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Is MediaTek all set to become Intel's PC rival?

Posted: 17 Apr 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:MediaTek? Intel? PC? processor? FinFET?

MediaTek, the world's third-largest chip designer, is rumoured to be prepping up on a head-to-head battle with Intel in the PC business arena sometime this year. The speculations emerged with the release of MediaTek's MT8173 processor, which combines two ARM Cortex A53 cores with a pair of Cortex A72 cores.

The MediaTek chip scores about 1,500 on single-core Geekbench results, reportedly the highest score ever for a mobile processor, including those from Intel.

An extrapolation of the 1,500 single-core score indicates a multi-core grade of about 7,500 for an octa-core processor based on A72 technology. The MT8173 is fabricated with 28nm process technology at Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC).

If MediaTek were to produce the chip with TSMC's 16nm FinFET when the technology becomes commercially available later this year, so the story goes, MediaTek's version of the chip would benefit from a 25 per cent boost in performance, yielding a single-core performance score of about 1,850 and an octa-core rating as high as 9,000.

Intel posts flat revenues for Q1
Revenue dropped 8 per cent YoY in the PC client group (personal desktops, notebooks, tablets and phones), but tablets were a bright spot. Bolstering the lower PC numbers, the IoT group grew by 11 per cent YoY ($533 million) "based on strength in the retail and digital security market segments" said Stacy Smith, CFO, Intel. The data centre group, at $3.7 billion in revenue, also grew 19 per cent YoY.

That would put the hypothetical MediaTek chip in the same ballpark as Intel's desktop PC processors.

In reply to my email on the subject, MediaTek corporate SVP David Ku would only say that the MT8173 is designed for the high-end tablet market. Still, when MediaTek launched the product on March 1 this year, the company press release said that "by presenting CPU specs that outperform any other device currently on the market, we are bringing PC-like performance to tablet form factor."

Now add to the mix the rumour that MediaTek is interested in licensing the Radeon GPU technology of Intel rival AMD. With AMD's help, MediaTek may well aim to push into the Chromebook business, dominated by Intel.

It wouldn't be the first time for MediaTek to take on bigger competitors and win. More than a decade ago, MediaTek and its system partners in China put DVD players on the market that cost less and outperformed similar offerings from Sony and Samsung.

MediaTek has gone from strength to strength, more recently jumping into the smartphone business to rival Qualcomm, where the Taiwan company has been winning market share. But would MediaTek dare to grapple with the Godzilla of the chip industry in the PC business, which has been plagued by lackluster growth? It's worth betting on.

- Alan Patterson
??EE Times

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