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MediaTek delivers 10-core mobile SoC

Posted: 13 May 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:big:LITTLE? Helio X20? deca-core? mobile processor? CorePilot 2.0?

MediaTek has developed a mobile system-on-chip (SoC) that is basically an extension of ARM's big:LITTLE technology, proving differentiation can still be done in this domain.

Several weeks after the first hints of the new product were leaked, Taiwan's MediaTek formally announced the newest king of the company's product line-up. Positioned as a high-end mobile processor, the Helio X20 touts a unique architecture and the latest in ARM CPU and GPU technology.

Not to be outdone by octa-core mobile SoCs, the Helio X20 touts 10 Cortex-A CPU cores (deca-core) in a "tri-cluster" configuration plus one Cortex-M4 core typically used for microcontroller applications. The first CPU cluster contains two of the latest 64bit ARM Cortex-A72 cores with a top clock frequency of 2.5GHz, while each of the other two clusters have four low-power (but still 64bit) ARM Cortex-53 cores.

The reason for two quad-A53 clusters is that one cluster is optimised for higher performance, with a maximum frequency of 2GHz, while the other is optimised for lower-power consumption with a maximum frequency of 1.4GHz. What MediaTek has created is an extension of ARM's big:LITTLE power and performance optimisation technology.

Helio X20

Many SoC vendors used the original big.LITTLE ARM approaches to assign execution of tasks to the core, or cores that can most efficiently complete it. High-end cores such as the Cortex-A72 took jobs where performance was needed, and more power-efficient cores like the A53 were used for background and "light-weight" tasks. In the cases of executing compute-intensive applications like gaming, the big cores can best execute the task quickly allowing the SoC return to a sleep or idle state as quickly as possible to save energy. In the case of lower-performance functions like video record or playback that requires a core to remain active for longer periods of time, the little cores can best fulfil the task while limiting power consumption.

MediaTek contends that by creating in the chip more tiers (or gears as they call them), tasks can be further optimised. At a little less than half the size of the A72 cores and less than a quarter of the power, the A53 in a quad-core configuration can provide a very power efficient solution for most tasks in a die area smaller than two A72 cores. Then, by segmenting them further according to the task requirements and adding in an extremely low-power core like the M4, the system is better optimised, across all potential tasks and applications.

The Helio X20 uses MediaTek's CorePilot 2.0 technology to provide fine-grained power control, enhanced performance and efficiency. To further improve power efficiency, MediaTek also integrated a Cortex-M4 microcontroller core for always-on sensor functions like voice recognition.

The Helio X20 also contains the latest ARM Mali GPU technology in what is reported as a customised GPU configuration. In addition, the Helio X20 includes a dedicated hardware accelerator for 4K H.265 (HEVC and VP9) HD video decode and 4K/30Hz H.265 encode.

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