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Mediatek challenges Qualcomm with its Dimensity 1200 chip

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The Xiaomi, Vivo, Oppo and Realme have shown keen interest in MediaTek Dimensity 1200 and 1100 (5G) chips for smartphones, with more to follow. The Taiwanese supplier aims to become a Chinese alternative to Qualcomm. Significant upscaling for Mediatek who comes to titillate Qualcomm's Snapdragon 888 with its Dimensity 1200 chip.

This week, MediaTek launched the Dimensity 1100 and 1200, a pair of ARM chips for 5G smartphones that challenge the best Qualcomm has to offer with its Snapdragon processors. The Chinese supplier  from Taiwan  has published only two performance criteria to back up its claims. The specifications of the Dimensity 1100 and 1200 are close to those of the Snapdragon 888, the latest component launched by Qualcomm, with even higher clock speeds. A component already adopted by the Samsung Galaxy S21

As Qualcomm dominates the market for high-end Android mobile chips, MediaTek has emerged as the world's leading supplier of smartphone processors, with a 31% market share, according to CounterPoint Research. MediaTek overtook Qualcomm in Q3 2020, thanks in part to the boom in mid-range phones and the Taiwanese supplier's success in India and parts of Asia. MediaTek's presence has been helped by aggressive pricing measures to help lower the cost of 5G phones, as well as support from phone makers like Xiaomi.

These Chinese suppliers are clearly seeking an alternative to Qualcomm, amid the threat of an American embargo, and MediaTek has already registered the interest of Xiaomi, Vivo, Oppo and Realme for their Dimensity 1200 and 1100 chips. The world's cheapest 5G phone, the Realme V3, is already powered by a MediaTek circuit, Counterpoint noted.

The Dimensity 1200 emphasizes speed
"We are going to continue to see 5G arrive in all price ranges and we are going to continue to work hard to make 5G available to everyone," Finbarr Moynihan, General Sales Manager of MediaTek, said in a briefing. with journalists. These circuits integrate the company's existing 5G M75 sub-6GHz modem, he said, with support for FDD and TDD technologies and 5G "lift mode" for smooth transitions as the phone moves to the floor inside a building.

MediaTek's Dimensity 1200 chip is based on Qualcomm's high-end Snapdragon models: one "ultra" core for performance, plus three "super cores" for the bulk of workloads and four "efficiency" cores for less demanding tasks. The 1100 forgoes the extra ultra-core, balancing the four "super-cores" with four low-power cores. The 1200 and 1100 chips are engraved in 6 nm. The Dimensity 1200 and 1100 are based on a familiar so-called "big-little" architecture.

What's interesting, however, is that the Dimensity 1200 runs at high clock speeds. Qualcomm's Snapdragon 888 uses a 2.84 GHz X1 core as the ultra or "main" core, followed by three 2.4 GHz Cortex-A78 cores and four 1.8 GHz A55 low power cores. The MediaTek Dimensity 1200 uses a 3 GHz Cortex-A78 ultra core, three 2.6 GHz Cortex-A78 cores and four low power 2 GHz A55 cores. The two Dimensity chips are supported by a Mali-G77 GPU with nine graphics cores, adds MediaTek.

The main difference is what Qualcomm calls its X1 core, which the company claims offers 20% more performance than the Cortex-A78. Is the Dimensity as powerful as the Snapdragon 888? On paper it's hard to say: The 1200 clock speed boost only offers a 6% improvement over the Snapdragon 888. MediaTek also characterized the chip as being able to display smoothly up to “90 frames per second” with the mobile version of Player Unknown's Battlegrounds.

A summary of the two Dimensity chips, provided by MediaTek.

But there is a direct comparison we have between the two. MediaTek cited GFXBench's Manhattan test, which uses the OpenGL ES 3.0 API and calculates an offscreen 1080p scene, as another gaming benchmark. According to the Chinese, its Dimensity 1200 chip generated 130 frames per second. Although Qualcomm's Snapdragon Technology Summit, which was held in December, did not allow practical testing, figures provided by Qualcomm (compiled in detail by XDA-developers.com) show that the Snapdragon 888 has calculated 169 fps, which is 30% more than the 1200. According to MediaTek, the Dimensity 1100 can produce 60 frames per second with HDR on PUBG, and 120 at the Manhattan benchmark.

“There is always a trade-off between what you can really achieve by pushing the performance of an advanced CPU core, and what you can use on a more sustained basis,” said Moynihan, explaining the decision. from MediaTek when it comes to CPU design. "We are trying to find a balance between maximum performance and sustainable performance, and we thought that was a good solution."

Due to the development of mobile gaming, especially in Asia where a number of MediaTek partners have embraced this market, the Dimensity 1200's gaming features include support for screens up to 168Hz, for smooth rendering. (The 1100 supports screens up to 144Hz.)

MediaTek also designed a feature that allows the phone to connect to the Internet and continue playing while the user takes a voice call, Moynihan said. The Taiwanese has also added ray-tracing capabilities, but only through a software partnership, Moynihan said, as Mali-G77 does not directly support it. performance will therefore be modest in ray-tracing, a rendering operation that consumes a lot of computing resources. To attract Chinese suppliers, Mediatek has taken care of the characteristics of its Dimensity 1200 chip.

The photo has not been forgotten
Qualcomm has gone to great lengths to integrate new features into its ISP (Image Signal Processor). MediaTek didn't provide that level of detail in its presentation, but there are some interesting additions nonetheless. Both chips include what MediaTek calls its five-core 3.0 APU, capable of capturing images up to 200 Mp on the 1200 and 108 Mp on the 1100.

The Dimensity also exploits its built-in AI capabilities to achieve various effects, like its multi-person bokeh, another name for "portrait mode" which keeps subjects in the photo in focus and blurs the remaining background. AI is also used to improve high dynamic range (HDR) capabilities by 29%, Moynihan said. The ISP photo module is capable of 10-bit HDR resolution. Finally, AI is also used for scene detection and enhancement when shooting at night, Moynihan said.

From a video perspective, the Dimensity ISP module can capture 4K video in HDR, but it can also play standard 4K video, captured without using HDR, in an AI-enhanced HDR mode (Xbox Series X from Microsoft is doing something similar, using the processor to add HDR to games that don't natively support it).

For the audio part, the Dimensity 1200 and 1100 both support the Bluetooth 5.2 standard, which allows users to stream simultaneously to multiple devices wirelessly, according to the company. The chipsets also support ultra-low latency wireless stereo sound and LC3 encoding. MediaTek Dimensity will they impose themselves on high-end smartphones from suppliers? It's hard to say. But MediaTek is clearly targeting this market, which is really new to them. 

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