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Mediatek unveils its first ARMv9 smartphone chip for advanced handsets

It's moving on up now

Mediatek rolled out what could be the first chip based on the Armv9, which is the ARM's first architectural upgrade in a decade.

The Dimensity 9000 is, as Mediatek company's CEO Rick Tsai previously stated, the company's "entry in the flagship segment." The chip is also the company's first aimed at pricey smartphones.

Mediatek's chips are seen mostly in low- to mid-range Android smartphones. The Dimensity 9000 will compete in top-line smartphones, meaning customers in the high-end market may have more options outside Qualcomm's flagship Snapdragon 888 chips. Qualcomm is announcing a new flagship chip by year end.

Smartphone makers in China are lining up to put Dimensity 9000 in premium smartphones given the troubles of working with Qualcomm amid trade wars and chip shortages.

Mediatek's MTK chips for years have been associated with cheap smartphones and poor to middling performance. Mediatek's launch of a premium smartphone chip was clearly intended to send Qualcomm a "watch out, I'm coming for you" message.

The Dimensity 9000 is based on the Armv9 architecture with an unusual assembly of cores that seem more like a Big.Little.Littlest design. The eight-core chip has only one high-performing "ultra-core" Arm Cortex-X2 running at 3.05GHz, three Arm-Cortex A710 "super-cores" running at 2.85Ghz, and four Cortex-A510 "efficiency cores" for mundane applications.

The chip architecture sticks to ARM's guidelines of using the single Cortex-X2 "ultra core" for single-thread application bursts, the Cortex A710 "super-cores" for multithreaded applications, the efficiency cores for mundane applications like voice or background tasks.

Mediatek is targeting Windows 11 ARM-based laptops with its chips, and if Dimensity 9000 is the chip of choice, it'll be interesting to see how the OS distributes applications among the three cores. Intel and Microsoft worked closely together on breaking down applications to Intel's Alder Lake's new chip design featuring two types of cores for high performance and power efficiency.

The chip has an Arm Mali-G710 GPU, which provides a 20 per cent boost in gaming and power-efficiency performance compared to the predecessor, G78. The GPU is aimed at mobile gaming. More details on the GPU are available on ARM's website.

Dimensity 9000 supports LPDDR5 memory. It has an 18-bit image processing design that can simultaneously capture HDR video on three cameras, the company claimed. It can also support 320-megapixel cameras.

The chip supports 5G download speeds of up 7Gbps, and has Bluetooth 5.3 and Wi-Fi 6E. A new artificial-intelligence processor is four times more power-efficient than its predecessor.

Mediatek claims this chip is also the first that will be made using Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.'s 4-nm process.

According to Counterpoint Research, MediaTek was the top mobile chip designer with a 43 per cent market share in the second quarter of 2021, an improvement from 26 per cent in the same quarter a year ago. Qualcomm's share dropped to 24 per cent from 28 per cent in the year-ago quarter.

MediaTek's market share in worldwide smartphone chips grew thanks to a strong 5G portfolio in the low-mid segment and without major supply constraints, Counterpoint said in a statement.

However, Qualcomm becoming a bigger threat in China, where it is slowly eroding Mediatek's dominant market share in the mid-range and low-end smartphones, according to CINNO Research. ®

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