Once upon a time people tended to judge processors by their megahertz or gigahertz speeds. But not all 1 GHz chips are created equal. Other factors including voltage and chip architecture come into play. Given a choice, I’d rather have a 2 GHz Core i3 Broadwell processor than a 2.16 GHz Pentium Bay Trail chip.

These days it seems like CPU cores are the new Gigahertz: chip makers are racing to put more and more cores into their chips.

Shortly after dual-core chips for smartphones and tablets became common, chip designers started offering quad-core, then octa-core processors. Now MediaTek is said to be working on chips with 10 or 12 cores.


Note that MediaTek hasn’t officially announced these new chips, but I’ve seen several reports suggesting they could be on the way this year, along with several new 4-core and 8-core chips from the Taiwanese company.

It’s not entirely clear what you’d get from a 12-core mobile chip that you can’t already get from an 8-core processor.

Some of today’s octa-core chips feature 8 identical CPU cores, while others use ARM’s big.LITTLE technology to pair a group of high performance components with less powerful parts. This lets you use just the more powerful cores, just the less powerful ones, or all 8 together, depending on the configuration and the tasks you’re trying to accomplish.

The idea is that you can get bleeding edge performance when you need it… and when you don’t your device will switch to the more efficient CPU cores to help you squeeze more life out of the battery.

So I suppose a 12-core chip could have something like 4 ARM Cortex-A53 energy-saving cores and 8 high-performance Cortex-A57 cores? I’m just guessing here.

It’s also possible the extra cores will be mostly useless for anything other than marketing.



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6 replies on “Rumor: MediaTek considering 10, 12-core mobile chips”

  1. I’ve read this article to my young colleague, and he upset: instead of increasing the cores, it would be better to

    1. put some extra memory in the device, not only 0.5 Gbyte, when system eats up 0.4 Gbyte, and there is 85 Mbtte for apps

    2. put flat, normal size storage instead of ill-partitioned tiny ones (total 2 or 4 Gbyte divided to 1 Gbyte system, 1 Gbyte internal storage and the rest is “internal SD card”)

    I add: if the goal is to increase overall system performance.

    1. Indeed, the CPU power is mostly marketing. I expect most devices to provide insufficient dissipation to sustain all the cores at full power more than a few seconds.

  2. I don’t really know how Android works, but I’ve read some of it, there are separate trehads for GUI and app, so a dual-core processor “fits” the sw architecture. If there’re background processes, maybe quad-core helps some, but from that point, increasing processor cores can’t help, except…

    …we start designing apps for multi-core processors. I think, we’re at the beginning of that path.

  3. There is also the power factor when it comes to bigLITTLE.
    Another thing is how the process scales with clocks.At some point the power per clocks curve goes mad and you gain very little with way too much extra power ( any PC overclocker is familiar with that).So you could end up in a scenario where it doesn’t make sense to push clocks higher even if you have TDP budget left.At that point you can add some GPU or some cores.Qualcomm, Samsung and Nvidia don’t seem to be able to push A57 above 2GHz on 20nm for now and that’s rather low.
    I would rather see bigger cores than more but we’ll see when ARM has the next cores, seems unlikely it will be soon.
    Last week Rockchip had the RK3368 and the naming made me wonder if they might be crazy enough to go with 12 cores for the 3388 – do note that this is not based on any rumors or facts, just speculation- so maybe Mediatek is being forced to consider 12 cores just as Qiualcomm was forced to go 8 cores.

  4. well id buy these assumed 12 core 4 a53 + 8 a57 cores if mediatek also added 4 USB3.1 IP (no usb2 ports needed here) wideIO dram +controller ,11AC 4×4/11ad 8×8, pcie4x4, multiple SATA IP , fastest IO IP they can design for long term add-on 3rd party potential…

  5. 4 a53 + 8 a57 cores would definitely pique my interest. How well does desktop Linux handle big.LITTLE? Nothing on Android that comes close to needing this kind of power that I’m aware of. Although a 10+ inch Android tablet with hardware virtualization on such a processor would certainly be interesting to play with.

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