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At its Executive Summit event in Laguna Beach, CA, MediaTek was the first company to announce a processor built on TSMC’s 4nm semiconductor process. New processes allow chipmakers to pack more computing power in a given amount of space and are usually faster and more power-efficient.

At the heart of this system on a chip (SoC), there’s a powerful heterogeneous CPU cluster that includes Ultra, Super, and Efficiency cores in MediaTek terminology. As the names indicate, each core type has different speed and power characteristics. The cluster scheduler and OS thread scheduler work in tandem to automatically dispatch work to the most appropriate core type.

Photo credit: Eliane Fiolet

Heterogeneous CPU Clusters aren’t a new concept, but this implementation is exciting, with one ARM Cortex X2 core as the “Ultra” core, three Cortex A710 “super” cores, and four Cortex A510 cores for “efficiency.”

These are all modern CPU core designs that should bring noticeably higher performance and power efficiency across the board. If anything, I expect more SoC vendors to adopt these new CPU cores, and we’ll have to see if some of them will even have custom versions. For now, MediaTek’s CPU cluster looks real good.

"MEDIATEK'S CPU CLUSTER LOOKS REAL GOOD"

The CPU cores access speedy LPDDR5 RAM, which offers excellent potential if OEMs opt for the highest supported memory type. There’s a gigantic 14MB of aggregate CPU cache memory to stay on-chip as much as possible.

Photo credit: Eliane Fiolet

The graphics processor is an ARM Mali G710, a GPU design released in May 2021. On paper, it should bring a 20% boost in graphics and 35% for GPU-based machine learning apps. Overall, the architecture should yield a 20% energy efficiency.

"20% BOOST IN GRAPHICS AND 35% FOR GPU-BASED MACHINE LEARNING APPS"

The Mali G710 also features hardware ray-tracing (RT), which could be interesting from a developer’s point of view. For consumers, it remains to be seen what kind of ray-tracing performance this GPU can achieve (in rays/second) and the quality of the RT denoising, two critical points for practical hardware ray tracing.

The RT speed determines what game developers do with it and how it will eventually seep into games. In the short term, the legacy rasterization rendering performance remains the most critical metric to look at.

This graphics processor supports a 180Hz refresh rate, and perhaps that’s a hint of where displays are going. But this could also be handy for gaming and VR apps, especially since the G710 has a new architecture change to reduce internal latency.

The Dimensity 9000’s Image Signal Processor (ISP) can churn 9 Billion pixels per second and could support a 320MP camera. The 320MP number isn’t meant to be taken literally, but multi-camera recording is “the” real-world use case today.

"THREE-EXPOSURES HDR: ONE OF THE BETTER THINGS FOR CAMERA SOFTWARE"

Simultaneously recording with all the phone’s cameras (rear, ultrawide, zoom, selfie) is highly convenient to content creators. The high-speed ISP enables this at maximum quality. The three-exposures noise reduction technique that MediaTek talked about is one of the better things that can be done on the software side of photography.

Photo credit: Eliane Fiolet

Interestingly, the ISP and the APU (AI Processor) have access to the same memory. Therefore, the APU can process images efficiently, which opens the door to more image computing and filtering. That’s particularly true because the new APU is 4X faster than the previous generation.

"5G NR RELEASE 16: FUTURE-PROOF YOUR PURCHASE"

The Dimension 9000’s integrated 5G modem is built on the 5G NR 3GPP Release 16 specifications. There are many improvements for networks and carriers to make the transition from 4G to 5G smoother.

5G features like updated MIMO protocols and 5G NR unlicensed in Release 16 will increase the network’s speed and capacity and yield a better average network experience for all users. Of course, the network needs to run on Release 16, but having a compatible device is a way to future-proof your purchase.

The Dimensity 9000 supports Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3, the latest improvement on the popular BT protocol. From a consumer perspective, the Bluetooth improvements are primarily in the background. However, the efficiency and optimizations might have a small impact on battery life.

Overall, the new MediaTek Dimensity 9000 is a true “Flagship” platform with which MediaTek will compete at the very top. It is the culmination of the Dimensity line of products, and we’re looking forward to seeing the first devices arriving on the market.

MediaTek’s CEO Rick Tsai and his executives joined the launch event via video (from Taiwan) and laid out an excellent overview of the past few years of progress, and looking back, the Dimensity family has climbed every tier to the top.

During the Q&A session, some asked what he thought of the NVIDIA acquisition of ARM. He replied that he believed “the capabilities of the CPU and GPU would be further enhanced with NVIDIA’s technology,” and that was a “positive” thing.

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