MediaTek isn’t yet a household name like Qualcomm — if one’s household consists of tech enthusiasts and smartphone geeks — but the Taiwanese chip maker wants to change that with the announcement of its octa-core MT6595 system-on-a-chip (SoC).
Based on ARM’s new Cortex-A17 design, which offers 60% better performance than the equivalent Cortex-A9 chip, MediaTek’s MT6595 will offer four Cortex-A17 cores at 2.5Ghz and four Cortex-A7 cores at 1.7Ghz in a big.LITTLE formation. For the uninitiated, big.LITTLE refers to a combination of medium-high and low-power core combos to take on different tasks; games, for example, may stress the more power-hungry A17 cores while menial tasks, like background music playing, may use the less expensive A7’s. Samsung’s Exynos 5 chips have taken advantage of this, but use the more power-hungry Cortex-A15 family.
Though Cortex-A17 may initially seem like it’s a successor to Cortex-A15, it’s actually aimed at the mid-range market, and is the logical successor to the Cortex-A9. It’s a 32-bit chip built on the ARMv7A instruction set, so it will work “out of the box,” so to speak, with all Android apps. It can be paired with a number of high-end GPUs as well, such as ARM’s own Mali line, but MediaTek, with its MT6595, will be using one of PowerVR’s Rogue chips, similar to what is found in the iPhone 5s and iPad Air.
Indeed, MediaTek intends to make a splash in the North American market with this octa-core chip, as the MT6595 has built-in LTE support, which is essential for carrier adoption, and a dedicated H.265 video encoder/decoder for 2K/4K video playback and capture. This will allow it to go head-to-head with Qualcomm’s upcoming Snapdragon 805 SoC, which improves the core media capabilities of the Krait architecture while beefing up the Adreno GPU.
ARM’s Cortex-A17 will likely first be seen in this MediaTek configuration in the second half of 2014, but will be more broadly available in 2015, bringing high performance to low- and mid-range Android devices.