MediaTek announces 'deca-core' Helio X20

May 12, 2015 // 4 p.m.

Tags: #arm #arm-cortex #biglittle #cortex-a53 #cortex-a72 #energy-efficiency #mali-t880 #mediatek #power-saving #soc #system-on-chip

System-on-chip specialist MediaTek has announced the launch of its first deca-core tri-cluster design, which it claims can reduce power consumption in mobile devices by 30 per cent over traditional big.LITTLE designs.

ARM's big.LITTLE architecture has been seeing plenty of implementation of late, and for good reason: combining two core clusters on a single chip, a big.LITTLE system allows - as an example - four high-power cores to be switched on and used when performance is critical, while four low-power cores take over during less-demanding tasks to save energy. Octa-core system-on-chips (SoCs) based around four high-performance and four low-performance cores are common, but MediaTek is going further with the launch of a deca-core part: the MediaTek Helio X20.

The heart of the chip is a fairly traditional big.LITTLE implementation on a 20nm process: four ARM Cortex-A53 high-performance cores running at 2.0GHz, and a further four cores running at 1.4GHz. These are joined by two ARM Cortex-A72 processing cores, which make up for their relative lack of parallelism with a 2.5GHz clock speed and are best utilised by tasks such as gaming which rarely make use of more than two processor cores on mobile devices. Switching between clusters is handled by CorePilot 3.0, MediaTek's specialist heterogeneous computing scheduler.

Dubbed the Tri-Cluster architecture, MediaTek's design is claimed to reduce average power consumption by 30 per cent compared to traditional dual-cluster big.LITTLE designs. This power saving is further extended, the company claims, by the use of ARM's Mali-T880 graphics processing IP, which boasts a 40 per cent increase in energy efficiency over the last-generation part it is designed to replace.

Additional features of the Helio X20 SoC include a world-mode LTW CAT6 4G modem, support for a 32 megapixel single camera or 13 megapixel dual-camera 3D imaging system with 4K recording and 120 frame per second support, 120Hz display compatibility, and an integrated ARM Cortex-M4 microprocessor designed to take care of tasks including MP3 playback and voice activation while the main cores are entirely powered down.

The Helio X20 is, sadly, not quite ready for launch. MediaTek has declared its intention to sample the chip for its customers in the third quarter of this year, and hopes to see the first consumer products using the parts in early 2016. More information is available on the official website.
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