Published in PC Hardware

MediaTek Helio X20 is a 20nm deca-core chip

by on12 May 2015

Samples in Q3, products in early 2016

MediaTek is definitely becoming a major player that managed to change quite a few things in the smartphone SoC market. 

It used to be known as a small chipmaker based out of Taiwan, with a firm grasp on the entry-level market, especially in China. Nowadays the company has established itself as the number two LTE capable SoC supplier, selling a lot of SoCs for the entry and mid-range market.

The company just started shipping its Helio X10 SoC that landed some important design wins, including the HTC One M9 in China, and now the company, is ready to talk about Helio X20 deca-core chip.

We already mentioned the new chip, which has three clusters of CPU cores: a high performance cluster with two A72 cores, medium performance cluster with four A53 cores, and a low power cluster that has an additional four A53 low power cores. When you do the math, MediaTek Helio X20 has ten cores, and all of them can run simultaneously.

Mediatek HelioX20 4

MediaTek was the first company with an octa-core SoC, which is entering its third generation with the MT6795 aka Helio X10. Now it has the world’s first ten-core design in the form of the Helio X20.

Ten cores for efficiency and sustained performance

The first deca-core will consume 30 percent less than a traditional dual-cluster big.LITTLE design, at least this is what the company claims. Two A72 Cortex A72 cores will run at up to 2.5GHz to handle high performance tasks like gaming. The second cluster has four A53 cores clocked up to 2.0GHz clock and will deal with medium loads, while the third cluster with four A53 cores clocked up to 1.4GHz will deal with the lighter loads.

Mediatek HelioX20 1

We had a long in-depth conversation with Finbarr Moynihan, General Manager of International corporate sales, an ex-engineer who was involved with the Xelio X20 project.

Finbarr confirmed that Helio X20 is a 20nm SoC and said we should expect to see prototypes in Q3 2015, with customers shipping in early 2016. Despite the fact that the chip has three different clusters with three different sets of cores, all clusters can run together when necessary and the can also dynamically change clocks when necessary. The A72 can run up to 2.5GHz when but it can be downclocked when you don't need such a high frequency.

We already described how the company’s Core Pilot 2.0 technology works and in 2016 developers will need Core Pilot 3.0 to optimise for this deca-core chip. It is important to underline that this unique design is made to save as much power as possible and to prevent the SoC from throttling when high performance is needed.

Next gen Mali graphics

We also learned that The Helio X20 uses Mali T8xx graphics, but not the already announced T880. It looks like that ARM is not ready to announce this new GPU core and MediaTek can’t share the details. The new core should enable further power reductions compared with previous GPUs.

The Helio X20 comes with world-mode LTE CAT 6 modem support and carrier aggregation support. It will also support a 32-megapixel single camera and 13-megapixel dual-camera for 3D imaging, if partners choose to implement it. The new SoC supports 4K video including VP9 and 120Hz screens.

We like the fact that this is a rather innovative design. Instead of just following ARM guidelines and making big.LITTLE cores with four A57 and A53 cores. The new A72 cores seem to be much better, but again the fact that MediaTek has decided to use two and not four might mean that four high performance 64-bit cores might be simply too much for a phone, at least on the currently available nodes.

Mediatek HelioX20 5


Last modified on 12 May 2015
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