MediaTek is making a run to capture the processor performance crown for Android tablets with its 64-bit MT8173 mobile chip, set to go into devices during the second half of this year.
The chip, which combines some of the latest processor technologies available, will give tablets PC-like performance without any effect on battery life, said MediaTek, which introduced the chip a day ahead of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
Tablets are processing 4K video, running demanding applications and getting higher-resolution screens. The new chip is designed to meet those requirements, and could allow tablets to have 20-megapixel cameras and handle high-end games on advanced mobile screens with 120Hz refresh rates.
The chip could challenge Qualcomm's 64-bit flagship Snapdragon 810, which is considered one of the faster 64-bit processors and is due to appear in more than 60 devices this year. MediaTek didn't present benchmarks, saying that on paper its CPU specs could outperform rival products.
MediaTek has made a name providing chips for low-cost Android smartphones and tablets. The new chip could give the company a foothold in the premium mobile device market, which has eluded the company so far. MediaTek could snatch market share from Qualcomm, which is especially vulnerable after being fined US$975 million by the Chinese government for monopolistic behavior.
A big advantage of the Snapdragon 810 is integrated LTE, which the new MediaTek chip doesn't have. MediaTek does offer the LTE-capable 64-bit MT6795 chip, which has eight cores but can only support 2048 x 1536 pixel displays.
The quad-core MT8173 is roughly six times faster than its predecessor, the MT8125, which shipped in 2013 and was used in many smartphones and tablets. The new chip pairs two CPU cores based on ARM's recently introduced Cortex-A72 design with two low-power Cortex-A53 cores, which can handle mundane tasks like video calls and MP3 playback. The chip operates at clock speeds up to 2.4GHz.
Many existing 64-bit chips -- like the Snapdragon 810 -- are based on the older Cortex-A57 design, and the Cortex-A72 is considered speedier.
4K video decoding and encoding capabilities come through a PowerVR GX6250 graphics core. Tablets with screens up to 13 inches still don't have -- and may not get anytime soon -- 4K screens, but images can be streamed to attached 4K monitors. So, it may be possible for tablets to receive and process 4K streaming video from a service like Netflix, and then play it back on a TV. The chip supports HDMI output to hook up TVs and tablets.
Application performance will get a boost through a MediaTek technology called CorePilot, which helps break down processing of tasks across GPUs and CPUs. The chip supports OpenCL parallel programming tools, which harnesses the joint computing power of CPUs and GPUs.
MediaTek indicated that it would make more chips based on the Cortex-A72 CPU design in the future.