MediaTek has announced its newest processor, the Dimensity 9000 5G. The Taiwanese manufacturer emphasizes that the chip is the world’s first – publicly announced – to be manufactured using the “4 nm” process. Perhaps the biggest highlight, however, is actually that it uses the new ARM-based Cortex-X2 CPU cores. Not only are they high performing, but also the first to be compatible with the new ARMv9 architecture.
- Dimensity 9000 5G is the first SoC announced in 4 nm. MediaTek depends on Apple, Qualcomm, Samsung and others here.
- The processor is announced for the first time with new Cortex-X2 high-performance CPUs.
- MediaTek promises a performance jump of 35% compared to the current “flagship Android”.
- The processor’s presentation slides highlight several “novelties”.
While normally all eyes are on Qualcomm and Samsung with their Snapdragon and Exynos processors, respectively, MediaTek has slowly pushed itself into the limelight. Not enough with the fact that the company will be the largest provider of smartphone SoCs this year – it is now also scoring points with new manufacturing processes, cores and CPU architectures.
Traditionally, the Taiwanese company has been a typical follower, adopting sophisticated – and cheap – designs and lithographs introduced by market leaders. This also included the Huawei subsidiary HiSilicon, which was the only company besides Apple to use TSMC’s N5 process for a smartphone SoC. The Snapdragon 888 and Exynos 2100, meanwhile, came onto the market later and were manufactured by Samsung using the 5LPE process.
The highlight of the Dimensity 9000 5G is the lithography, which is done with the TSMC N4 manufacturing process – commonly known as 4 nm. In addition to the advantages of a smaller footprint, we mainly benefit from the reduction in power consumption. This is especially true with regard to Samsung Foundry’s processes, which are generally less efficient than TSMC’s.
According to MediaTek, the Dimensity 9000 is up to 37% more efficient than the “Android flagship”, which probably means the Snapdragon 888. At the same time, it is up to 35% more powerful, which we would like to test now.
New generation of ARM CPUs
One of the reasons for the leap in performance is the use of the new ARM CPU cores with the new ARMv9 architecture – another groundbreaking Dimensity 9000. For comparison: The previous architecture, ARMv8, was developed by Apple in one device with the A7 of the iPhone 5S introduced.
MediaTek is the first company to announce a SoC with the new cores, the highlight being the high-performance Cortex-X2 in conjunction with the Cortex-A710 and A510 cores in a 1 + 3 + 4 configuration. The use of the X2 itself is another first for the manufacturer who failed to use the Cortex X1 CPU found in the Snapdragon 888, Exynos 2100 and Google Tensor.
But that’s not all: The Dimensity 9000 is the first announced SoC with support for the new LPPDR5x RAM standard, which promises lower latencies with higher data transfer rates. However, the processor is compatible with the LPDDR5 standard, which is available in larger quantities and cheaper.
In terms of graphics, too, the Dimensity 9000 5G will celebrate a premiere thanks to the new Mali-G710 graphics processor. At this point in time, it is possible that MediaTek will be the only one taking over the graphics processor. Apple and Qualcomm use their own designs, and Samsung will probably use a GPU based on AMD’s RDNA2 in its next premium SoCs.
Here, too, the Taiwanese company has announced a performance leap of 35% compared to the Android flagship mentioned above. At this point, however, a little skepticism is appropriate, because MediaTek is usually conservative when it comes to the number of graphics cores used: In the case of the Dimensity 9000, there are 10 Mali-G710 GPUs.
Explanation: The Dimensity 1000/1100/1200 generation uses 9 Mali-G77 cores, while competing flagship chips such as the Exynos 2100 and Kirin 9000 use 14 and 24 cores, respectively, which takes advantage of rivals in gaming (and benchmarks) explained.
With future Exynos processors using AMD GPUs, it is possible that the Dimensity 9000’s benefit may disappear before it even hits the market, depending on when the processor is adopted by cellular manufacturers.
Other blocks of the SoC
MediaTek also highlighted the new Artificial Intelligence Cores (NPU), which are 400% faster and 400% more efficient than the previous generation (Dimensity 1200), in addition to the new Imagiq 790 Image Processor (ISP). The component responsible for receiving images from the device’s cameras is now compatible with sensors with a resolution of up to 320 megapixels. It can process up to 9 gigapixels per second, with the signal from up to three cameras being added at the same time.
The video processor is compatible with 8K resolution videos that are compressed with the new AV1 video format (codec), but does not yet allow recordings with this codec. In terms of displays, Dimensity 9000 is compatible with high refresh rates of up to 180 Hz for FullHD + and 144 Hz for WQHD + (1440p +), thus anticipating the trend towards ever smoother screens.
Since it is a processor of the Dimensity family, the 9000 contains MediaTek’s own 5G modem, which (in theory) promises speeds of up to 7 Gbps. As with previous generations, the Dimensity 9000 is not compatible with the mmWave frequency bands. They can almost only be found with network operators in the USA and with Qualcomm modems (which the iPhones 12 and 13 are also equipped with). In addition, the Dimensity is compatible with 6GHz Wi-Fi 6E.
MediaTek Dimensity 9000: Introduction and Availability
The Dimensity 9000, which was presented on Thursday, November 18, is expected to be used in smartphones as early as the first quarter of 2022. As usual with early announcements of mobile chips, the company did not reveal which models will feature the new SoC.
MediaTek’s new processor should face stiff competition early next year, as Qualcomm’s flagship competitors (previously known as Snapdragon 898 or 8gen1) and Samsung (Exynos 2200) expected. It remains to be seen not only how the chips compare, but also whether MediaTek can convince cell phone manufacturers to adopt the Dimensity 9000.
Also, it is possible that some of the “firsts” announced by the company will be overtaken by the competition, as the next Snapdragon and Exynos are expected to share a similar CPU configuration. And in the case of the new Snapdragon, due to be announced at the end of November, it is possible that it will hit the market as early as 2021 and equip the upcoming Xiaomi 12.
Question of Timings
The Dimensity 9000 5G has everything to continue MediaTek’s triumphal march. 5G is currently picking up speed in both rich countries and emerging markets, so MediaTek might have the right knack or just luck with timing.
In addition, the manufacturer benefits from the diversification of the mobile phone brands in terms of their component suppliers and fills the gap left by Huawei / HiSilicon in the middle and upper segments, especially in the Chinese market.
Another point to be emphasized is the fact that the Taiwanese are using a manufacturing process from the friendly company TSMC for the first time. Meanwhile, the direct competitor Qualcomm had to have its top chip manufactured by Samsung Foundry, with efficiency disadvantages in terms of energy consumption and heat dissipation.
Perhaps more important than the company’s pioneering spirit is that MediaTek has succeeded in breaking Apple’s virtual exclusivity in the most modern manufacturing processes at TSMC. Meanwhile, SoCs for video games, GPUs for graphics cards, and other sought-after components continue to use older manufacturing processes.