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Oppo joins the 'we designed our own chips' club, announces MariSilicon X

Chinese handset maker doesn't go too hardcore, focuses on making snaps sparkle

Oppo has joined the elite club of smartphone makers that design their own silicon for use in their products.

The Chinese biz this week announced MariSilicon X – a combined neural-network accelerator and image signal processor dedicated to helping its Android phones process large amounts of input data quickly from their cameras.

This component, separate from whatever system-on-chip is running the device, is designed to handle real-time flows of lossless RAW material from camera sensors. It's an arrangement similar to the coprocessors Google came up with for its Pixel phones.

"MariSilicon X enables 4K AI Night Video to be captured in the RAW domain using complete image data for the first time on Android smartphones," Oppo gushed in its announcement.

Oppo claimed its accelerator chip can perform up to 18 trillion 8-bit integer (INT8) neural-network operations per second, or 11.6 TOPS per watt, and can apply machine-learning algorithms to images without rapidly draining phone batteries. That basically means Oppo thinks its chip is going to be good for instantly manipulating and enhancing images and video using software routines.

Helping things along is a "dedicated tera-bps memory subsystem" on the die, "significantly reducing the time needed to copy data back and forth between storage and processing units." It also seems to have an external DRAM bandwidth that tops out at 8.5GB/s. That all translates into fast processing of still images and video, we're told, and means tricks such as "applying complex enhancements to each frame in real time" for video shot in Night Mode are possible.

Oppo hasn't offered much detail about the silicon, other than to say it is built by TSMC using its 6nm process node.

It's impossible to put Oppo's claims about MariSilicon X to the test right now as the company won't put the silicon in the hands of the public until the Q1 2022 debut of its latest Find X Series flagship handset, specifically the Find X4.

Camera performance is a huge selling point for smartphones; it's a major differentiator. Analyst firm Counterpoint has predicted that 40MP shooters will soon be standard, so Oppo's investment in silicon in this area is understandable.

The company also announced a pair of smart goggles that weigh in at just 30 grams and sport the smartwatch-centric Snapdragon 4100 SoC.

A folding phone is also in the works from Oppo and due to be detailed today. Fellow Chinese handset maker Huawei has also been teasing its first foldable, due to debut on December 23 – a date that tells you everything you need to know about the markets Huawei is no longer serving. ®

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