MediaTek's new 10-core Helio X20 promises up to 30% better power efficiency


MediaTek officially unveiled its new tri-cluster, deca-core (yes, that's ten CPU cores) Helio X20 system-on-a-chip yesterday, and it provided one huge reason for the move to such a novel tri-cluster design. First, let's remind you that by tri-cluster, MediaTek refers to its trio of various cores running at various speeds: you have one high-performance, benchmark-friendly dual-core Cortex A72 cluster that is clocked at 2.5GHz; then you have a quad-core cluster of Cortex A53s clocked at 2GHz, and finally, another quad-core cluster of A53s, this time clocked at 1.4GHz. Altogether, this makes for 10 cores, which MediaTek has to wire up by a brand new custom interconnect it calls MediaTek Coherent System Interconnect (MCSI).

MediaTek speaks about this new tri-cluster design as adding a 'middle' gear to the low and high gears of big.LITTLE designs. And if we look technically, the MediaTek Helio X20 could factually even go for a four-cluster design given that it is the first SoC to come with an integrated Cortex M4 ultra power-efficient core that is capable of taking all the load when your screen is locked and you play back music (it also kicks in for voice recognition and handles sensor data).

With all these claims about up to 30% increased power efficiency being the main benefit from this multi-cluster Helio X20, we were pleasantly surprised to see a bit more concrete details with specific app usage power stats and a comparison with dual-cluster, big.LITTLE designs. Here is how much MediaTek claims to have improved power efficiency in key apps:

It's unclear, though, whether this is a true apples-to-apples comparison with both the dual-cluster and the tri-cluster X20 being 20nm chips. If MediaTek is comparing chips manufactured on a different node, that could be misleading, so we'd be looking forward to hearing a clarification.

For what it's worth, MediaTek's Helio X20 chips will sample in the second half of 2015, and the first devices with it are expected in the first quarter of 2016.

source: MediaTek

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29 Comments

1. PrivateParts87

Posts: 15; Member since: Aug 06, 2014

Sounds good to me!

6. vincelongman

Posts: 5696; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

I'm not sold yet Can't those "medium gear" 2.0 Ghz A53s' clockrate should be able to decrease the as low as the "low gear" 1.5 Ghz A53s? E.g. my Nexus 5 has a SP 800 The Krait cores' clockrate ranges from 0.3-2.2Ghz Doesn't the A53s' clockrate ranges from 0.3-2Ghz or 0.3-1.5Ghz? It seems more like marketing for me Why do Intel, Apple and Qualcomm (Krait and Scorpian cores) only have one set of cores? Instead of sets of "high, medium and low gear" cores I can't wait to see them in action Hopefully I'm wrong Closer the competition means better products for us!

10. Berri

Posts: 2; Member since: May 13, 2015

Perhaps it's a bit like an automatic transmission versus manual. An automatic "1 giant gear" transmission designed for power and acceleration won't be as efficient at the high speed/low power as a manual shift whose direct gears are locked into the high speed/low power settings. There's just no excess baggage that the automatic "1 gear" transmission will be having.

12. Guaire

Posts: 886; Member since: Oct 15, 2014

A53 cores in same cluster can't clocked asynchronously. With two cluster it can do that, kind of.

26. jove39

Posts: 2146; Member since: Oct 18, 2011

None of cortex cores can be clocked asynchronously...It's time now for ARM to stop being pussy...grow a pair and launch cortex cores with asynchronous clock to end these marketing gimmicks by likes of MediaTek.

29. vincelongman

Posts: 5696; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

Oh I didn't know that That seems like a big limitation ARM should release a A53 successor that can

14. hound.master

Posts: 1044; Member since: Feb 27, 2015

I'm afraid you might not be wrong since it has 10 cores but it can only work with one set of cores most likely then it's stupid to have 3 set of cores with 2 identical sets with only different clock speed and if we're wrong and it could use all 10 cores then we can use this chipset in kitchen and boil eggs with it.

27. NexusKoolaid

Posts: 493; Member since: Oct 24, 2011

There is so much more to this than a matter of clock rate. Also to consider when comparing one CPU to another is bus width, execution pipeline, cache, instruction set. As to your question about about Apple, Intel, etc, note that the first iteration of big.LITTLE didn't support 'heterogeneous multi-processing' IIRC. IOW only x number of cores of the same type could be active at any given time. Support for simultaneous utilization of different core types is relatively new (again, if memory serves). It could be that Intel, Apple, just aren't there yet.

22. waddup121 unregistered

Gear shift like a baus

2. Tritinum

Posts: 471; Member since: May 06, 2014

still no one would want a phone with this chip inside.

3. TyrionLannister unregistered

Mediatek needs to realise that GPU is as important as the CPU. Also there's DSP, ISP and modem.

7. vincelongman

Posts: 5696; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

To be fair MediaTek did improve their GPU, DSP, ISP and modem heaps GPU "MediaTek explains that this is a still-unreleased ARM Mali high-end GPU similar to the T880" From AnandTech So maybe a T860 MP4? Not the best, but not bad either DSP "integrated Cortex-M4 companion-core which serves as both an audio processor for low-power audio decoding, speech enhancement features and voice recognition, as well as sensor-hub function acting as a microcontroller for offloading sensor data processing from the main CPU cores." Also from AnandTech ISP Dual ISP capable of 32MP @ 24fps Modem LTE Cat. 6 (same as the Exynos 7420, but worse than the 810 which Cat. 9) http://www.anandtech.com/show/9227/mediatek-helio-x20

13. TyrionLannister unregistered

GPU: I don't think T860 or even T880 MP4 would beat even the T760 MP6, let alone the T760 MP8 at 14 nm. GPU performance is vastly affected by memory bandwidth. This chip has a measly 14.9 GB/s bandwidth v/s the 25.6 GB/s of Exynos 7420, A8x and S810. And this is a 2016 chip, which makes it even more depressing. DSP can be nice. Let's see how that goes. ISP seems okay too. Does it support features like live HDR? modem: It's not about the speed. 90% of the regions don't even offer full cat.4 speeds. It's about making it in die and increasing efficiency. Also, modem is not just cellular data. It's WiFi too. The Exynos 7420 uses ultra fast 2X2 MiMo modem which destroys everything else. http://images.anandtech.com/graphs/graph9146/73785.png

18. vincelongman

Posts: 5696; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

GPU Like I said, its not the best, hard to compare since its not out ARM doesn't have any claim of how the T860 compares to the T760 ARM claim the T880 performs up to "1.8 times" better than the T760 So a T880 MP4 should perform better than the T760 MP6, but not as good as the T760 MP8 (especially since the Exynos 7420's T760 MP8 is 14nm) Memory Bandwidth It seems like 14.9 GB/s memory bandwidth is actually enough The 808 has 14.9 GB/s memory bandwidth And Exynos 5433 has 13.2 GB/s memory bandwidth The LG G4 and Exynos Note 4 handle QHD just fine ISP Not sure I thought live HDR was a very basic thing AnanTech lists: encode 2160p30 HEVC w/HDR Maybe yes? Modem Wow didn't realise the Samsung's modem was that good BTW the Exynos 7420 doesn't have a integrated modem That's an external Samsung Shannon 333 Modem None the less, good to see, now Samsung just need to integrate it into their SoCs I thought MediaTek claimed these were coming Q3 2015? If its 2016 then I'd agree its diappointing Since by then it will be competing with the 820 with Qualcomm's Kyro cores and an Exynos Samsung's with M1 Cores

19. TyrionLannister unregistered

The GPU on the 5433 is limited by the memory bandwidth. It's like jumping from GDDR3 to GDDR5 in PCs which removes the memory bottleneck from the GPUs. We both know how important is more memory in desktop GPUs. They have a similar impact on phones. They will start sampling in Q3 2015, so the phones using them should come in Q1 2016. It can't compete against even the 7420. Let alone the next gen 820 and new exynos. I was waiting for a true high-end SoC from mediatek, and needless to say this isn't it.

24. Techist

Posts: 311; Member since: Jan 27, 2015

Just chiming in to commend you and vincelongman for the highly informed and informative discussion! A refreshing contrast from the petty fanboy drivel one often finds in the comment sections on this and other technology websites! Keep it coming!

28. vincelongman

Posts: 5696; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

True, more memory bandwidth does help heaps, especially at higher resolutions In PCs soon we will have HBM, which is expected to be as big as a jump from GDDR3 to GDDR5! Dam, then this is disappointing if are releasing in 2016 I thought they were starting sampling in Q3 2015 and releasing in Q4 2015 I think MediaTek might struggle to keep up once Qualcomm and Samsung start using custom microarchitectures

25. Techist

Posts: 311; Member since: Jan 27, 2015

Just chiming in to commend you and TyrionLannister for the highly informed and informative discussion! A refreshing contrast from the petty fanboy drivel one often finds in the comment sections on this and other technology websites! Keep it coming!

17. TylerGrunter

Posts: 1544; Member since: Feb 16, 2012

I think they are quite OK now and this one should be a nice competitor of the Snapdragons 808 and 620. But Mediatek has been strong in the low to upper mid range SoC market as of late. Only thing they are missing is a real high end SoC.

8. XaErO

Posts: 353; Member since: Sep 25, 2012

+1 !!

4. medtxa

Posts: 1655; Member since: Jun 02, 2014

good, it's result that matter.

5. kaikuheadhunterz

Posts: 1157; Member since: Jul 18, 2013

Just hoping that the processor can activate multiple clusters at once. More for benchmarks, really.

15. hound.master

Posts: 1044; Member since: Feb 27, 2015

Don't cause then it maybe able to be between the hall of hot chipsets.

9. Berri

Posts: 2; Member since: May 13, 2015

Why the "unclear" and "misleading" comment by the writer in the second to last paragraph? Seems like biased writing to me. If it was Qualcomm's press release he would be fawning all over it. Yet Qualcomm's 810 chip performance is the "unclear" and "misleading" one to write about given the overheating, and throttling issues. I think Mediatek just did a simple benchmark test with the same chip using the 2 cluster or 3 cluster settings to see the difference in power savings. If they compared with previous larger nanometer nodes, perhaps the difference could be even bigger. I think this is significant and hope chip availability will come out sooner.

11. Victor.H

Posts: 1064; Member since: May 27, 2011

That's not really a fair accusation. We've been all over the Snapdragon overheating issues, and it's just stating the facts that we have no details about whether the comparison that MediaTek shows is against two 20nm chips or not.

21. uzimafioso

Posts: 469; Member since: Jul 15, 2014

I definitely agree with you on this. Some people will always b*tch about whatever you write.

16. BaffledTruffle

Posts: 523; Member since: Dec 07, 2013

10 cores to fry an egg with, awesome!

20. Settings

Posts: 2943; Member since: Jul 02, 2014

So what app can utilize those ten cores? Fart apps?

23. Tuxedo

Posts: 356; Member since: Mar 19, 2013

Am I the only one who thinks that analogy is total non-sense? I mean CPUs and SOCs can scale voltage and clock frequency dynamically. Don't see the need to build cluster f*^ks of cores.

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