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MediaTek Puts 10 Cores Into Helio X20 Mobile SoC

The chip includes a unique tri-cluster design that company officials say will bring greater performance and power efficiency.

MediaTek SoC

Low-power chip maker MediaTek late this year will release a new 10-core mobile processor that includes a unique architecture that puts the cores into three clusters rather than the traditional two.

The tri-cluster design in the Helio X20 chip is aimed at increasing the performance and the power efficiency over mobile systems-on-a-chip (SoCs) that leverage ARM's big.Little design, according to MediaTek officials. ARM in 2011 introduced the big.Little architecture, which uses high-performance and low-power cores on a single chip to offer improved performance or energy efficiency, depending on the task that's being run. A small workload can run on the smaller cores to ensure power efficiency, while more compute-intensive applications can leverage the larger cores for higher performance.

Eight-core ARM SoCs that use the big.Little architecture are becoming more common—MediaTek's Helio X10, which launched in March, is an eight-core chip. The X20 was announced May 12.

In its tri-cluster design, MediaTek takes the 10 cores and splits them among three clusters. There is a dual-core cluster that holds two ARM Cortex-A72 cores for high performance that run at 2.5GHz, a quad-core Cortex-A53 design that clocks in at 2.0GHz for a balance between performance and power efficiency, and a low-power quad-core Cortex-A53 design at 1.4GHz for low-power workloads.

Each cluster comes with Level 2 cache, and the architecture is supported by MediaTek's Coherent System Interconnect (MCSI) IP, according to the company.

The idea behind more cores in the tri-cluster design is to increase options for the applications, which will help improve performance and increase energy efficiency. MediaTek officials said the Helio X20 will significantly improve performance and reduce power consumption by 30 percent over traditional big.Little SoCs.

In addition, the chip's use of ARM's MP4 700MHz graphics technology will further boost performance by 40 percent over the Helio X10.

The company has a strong presence in the low end of the smartphone market. However, with the launch earlier this year of the Helio X family of top-end SoCs, MediaTek is taking aim at performance smartphones and tablets, competing against the likes of Qualcomm and Samsung. MediaTek also seems to be taking aim at the U.S. market with a Category 6 LTE modem that can support all the carriers in the United States.

The company's Helio P family comprises premium performance SoCs that offer optimized battery life to support high-end features in slim smartphones.

MediaTek reportedly will sample the chip in the third quarter, and says on its site that it will launch in December. Smartphones sporting the chip are expected by February 2016.