purported leaked MediaTek product roadmap surfaced that described the MT6795 as a big.LITTLE design that includes Cortex-A57 cores. However, a recent new entry in the Geekbench database suggesst that the chip actually has eight Cortex-A53 cores as originally suspected, as the IPC (instructions per cycle) of the integer and floating point subtests would be hard to reconcile with Cortex-A57 cores being present.

Geekbench results show mixed performance but high overall score

The Geekbench results show strong CPU performance, with the overall score being superior to that of available results for Snapdragon 810, which has a significantly higher cost design but has been plagued by performance issues, although it scores lower than Exynos 5433/Exynos 7 Octa with Cortex-A57 cores as used in the Galaxy Note 4. Note that MT6795 uses a less advanced 28 nm process compared to the 20 nm process used for Snapdragon 810 and Exynos 5433.

Single-score integer performance is not spectacular and below that of the previous generation high-end chips such as Snapdragon 801. Although this is compatible with the use of medium-performance Cortex-A53 cores, integer single-core performance is actually lower than the mid-range MT6752, despite the higher clock rate, pointing to continuing hardware performance problems with the chip. The Dijkstra benchmark result is particular low. This benchmark has a lot of external memory access and likely branches a lot, taxing certain elements of the CPU and SoC that simpler CPU benchmarks do not. It may be affected by the doubled address size in AArch64 mode, either through the increased size of pointer storage or reduced efficiency of the branch prediction unit inside the processor core.

Single core floating point performance in the Mandelbrot benchmark is higher than the MT6752 and actually compatible with the Cortex-A53 core running at 2.1 GHz, close to the originally envisaged maximum clock speed for the MT6795. Multi-core performance in this subtest is impressive, with a score that is higher than most existing SoCs including Exynos 7 Octa, which employs faster Cortex-A57 cores.

Finally, the dual-channel memory interface seems to working reasonably well in the tested revision of the chip/development board, with memory scores consistent with an optimized dual-channel interface, and higher, for example, than those of Exynos 5433. However, they are generally lower than those of the 32-bit MT6595.

One caveat is that the MT6795 entry is running in AArch64 mode, while the other devices were running in AArch32 (32-bit ARMv8) or 32-bit ARMv7 mode.

Average single-core CPU performance, strong multi-core performance

In a direct comparison with the MT6752, which has a comparable CPU configuration but clocked lower and has only a 32-bit memory interface, the MT6795 is only slightly faster, although the MT6795 uses a full 64-bit AArch64 instruction set model, while the tested MT6752 configurations use AArch32 with partial use of ARMv8 features. There are a few anomalous results, including a low score for the MT6795 in the single-core AES benchmark, and as mentioned it also scores significantly lower in the Dijkstra benchmark. Floating point performance is consistently higher for the MT6795 (more than the increase in clock rate would explain), which may be caused by the higher-performance memory subsystem of the MT6795 and/or the increased number of floating point registers available in AArch64 mode.

The MT6795 is clearly slower than its 32-bit predecessor MT6595 (which uses high-performance Cortex-A17 and Cortex-A7 cores in a big.LITTLE configuration) in most metrics, with only the heavy weighting and large performance gain for the AES and SHA1 cryptography tests  (due to the new ARMv8 instruction set) shifting the advantage for the overall score towards the MT6795.

When making a comparison with a median entry for the high performance Exynos 5433 (Exynos 7 Octa) inside the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, the MT6795 fairly consistently shows clearly lower single-core performance but higher multi-core performance.

MT6795 likely to be most cost-effective performance segment processor on the market

The exclusive use of Cortex-A53 CPU cores, and not the much more expensive and die-space consuming Cortex-A57 (or, in a 32-bit comparison, Cortex-A15/A17 cores), has positive implications for the cost of the chip. Die space dedicated to the CPU cores will be relatively low, although L2 caches will take considerable space when configured with a size that matches the desired performance level and market segment. Overall, the chip is likely to be attractive in terms of performance/dollar for the performance segment.

In terms of SoC optimizations, the chip would probably work better with the employment of additional ARM IP such as a Mali T760 or Mali-T800 series GPU, which offers advantages in combination with ARM cores such as Cortex-A53 in tandem with techniques such as AFBC, smart composition and transaction elimination, and new interconnect buses within the chip. SoCs like the MT6752 probably benefit from these optimizations, while the MT6795 cannot do so fully because of the non-ARM GPU. It seems likely that the MT6795 will be superseeded in next generation products to be announced by MediaTek in the future by a similar SoC with an ARM Mali-T760 or T800 series GPU.

Update (2 March): Based on a closed-door presentation event at the MWC, MediaTek appears to have rebranded MT6795 as Helio X10 with future Helio P series products also being announced.

Sources: MediaTek (MT6795 announcement), Geekbench browser

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