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Quad-core MediaTek SoC spins Cortex-A72 into Android tablets

Mar 3, 2015 — by Eric Brown — 3,877 views

MediaTek unveiled an “MT8173” SoC for Android tablets that mixes 2.4GHz Cortex-A72 and -A53 cores with a PowerVR GPU, and also showed an octa-core -A53 SoC.

Last month ARM unveiled a 64-bit, ARMv8 Cortex-A72 processor design for mobile devices, claimed to be twice as fast as the Cortex-A57. The first system-on-chip licensees were said to be HiSilicon, Rockchip, and MediaTek, but so far the MT8173 appears to be the first announced –A72-based design. MediaTek also announced a “super-mid” range octa-core SoC with Cortex-A53 cores called the MT6753 (see farther below).

MediaTek MT8173

The MT8173 offers six times better performance than the quad-core, Cortex-A7 MT8125 SoC, claims MediaTek. The company has delivered a number of more powerful quad-core SoCs since then, such as its Cortex-A15/Cortex-A7 MT8135, the quad –Cortex-A53 MT6732, and the MT6595, which offers four 2.5GHz Cortex-A17 cores.

MediaTek MT8173

While the Cortex-A72 is primarily designed for octa-core Cortex-A72 and Cortex-A53 cores using ARM’s Big.Little core orchestration technology, the quad-core MT8173 uses integrates a pair each of -A72 and -A53 cores. There was no mention of whether the SoC was built with the 16nm FinFET process supported by the Cortex-A72 design.

Cortex-A72 block diagram (left) and a typical Big.Little SoC configuration. MediaTek eschewed ARM’s suggested use of a Mali-T880 GPU, and instead went with a PowerVR
(click images to enlarge)

The MT8173 supports 4K Ultra HD content and graphic-heavy gaming on tablets, with a primary focus on Android tablets. The new processor supports OpenCL in conjunction with its MediaTek Corepilot [PDF] v2.0 software, and enables heterogeneous computing between CPU and GPU cores. The SoC’s Imagination PowerVR GX6250 GPU, one of Imagination’s Series 6 Rogue chips, offers 350Mtri/s and 2.8 Gpix/s performance, says MediaTek. The GPU supports OpenGL ES 3.1, and is optimized for WQXGA displays at 60fps.

MediaTek CorePilot overview
(click image to enlarge)

The PowerVR-equipped MT8173 SoC is also touted for its high display clarity and motion fluency on 120Hz displays. The technology delivers “smooth scrolling with crystal clarity as compared to a normal 60Hz display,” says MediaTek.

Other MT8173 features are said to include:

  • Ultra HD 30fps H.264/HEVC(10-bit)/VP9 hardware video playback
  • HDMI and Miracast support for multi-screen applications
  • 20-megapixel camera ISP with video face beautify and LOMO effects
  • Security hardware accelerator supporting Widevine Level 1, Miracast with HDCP, plus HDCP 2.2 for 4k TV

MediaTek MT6753

MediaTek also announced an MT6753 octa-core SoC with integrated LTE that incorporates eight 1.5GHz Cortex-A53 cores. The 64-bit SoC uses MediaTek’s Corepilot technology for better communications between the CPU and the available Mali-T720 GPU.

The MT6753 offers a WorldMode 4G LTE and CDMA2000 3G modem, and supports dual-band 802.11n WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0. Other features include a 16-megapixel ISP, as well as 1080p video recording and playback. The first devices featuring the SoC are expected to ship in the second quarter.

“MediaTek has been a strong adopter of ARM big.LITTLE processing architecture, extending it with CorePilot, to deliver extreme performance, while maintaining power efficiency,” stated Noel Hurley, General Manager, CPU group, ARM. “Decisively and quickly incorporating the second-generation of our 64-bit technology into a market-ready product, underscores the partnership between ARM and MediaTek.”

Further information

The Cortex-A72 based, quad-core MediaTek MT8173 is available now, and will be featured in the first commercial tablets in second half of this year. The octa-core Cortex-A53 MT6753 SoC is also available, and will ship in products in 2Q 2015. Both SoCs are being demonstrated at 2015 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain at MediaTek’s booth, Hall 6, Stand 6E21.

More information should eventually appear on MediaTek’s website, where you can find the MT8173 and MT6753 announcements.

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