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Supercharged Flagship SoC at 4nm


MediaTek has generally generally been considered the “second” SoC supplier in the mobile industry in recent years, with most of the media and consumer attention being paid to leading SoC products such as Apple, Qualcomm, Samsung and HiSilicon. Indeed, the last time MediaTek tried a real flagship SoC was a few years ago with the Helio X20 and X30, before it saw very little success in the market and instead refocused on the mid-range and premium segments.

Today MediaTek wants to change this positioning. After seeing the newfound success in the market, especially when we saw the fantastic 2020s and 2021s, where the Taiwanese supplier is now able to take No. 1 with a 40% market share as well as a growing 28% 5G SoC market share, the company is now also aiming for recognition and leadership in the leading SoC market – that’s where the new Dimensity 9000 comes in.

The Dimensity 9000 is MediaTek’s latest effort to create an uncompromising flagship SoC, with designers incorporating everything but a kitchen sink in terms of specifications, representing many of the first in the industry, such as the first Armv9 SoC with Cortex-X2, A710 and A510 CPUs. the new Mali-G710 GPU, the first LPDDR5X compatible SoC, the stunning ISP hard camera, and the first publicly released TSMC N4 silicone design in the industry. The list of features and capabilities is extensive, and today’s announcement definitely represents MediaTek’s greatest effort in generations and years.

Starting with the process node, MediaTek is able to be the first in the industry, and the Dimensity 9000 is the first TSMC N4 chip in the world. Over the past few years, we’ve always been accustomed to Apple or HiSilicon being the first customers on TSMC’s latest leading nodes. Since HiSilicon was cut off from TSMC, this left Apple as the obvious leading partner for TSMC’s next-generation process nodes – however, the timing here simply failed for the A15 because the N4 node simply wasn’t ready yet. Given that Qualcomm is currently tied to Samsung Foundry for its flagship models (probably without much success), this has left a vacuum where HiSilicon once was, which MediaTek now wants to fill. In fact, I think this would be the first time for the company if they were really on the leading node since day 20nm.

TSMC’s N4 node should have lower optical shrinkage compared to the N5 node, resulting in 6% higher density, with similar single-digit improvements in performance and efficiency. TSMC has announced that production at risk for the N4 will begin in Q3 21, and since the Dimensity 9000 is scheduled for commercial devices in Q1 22, the chip is likely the leading product for the process node.

New MediaTek leading SoC 2022
SoC

Dimension 9000

CPU 1x Cortex-X2
@ 3.05GHz 1x1024KB pL2

3x Cortex-A710
@ 2.85GHz 3x512KB pL2

4x Cortex-A510
@ 1.80GHz 4x256KB pL2

8MB sL3

GPU Mali-G710MP10
@ ~ 850MHz
Memory
Controller
4x 16-bit CH

@ 3200MHz LPDDR5 / 51.2GB / s
@ 3750MHz LPDDR5X / 60.0GB / s

6MB system cache

ISP Imagiq790
A new generation triple 18-bit ISP
9GPix / s processing throughput

One sensor up to 320MP
Triple sensor 32 + 32 + 32MP

NPU APU 5th generation 4 + 2 cores
Media 8K30 and 4K120 encode and
8K60 decoding

H.265 / HEVC, H.264, VP9

8K30 AV1 decoding

Modem (LTE category 24/18)
(5G NR Sub-6)
Mfc. The process TSMC N4

There’s a lot to talk about the Dimensity 9000, so it’s obviously enough, since MediaTek advertises it as the first Armv9 SoC, let’s start with the CPU configuration and the various IPs used here.

Uncompromising CPU setup

Being an Armv9 SoC, this means the company is refreshing all CPU IPs, using Arm’s new Cortex-X2, Cortex-A710 and Cortex-A510 IPs. Earlier this year, we extensively covered next-generation CPUs, so be sure to read those articles.

The Dimensity 9000 comes with a 1 + 3 + 4 CPU setup that has become popular in the market since Qualcomm first adopted the setup in the Snapdragon 855. For performance cores, MediaTek uses the new Cortex-X2 cores, equipping them with full 1MB of L2 cache and clocking them up to 3.05GHz. The clock frequency is higher than what we see today in the design of X1 cores such as the Snapdragon 888 or Exynos 2100 at 2.86 and 2.9 GHz, respectively, but these competing SoCs were also on the inferior Samsung 5LPE process node. We still don’t know exactly where the next-generation Snapdragon and Exynos chips will end up in terms of clock speed, but I think they’re unlikely to exceed the 3GHz mark, leaving the new Dimensity 9000 likely to have a frequency advantage and therefore likely a leader in single-thread performance. Android SoC vendors.

MediaTek reports a performance jump of + 35% over the current generation of Android Flagship chips, which we assume will be the Snapdragon 888, but also states that the efficiency is + 37% better. This would mean that the peak levels of absolute power for the MediaTek 9000 X2 cores would be similar to what we see from the X1 cores in the Snapdragon 888 today, which is generally a good position, and the numbers generally match what we expect from IPC and process nodes. .

MediaTek noted that the performance jump in higher memory-related workloads is much higher than most local workloads, for example SPECint2006 recorded an increase of + 35%, while only GeekBench 5 will have an increase of + 10.5% compared to the competition. This is generally also in line with our understanding of the Cortex-X2, pointing to low IPC improvements in everything that does not take advantage of the increase in CPU cluster cache.

The middle cores of the Dimensity 9000 are 3x Cortex-A710 cores, equipped with 512KB L2, and clocked up to 2.85GHz. In this respect, MediaTek’s approach is more similar to the Exynos 2100 in that it uses high-frequency mid-cores, as opposed to the lower 2.4GHz design point used by Qualcomm.

In addition to the mid-cores, we also see the new Cortex-A510 small core, and here MediaTek does things quite differently from what we expected from the first iterations of the IP. Instead of using Arm’s new “connected core” approach, where the Cortex-A510 complex can consist of two cores sharing a SIMD / FP pipeline, as well as a common L2, MediaTek completely ignores this aspect of IP design and instead goes the traditional route using only one core per complex, with each core having its own SIMD / FP pipeline and private L2 cache. The cache here lies at 256 KB, which is also quite large, and shorter than the maximum of 512 KB. In fact, what MediaTek has done here is to configure the A510 core with almost maximum performance tuning. While we still have reservations about the cores, it’s good to see that MediaTek isn’t skimping on new designs.

Due to the strongly configured mid-cores as well as the well-equipped small cores, the multi-core performance of the Dimensity 9000 is advertised as well as surpassing the current Android competition and being in line with Apple’s achievements on the A15.

At the cluster level, MediaTek also equips the DSU with an 8MB L3 – this is probably the new generation DSU-110.

As for the CPU, the Dimensity 9000 is essentially configured in the most optimal way – MediaTek has done its best in terms of frequencies and cache, and it’s generally hard to imagine a more efficient configuration than the one the chip is currently set up with, at least in context Arm Cortex IP CPU.

First LPDDR5X, large system cache

Another first in the world for the Dimensity 9000 is the fact that it is the first chip announced to be compatible with LPDDR5X. The standard was released by JEDEC only in July this year, so the fact that the chip already supports it means that MediaTek is working on the draft and should be fully compatible with the new standard. While the full standard is advertised to go up to 8533Mbps support, the chip is limited to 7500Mbps here, so that means + 17% bandwidth compared to the current generation of LPDDR5-6400 solutions. Still, I wasn’t expecting an LP5X SoC until next year, so this was definitely a surprise. Of course, the memory controller still fully supports LPDDR5 up to 6400Mbps in case the vendor decides to use different memory modules.

The Dimensity 9000 is MediaTek’s first SoC to also use 6MB of system cache. During the briefing, MediaTek noted that larger caches and SoC designs with system caches are definitely the way forward and what everyone will strive for in the future. System-level caches, or as we would call them for short, SLCs, are able to boost the performance of SoC blocks that are not just CPUs, as well as reduce memory traffic to DRAM, which also has a positive benefit for energy efficiency.

GPU: Small G710MP10

As for the GPU, the MediaTek Dimensity 9000 is also the first SoC to see the implementation of the new Mali-G710 GPU. Earlier this year, when we talked about IP, we mentioned that MediaTek is the only remaining vendor expected to release a SoC with a larger implementation of the Mali GPU, given HiSilicon’s problems and Samsung’s adoption of the AMD RDNA GPU. this.

The configuration on the Dimensity 9000 is 10-core. Here we have to keep in mind that in terms of performance per core, one new G710 core is roughly equivalent to two G78 cores, so in terms of GPU size and performance the new chip is roughly comparable to the Google Tensor G78MP20 GPU, plus perhaps the expected 20% performance boost thanks to generational IP enhancements. MediaTek has noticed that the peak frequencies are around 850MHz (the exact clock will be confirmed).

In terms of performance, the company’s materials were advertised by + 35% compared to the current Android leading models, while the efficiency was + 60% better. All of this year’s flagship models were pretty disappointing in terms of gaming efficiency, and we saw absolute numbers reaching + 7.5-9W on the flagship Exynos, Tensor and Snapdragon chips. Noting that their efficiency advantage is significantly greater than their performance jump, MediaTek also suggests using lower levels of peak power than what we see today, which is definitely a welcome change.

The company is recording the ability to track air, but this is simply an implementation of a software API, not hardware, as the G710 doesn’t support it yet.

MediaTek had a slide that showed long-term performance compared to the iPhone 13 with the A15, with the Dimensity 9000 being able to slightly outperform the iPhone. We have seen that the new iPhones reduce the power to around 3-3.5W, and that in mobile conditions the phones are reported to work even worse due to poor thermal characteristics. MediaTek notes that the comparison was made under a similar thermal budget, so we hope that the comparison is valid here. It should be noted, as we wrote in our review of the A15, comparing real-world games such as Genshin Impact for GPU analysis is not great because the game always works at different internal resolutions or levels of detail, especially between Android and iOS.

With that in mind, MediaTek’s claims about GPU efficiency position it extremely well and would probably allow it to compete effectively with upcoming Snapdragon and Exynos chips that are still predicted to arrive at less efficient process nodes.

Claims of low-power leadership

An interesting claim from MediaTek is that they achieve leadership in low power consumption, thanks to the new TSMC N4 node, as well as smart power management on which the SoC as well as the platform are designed.

An interesting claim from MediaTek is that they achieve leadership in low power consumption, thanks to the new TSMC N4 node, as well as smart power management on which the SoC as well as the platform are designed.

The above figures are a comparison of the total power of the platform, excluding the power supply according to the display. This means that we see a comparison of the power of SoC, DRAM, PMIC, cellular RF and Wi-Fi systems – essentially the components of the “platform” to which SoC manufacturers generally react and with which they combine their offer.

Significant figures here are media playback and recording numbers, where the Dimensity 9000 is said to have much lower power consumption than the competition. Gaming power is also lower, but this is to be expected given GPU efficiency and lower power requirements.

One point of data that I find most interesting is the power supply in sleep mode at home. One of the hardest things to achieve in a silicone design is that you don’t do anything efficiently, it actually represents a large percentage of power consumption and affects the base power of the device, and thus your daily battery life. Gaining -20% over the competition here is pretty respectable.



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Naveen Kumar

Friendly communicator. Music maven. Explorer. Pop culture trailblazer. Social media practitioner.

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