Monday, March 2, 2015

New mobile SoCs announced at MWC

At the Mobile World Congress this week, several new mobile SoCs are being announced.

MediaTek announces cost-reduced MT6753 for smartphones

MediaTek anounced two mobile SoCs, the MT6753 for smartphones and the MT8173 for tablets.

The MT6753 appears to be a cost-reduced version of the successful MT6752, equpped with "WorldMode" modem technology. By offering compatibility with the CDMA2000 standard, it gives customers worldwide greater diversity and flexibility in their product layouts, according to MediaTek. Features include an octa-core Cortex-A53 CPU up to 1.5 GHz and a Mali-T720 GPU with an unspecified number of cores. ARM's Mali-T720 GPU is positioned at a significantly lower performance bracket than the Mali-T760 used in the MT6752, positioning the MT6753 below the MT6752 in terms of cost and performance.

The MT6753 is described as being compatible with the previously announced MT6735 for entry-level smartphones. The MT6735 has four Cortex-A53 cores instead of eight but otherwise has a similar configuration with a Mali T720 GPU.

High-performance MT8173 tablet SoC uses small big.LITTLE clusters with Cortex-A72

The MT8173 is a high-performance tablet processor (without integrated modem) that utilizes ARM's new Cortex-A72 core in a big.LITTLE configuration. By using only two Cortex-A72 cores (clocked up to 2.4 GHz) as well as two Cortex-A53 cores, the chip has a lower cost than would be the case with the four-by-four core configuration commonly used for big.LITTLE designs, while still providing good performance.

The Cortex-A72 core, the successor of Cortex-A57, appears to be seeing quick adoption as Qualcomm has already announced performance-segment smartphone SoCs (Snapdragon 618 and 620) featuring the core.

MediaTek has previously used a similar two-by-two big.LITTLE configuration in its MT8135(V) tablet SoC, which has two Cortex-A15 cores and Cortex-A7 cores. This chip was used in Amazon tablets but otherwise did not see much adoption.

Other features include a PowerVR GX6250 GPU, which is part of Imagination's Series 6XT family, with higher performance and efficiency than the G6200 GPU used in chips such as the MT8135 and MT6595.

Other tablet SoCs not yet publicly announced by MediaTek

Meanwhile, tablet product announcements by Lenovo also refer to the MT8161 and MT8165 SoCs, which have not been announced. From the specifications of the Lenovo Tab 2 A8 which is using it, the MT8161 appears to be a tablet SoC without modem with quad-core Cortex-A53 CPU running up to 1.3 GHz, while the MT8165 (used in the Tab 2 A10) is a similar SoC with the CPU running up to 1.5 GHz. The 4G version of the Lenovo tablets come equipped with the MT8735 (Tab 2 A8) and MT8732 (Tab 2 A10). These chips are the tablet versions of the MT6735 and MT6732 smartphone SoCs.

MT6795 renamed to Helio X10

In a closed-door presentation at MWC, MediaTek also presented the Helio X10 smartphone SoC, featuring a 64-bit octa-core CPU up to 2.2 GHz, 120 Hz display refresh rate and H.265 video encode up to 4K2K @ 30 fps. A photograph of a slide taken at the presentation strongly suggests that Helio X10 is nothing other than the delayed MT6795 SoC, whose specifications closely match. Devices using this chip are likely to have already started production. MediaTek also talked about the Helio P series, a high-performance platform, which will make its way into devices before the end of the year.

Qualcomm gives preview of next-generation Snapdragon 820 SoC

In a press release, Qualcomm has given a preview of the Snapdragon 820, which utilizes Qualcomm's new custom 64-bit CPU architecture for mobile devices called Kryo. The chip will start sampling in the second half of 2015 according to Qualcomm, with devices becoming available in 2016. It will be manufactured on a next-generation FinFET process (which probably means TSMC's 16FF+, but Samsung cannot be excluded). In the press release, Qualcomm does not mention whether the chip will conform to ARM's ARMv8 instruction set architecture.

In conjuction with the Snapdragon 820, Qualcomm also announced the Zeroth hardware/software platform focusing on device intelligence features including video and audio recognition techniques (such as visual object and face recognition).

Intel introduces tablet and smartphone SoCs with integrated modem

Intel has finally introduced SoCs with an integrated cellular modem in its Atom system-on-a-chip product line. The former SoFIA platform has been renamed to Atom X3 and features multi-core 64-bit Atom processors with integrated 3G or 4G LTE modem technology. The following products are available:
  • Atom X3-C3130, which has dual-core Atom CPU running up to 1.0 GHz and integrates a 3G modem. It features Mali-400 MP2 GPU. Maximum display resolution is 1280x800. It appears to be in the same market segment as MediaTek's previous-generation 3G SoCs such as MT6572 and MT6582 and other SoCs that are already on the market.
  • Atom X3-C3230RK, which was developed by Intel partner Rockchip following the agreement announced last year. It has quad-core Atom CPU, integrates a 3G modem and features a Mali-450 MP4 GPU.
  • Atom X3-C3440, a quad-core Atom CPU platform that integrates a Cat 6 LTE 4G modem. It has an Mali-T720 MP2 GPU. This product appears to be one that is most likely to succeed in the market.
All feature a 32-bit memory interface with support for LPDDR2 (and DDR3/DDR3L with the X3-C3230RK). These are the first Intel products that have features (such as the integrated modem) that make them specifically suitable for the smartphone market. They also target cellular-enabled tablets.

The 3G products are a little behind the times, and their success is uncertain. It will be interesting observe whether Rockchip was able to develop the X3-C3230RK in time (one would expect Intel to have greater expertise/resources so that the other products will appear on the market first).

One notable fact is that these are among the first SoCs to integrate an ARM GPU core with a non-ARM CPU.

Intel announces first 14 nm Atom SoCs for tablets and all-in-ones

Intel also rolled out its first 14 nm Atom SoCs, the Atom x5 and x7 processor series (formely codenamed Cherry Trail) with  Intel Gen 8 graphics, targeting tablets and small screen all-in-ones.

Intel has also introduced a new stand-alone modem chip, XMM 7360, which support LTE Cat 10 and download speeds up to 450 Mbps, as well as wireless connnectivity products (including WiFi/Bluetooth, GNSS/GPS and NFC solutions).

Sources: MediaTek (MT6753 announcement), MediaTek (MT8173 announcement), Qualcomm (Snapdragon 820/Zeroth platform preview), Intel (MWC announcements), Intel Atom x3 Processor Series Brief

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