Thursday, June 4, 2015

MediaTek announces Helio P10 and MT6753 arrives in shipping devices

MediaTek has announced Helio P10 (MT6755), a performance mid-range smartphone SoC that is the successor of MT6752. Featuring an octa-core Cortex-A53 configuration, Helio P10 improves upon MT6752 by using TSMC's new 28HPC+ manufacturing process, which delivers power efficiency and performance improvements while remaining relatively cost-effective. It can reach a higher maximum CPU clock speed up to 2 GHz and upgrades the GPU to a Mali-T860 MP2. It is expected to be commercially available in end devices by the end of 2015.

Features shared with Helio-X10

The new SoC  incorporates a few features from Helio X10 (MT6795), MediaTek's current high-end offering, including dual ISPs with 21MP camera support and improved capture capability, as well as improved audio quality.

Otherwise, the SoC has significant similarities to MediaTek's MT6752 which it succeeds, most likely including a 32-bit external memory interface, which keeps SoC cost and phone PCB cost down. With MT6752, MediaTek already demonstrated the ability to achieve memory performance adequate for a 1080p device within the constraints of a 32-bit memory interface.

The 28HPC+ process is an upgrade of the existing 28HPC (high-performance compact) process (which is also relatively new, used by Allwinner's A83T and other SoCs), which improves performance and cost relative to the established 28HPM (high-performance mobile) process. Existing MediaTek chips like MT6752 and MT6795 most likely use 28HPM, which is established and has also been used for previous-generation SoCs such as MT6592 and Snapdragon 801/805.

MediaTek migrating to big.LITTLE CPU configurations in new SoCs

A significant departure from existing octa-core MediaTek SoCs such as MT6752 and Helio X10 (MT6795) is the pseudo-big.LITTLE CPU configuration, whereby one cluster of four Cortex-A53 cores is clocked at a higher frequency (up to 2 GHz in this case), while the second of cluster Cortex-A53 cores is optimized for lower frequencies, being clocked at a lower maximum frequency (1.1 GHz according to AnandTech).

Together with the previously announced high-end Helio X20 (MT6797) and tablet/Chromebook-oriented chips such as MT8173, Helio P10 marks a migration to (pseudo-)big.LITTLE, hierarchical CPU designs at MediaTek. While symmetrical octa-core designs such as MT6752 and MT6795 reach very high multi-core processing power by allowing all cores to run at the maximum frequency, there are signs that this configuration impacts power efficiency for tasks that require less CPU power, which can be run on power-optimized low-frequency cores.

In practice, this may be reflected in somewhat mediocre standby battery life for smartphones using MT6752 or MT6795, even though power efficiency for demanding tasks that utilize all cores is likely to be pretty good.

Budget mid-range MT6753 reaches end-market

Meanwhile, MediaTek's previously announced MT6753, which is a cost-effective budget mid-range SoC, has arrived in commercially shipping device in the form of Meizu M2 Note. Despite the name chosen by Meizu, the new model actually has lower performance than the existing Meizu M1 Note, because the MT6753  is a less costly, lower end chip when compared to to the MT6752 inside the M1 Note, with considerably slower maximum CPU speeds for the eight CPU cores, as well as a lower performance GPU. There are also signs that the memory interface and the actual memory frequency used by the M2 Note is slower. The lower cost of the MT6753 platform is reflected in the low selling price of the Meizu M2 Note.

MT6753 implements several cost-reducing features, including a lower maximum clock speed (reported to be 1.3 GHz for the M2 Note), most likely associated with a cheaper manufacturing process (either 28LP or 28HPC) than the 28HPM process of the MT6752. A significant factor for lower performance is likely to be a reduced size of the L2 CPU cache inside the MT6753. MT6753 is likely to become a significant volume driver in MediaTek's 4G product line.

However, early Geekbench entries for the Meizu M2 Note suggest that the CPU cores of the MT6753 SoC used in this model are mostly unable to reach the planned clock frequency. The Geekbench results are mostly consistent with an average maximum CPU clock speed of about 1.1 GHz, significantly lower than the 1.3 GHz reported by the OS and the 1.5 GHz mentioned when the MT6753 was originally announced a few months ago. My following blog article about the use of AArch64 provides more details on this subject.

MT6753 has lower-performance GPU than MT6752

MT6753 also has a significantly lower-performance and smaller GPU (Mali-T720 MP3), compared to the Mali-T760 MP2 inside MT6752. MT6753 marks the first Mali implementation with three pixel processing cores; previous Mali GPUs either had one, two, four, six or eight pixel processing cores, Most likely, Mali-T720 does not have the memory bandwidth usage optimization that are present in Mali-T760, which together with the more limited pixel processing throughput means that devices with a 1080p display such as the Meizu M2 Note may be impacted in terms of 1080p game performance and power efficiency for graphics-intensive operations.

World modem support in new MediaTek platforms

All new MediaTek SoCs (including Helio P10 (MT6755), MT6753, the low-end quad-core MT6735 and the announced high-end Helio X20 (MT6797)) have world-modem support, facilitating compatibility with more cellular networks used worldwide, including legacy CDMA networks in the US and other countries. This makes MediaTek SoCs more attractive to smartphone manufacturers targeting multiple or worldwide markets.

Sources: MediaTek (Helio P10 announcement), AnandTech (Helio P10 article)

Updated 6 June 2015.