We had a chance to see the upcoming MT8173 in action at the Mobile World Congress a couple of weeks ago.
The next step is to bring the new Cortex-A72 core to a new node and into mobiles. This is what MediaTek is planning to do by the end of the year.
Cortex-A72 smartphone parts coming in Q4
It should be noted that MediaTek’s 8000-series parts are designed for tablets, and the MT8173 is no exception. However, the new core will make its way to smartphone SoCs later this year, as part of the MT679x series.
According to Digitimes Research, MediaTek’s upcoming MT679x chips will utilize a combination of Cortex-A53 and Cortex-A72 cores. It is unclear whether MediaTek will use the planar 20nm node or 16nm FinFET for the new part.
By the looks of it, this chip will replace 32-bit MT6595, which is MediaTek’s most successful high performance part yet, with a few relatively big design wins, including Alcatel, Meizu, Lenovo and Zopo. The new chip will also supplement, and possibly replace the recently introduced MT6795, a 64-bit part used in the HTC Desire 826.
More questions than answers
Digitimes also claims the MT679x Cortex-A72 parts may be the first MediaTek products to benefit from AMD technology, but details are scarce. We can’t say whether or not the part will use AMD GPU technology, or some HSA voodoo magic. Earlier this month we learned that MediaTek is working with AMD and the latest report appears to confirm our scoop.
The other big question is the node. The chip should launch toward the end of the year, so we probably won’t see any devices prior to Q1 2016. While 28nm is still alive and kicking, by 2016 it will be off the table, at least in this market segment. Previous MediaTek roadmap leaks suggested that the company would transition to 20nm on select parts by the end of the year.
However, we are not entirely sure 20nm will cut it for high-end parts in 2016. Huawei has already moved to 16nm with its latest Kirin 930 SoC, Samsung stunned the world with the 14nm Exynos 7420, and Qualcomm’s upcoming Snapdragon 820 will be a FinFET part as well.
It is obvious that TSMC’s and Samsung’s 20nm nodes will not be used on most, if not all, high-end SoCs next year. With that in mind, it would be logical to expect MediaTek to use a FinFET node as well. On the other hand, depending on the cost, 20nm could still make sense for MediaTek – provided it ends up significantly cheaper than FinFET. While a 20nm chip wouldn’t deliver the same level of power efficiency and performance, with the right price it could find its way to more affordable mid-range devices, or flagships designed by smaller, value-oriented brands (especially those focusing on Chinese and Indian markets).