Published in PC Hardware

MediaTek talks cheap LTE, 64-bit SoCs

by on10 October 2013


High-end features for the masses

Last week an unfortunate comment made by Qualcomm CMO Anand Chandrasekher caused quite a stir in the SoC community. Long story short, Chandrasekher described Apple’s 64-bit support in the new A7 chip a mere “marketing gimmick,” prompting a lot of debate on the matter and an official retraction of his comments by Qualcomm.

Apple is already using 64-bit chips, Samsung says it is working on them and so is Nvidia. Now we can add MediaTek to that list. In an interview with PC World, MediaTek CMO Johan Lodenius confirmed that the company signed a licensing deal with ARM to build Cortex-A50 based processors. In addition, he confirmed that MediaTek plans to introduce its first LTE chipsets soon.

“Our take on the market is that the low-end is being pushed up and the high-end is being pushed down for a number of reasons, so what we will get is a much larger sweet spot of high-performing products at a good price,” he said.

The approach seems rather interesting and potentially disruptive. MediaTek doesn’t appear to be interested in going after any sort of performance crown, it plans to compete with the rest of the ARM gang by introducing feature packed chips designed specifically to target more affordable devices.

Lodenius did not say when MediaTek plans to announce the first A57 and A53 parts, or LTE enabled chipsets, but they are expected to show up next year. Since MediaTek is all about “sweet spot” pricing, we should see plenty of their chips in medium-range phones, especially from smaller vendors (i.e. Chinese white-box gang). On the other hand, MediaTek won’t be far behind the top players. It might not have custom cores, huge R&D and marketing budgets, but its chips are already competitive in most market segments. 

Earlier this year MediaTek flooded the market with multiple 28nm SoC designs that ended up in quite a few devices and more recently it introduced its first big.LITTLE octa-core part. It is also interesting to note that MediaTek and Rockchip are working on Cortex A12 designs.

The A12 didn’t get much press when it was announced, as it was overshadowed by the big A15 and upcoming A50-series parts. However, it is a rather interesting mid-range product and the first implementations should start showing up in actual devices by the middle of 2014. The A12 is basically the real successor to the A9, while the A15 aims a bit higher. Still, the A12 promises to deliver 40 percent more performance than the venerable A9, with improved power efficiency and big.LITTLE compatibility.

Coupled with LTE and good graphics, cheap A12 quads and big.LITTLE parts could be an interesting choice for mid-range devices, which appears to be what Nvidia is betting on with the T4i, which is not A12-based, but it has a revised A9 core, LTE and powerful graphics, but it should be ready before the first A12 chips.

Last modified on 10 October 2013
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