MediaTek has led developments on mobile parallel processing for quite some time now with the original release of their octa-core MT6595 SoC back in 2014. Lots of groups mocked the development, including Qualcomm, suggesting that more cores doesn't mean better performance. Eventually Qualcomm ate its words as it began to release its own octa-core chips.
MediaTek did it again earlier this year with the announcement of the ten-core Helio X20 - the first ten-core mobile processor. It had a tri-cluster configuration based on ARM's big.LITTLE design that had four battery-efficient ARM Cortex-A53 cores with a low clock speed, four additional ARM Cortex-A53 cores with a higher clock speed, and two high-performance ARM Cortex-A72 cores making up the ten-core design.
MediaTek has now announced two new refinements to the existing Helio X20 and X25 ten-core lineup: the Helio X23 and Helio X27 mobile processors.
- The Helio X23 is based on the Helio X20 and raises the clock speed of the ARM Cortex-A72 cores from 2.1GHz to 2.3Ghz.
- The Helio X27 is based on the Helio X25 and raises the clock speed of the ARM Cortex-A72 cores from 2.5GHz to 2.6GHz. The ARM Mali-T880MP4 GPU on the X27 was also raised to 875MHz from 850MHz.
What makes multi-core chips like this useful in mobile devices is the fact that smartphones and tablets run on battery power and do not have a constant stream of energy they can exploit. This makes the balance between processing grunt and battery life an interesting tango for obvious reasons - both are desired features, but both feed on each other and boosting one means hurting the other.
Multiple-core configurations, especially those using the big.LITTLE design methodology, operate in a way such that the device can turn off all but one core when it doesn't need processing power - such as when your phone is locked and on standby. The individual core usually down-clocks itself to a very low amount. As the phone requires more computational strength, more cores can turn on, raise their clock speed and later lower their clock speed, or switch off again as they're no longer needed.
Check out our review of the Vernee Apollo Lite: a smartphone with MediaTek's Helio X20 SoC.