Oppo beats Snapdragon 8 and Apple A15 with new MariSilicon AI and image processor for phone cameras

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If you thought the 18-bit image signal processor inherent to the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 that will be in most flagship Android phones next year is impressive, wait until you hear what Oppo just announced for its own flagship phones, and, perhaps for the OnePlus high-ends, considering that the two companies merged not long ago.

Oppo has developed a chipset of its own, as has been trendy lately, perhaps inspired by Google's Tensor or Samsung's Exynos, but most likely because it needed to tailor processing power for its own needs and innovations, not to mention avoid paying licensing fees to the big guys.

Oppo MariSilicon chipset specs and features

What Oppo has focused on with the so-called MariSilicon X (yeah, don't ask), is image processing and AI calculations. It managed to create a neural processing unit capable of 18 TOPS (trillion operations per second) with a best-in-class power efficiency as the ISP is built on a frugal 6nm process. For comparison, the Neural Engine in the Apple A15, as found on the iPhone 13, can perform 15.8 trillion operations per second.

The other top-shelf area where the new MariSilicon excels in is its so-called Ultra HDR image processing. Oppo achieved a true 20-bit, 20-stops 4K HDR video capture with a million to one contrast ratio that it says rivals the human eye's dynamic range perception: "OPPO has based the ISP’s unique design on future trends it sees in online video and user generated video content. The ISP is able to conduct Ultra High HDR fusion on multiple HDR frames directly in the RAW domain, enabling 4K Ultra HDR video to be captured with an incredible 20bit, 120db (20 stops) dynamic range. Such video offers a 1 million to 1 contrast ratio between the brightest and darkest parts of the image, even rivalling what can be seen by the human eye. Compared with the Find X3 Pro (Q888), which offers a maximum dynamic range of 18bit, or 108db, that equates to a fourfold increase in usable dynamic range with MariSilicon X."

Thus, at least in these RAW image processing numbers, Oppo managed to surpass both the upcoming Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset, and Apple's A15 silicon. The phone maker hints at what's to come in its, or perhaps also in phones under the OnePlus brand. For instance, it has developed an RGBW sensor and included a dedicated MariSilicon algorithm for processing the imaging information from the unorthodox pixel arrangement: "MariSilicon X has been designed with this RGBWsensor in mind and can operate a Dual Image Pipeline with 2-time RAW Super Sampling to process the sensor’s RGB and W signals separately before combining them into single images. These hybrid RGB + W images offer 8.6dB greater signal-to-noise ratio and 1.7 -times more texture, helping to make objects appear more expressive in both photo and video."

The addition of an extra yellow pixel that Huawei did on its phones increased the camera's light sensitivity but was fraught with teething color presentation problems, so we are glad that Oppo went with an extra white one and will be pairing it with a dedicated ISP to smooth things out. Last but not least, the MariSilicon ISP is the first capable of real-time RAW domain image processing, so future Android phone cameras that are powered by it will give you the ability for "real-time previews for nighttime and HDR photos and videos, giving users a true "what you see is what you get" experience that offers more potential for creativity." 

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As to which phones will come with the MariSilicon X imaging powerhouse on board, the next Find X4 Pro comes to mind, as it will also have the HDR display abilities to back the live previews up, but perhaps some members of the OnePlus family could also have it, like the OnePlus 10 series that is rumored to announced next month.

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