Today MediaTek delivered a serious message to the highly competitive mobile processor segment, with the announcement of the MT6595, a new system-on-chip that the company claims will outperform competing processors from current top dog Qualcomm. If these claims are correct, it is a real game changer for the industry as a whole, and a signal that this time around MediaTek is better equipped than ever to take on the big players in the high-end smartphone segment.

MediaTek outperforms Qualcomm? Welcome to ‘True’ octa-core processing

MediaTek Claims a Performance Lead

During the main presentation from MediaTek, the Taiwanese chip manufacturer talked some serious game, revealing some performance benchmark data that really shows how the company have made serious progress in terms of raw computing performance. Most notable for us is the AnTuTu benchmark score which clearly indicates that the new breed of MediaTek processors are leaps ahead of previous versions with a very, very impressive score of 47,233 points. Compare these scores to other competing devices based on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor where we consistently see scores of somewhere around 36,000 points. That’s a whopping lead against one of best performing chips on the market today.

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You can see in the photo below, taken at the event this afternoon that MediaTek have also developed their own comparison chart that demonstrates the performance lead it has against its rivals. The MT65965 is shown in comparison with some mystery competing processors – most likely from Samsung and/or Qualcomm. I would usually take these numbers with a heavy dose of salt, not least because they are only showing one benchmark (AnTuTu) which probably indicates that this is the one benchmark that highlights their performance lead the most – common practice in this industry.

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But despite a healthy dose of cynicism (do not even get me started on benchmark ‘optimizations’…) the MT6595 is clearly a winner. We have also heard from independent sources in the industry that these new octa-core processors are indeed the best performing mobile chips they have ever tested, so we mostly believe hype. Seeing is believing however, so we plan to get hands on with a reference device from MediaTek later this week for some more thorough benchmark testing.

However, even though MediaTek today announced both the MT6595 and the MT6795, the benchmarks that were introduced today only cover the former, which is slightly odd as we are assuming the MT6795 will be the superior chip, such as we understand technology nomenclature – higher numbers are better right? It could be that MediaTek are simply not quite ready to reveal the MT6795 scores, either because they’d prefer to keep them under wraps for now, or because the silicon is just not quite ready yet.

One thing we did notice however is that the MT6595 does not mention 64-bit compatibility, whereas 64-bit computing is a headline feature of the forthcoming MT6795. We know Google is focused on bringing 64-bit to life with Android L, so perhaps it makes sense to have a 64-bit version lined up for later in the year.

MediaTek CorePilot: Unlocking All Cores

One of the key features mentioned during the presentation was MediaTek’s CorePilot, a technology that essentially schedules tasks between all eight processor cores to optimize the big.LITTLE architecture design from ARM. The MT6595 essentially has four smaller, lower power CPUs based on the Cortex A7 architecture. These guys are perfect for the majority of non-intensive tasks, but the larger, more power-hungry Cortex A17 cores kick in when additional performance is required.

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The age old adage applies here; higher performance results in higher power consumption. The difference with CorePilot is that the system knows how to really quickly adjust from one set of cores to the other. This is made possible because both Cortex A7 and A17 are 100% architecturally compatible and designed to work in a more harmonious way than traditional processor designs.

It is also important to add that the MT6595 and the MT6795 are the first processor designs we have seen that combine A7 Cortex cores with the newer A17 Cortex cores. Previous octa-core big.LITTLE SoCs from Samsung and MediaTek paired previous-gen A15 Cortex cores. MediaTek claim the A17 Cortex cores to better in terms of power efficiency.

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The up shot all of this is that MediaTek are offering a great processor platform that is well tuned for performance and battery life, using adaptive and interactive thermal management. In other words the processor very, very quickly switches from low power states to high performance states; in a matter of milliseconds in fact. This is similar to Intel’s HUGI principle  – ‘Hurry Up and Get Idle’. In other words, finish the task at hand as quickly as possible, then return to a low power state and conserve energy.

The Complete Mobile Package

But it is not just in terms of processor cores that we are seeing great performance. MediaTek also highlighted how its new octa-core offerings have great app launch times. Exactly how this is achieved is not entirely clear and the benchmarks listed do not include the types of flash memory used. However, it still paints a very positive picture of what to expect from the MT6595 in terms of system responsiveness.

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In terms of graphics and display capability we see the PowerVR 6 series GPU integrated in the MT6595. Clocked at 600MHz, these graphics processors pack support for 2560 x 1600 resolution display support at 60fps and integrate MiraVision and ClearMotion technology. They are also not bad at 3D gaming, although we have yet to see how graphics-centered benchmarks shape up against the might of Qualcomm’s Adreno 330 GPU offerings.

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The media playback situation also looks good with the more efficient H.265 codec supported for  4K video recording. The company also notes that users will be able to zoom in and out of 4K video footage in real-time, which implies some impressive performance. The use of H.265 is great news when recording 4K video which can quickly take up a lot storage space on your device. In the diagrams below MediaTek make the claim that 32GB of storage will be equal to only 105 minutes of 4K footage using the mature H.264 standard.

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This can be stretched to 175 minutes of 4K video when using the better compressed and advanced H.265 standard. A substantial difference.

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In terms of display technology the MT6595 also supports higher-refresh rate displays with peak screen refresh rates of  120Hz – the highest on the market at the moment. This will also allow manufacturers to offer very high quality QHD panels with very high refresh rates. Where do I queue up?

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MediaTek are also introducing an improved Super-Slow Motion feature that allows a 480 fps 1080p video to be slowed down to 1/16 original speed. Catch our exclusive video demoing the new slow-mo tech here:

However, the camera technologies embedded in the new Mediatek platform are not just limited to Super-Slow Motion. The are plenty of other benefits and optimizations including support for 20MP cameras, improved image stabilization, noise reduction and video stabilization. In short, everything you would want to fully support and exploit a really great, high-end smartphone sensor. The Super-Slow motion feature will probably draw most headlines because it may end up powering the first regular smartphone to support high Full HD frame rates when applying slow motion effects. Overall the whole package really looks strong.

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Clearly MediaTek are hoping to break into the upper and high-end smartphone markets with these new processors, and on paper at least, they look very compelling. The real attraction however for many customers will remain MediaTeks’s fantastic ability to bring close support to its customers, practically offering a full software package that includes firmware, plus Android 4.3 (or hopefully higher… Android L support perhaps?). True, MediaTek are seldom first to market with a new Android build, but their comprehensive hardware, plus software, plus support package is second to none.

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The future for MediaTek looks bright, lets hope we manage to our geeky hands on a device running this platform here in the office ASAP.

NOTE: The benchmark results mentioned in this article are sourced from MediaTek themselves, so they should not really be taken as gospel just yet. We hope to get hold of a reference platform at some point this week, giving you a full and complete breakdown of the MT6595 processor and its true performance metrics. Stay tuned…

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