64-bit processors no big deal according to Mediatek

64-bit processors powering Android are incoming

Mediatek seems to be on a roll lately; the Taiwanese fabless semiconductor company announced a number of products in 2014, pointing to a much more competitive year for ARM licensees.

Of particular interest is the firm's new focus on what it identified as the super mid-range smartphone market.

That segment covers devices with a SRP roughly between $100 and $400 and accounts for the bulk of the predicted growth in the smartphone market (at least when it comes to revenues).

TechRadar Pro spoke to Johan Lodenius, Chief Marketing Officer for Mediatek, about what the market can expect from the world's second-biggest ARM chip vendor.

Bring high end features to mainstream

Johan and another senior member of his team are former Qualcomm employees and it comes as no surprise that the company was mentioned several times during our conversation.

Smartphones are now commoditised and while the high end of the market is currently artificially propped up by subsidies, this is longer sustainable or viable, he added emphatically.

Mediatek is keen to grab the opportunity and bring the type of performance and features usually found on high end smartphones to mainstream.

For example, the MT6595, which is set to appear in devices in the second half of the year, has eight cores including four Cortex-A17 with LTE and 4K support.

But packing as many cores as possible is not efficient unless the software follows. "Software does make a difference", Johan said.

And its "Corepilot" solution (which includes scheduler, power and thermal management) is probably one of the best in the industry when it comes to implementing ARM's big.LITTLE vision.

The 64-bit debate

Now that we know when a 64-bit Android is expected, the debate about the benefits of doubling the amount of bits that can be processed by the SoC is likely to become more intense.

Johan tells us that while 64-bit will add real value to the overall mix, it is less important than heterogeneous multi-processing.

Adding 64-bit capabilities to the MT6732, Mediatek's first 64-bit processor, was not difficult and it is likely to be rolled out faster than most would expect.

The next step in the evolution of processors is HSA (Heterogeneous System Architecture) which is essentially bringing various compute resources in any devices together and allowing them to be seen by the OS as one unified logical unit.

Desire Athow
Managing Editor, TechRadar Pro

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website builders and web hosting when DHTML and frames were in vogue and started narrating about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium.