MediaTek debuts chips for budget 5G phones and powerful Chromebooks

One year ago, 5G was generally a premium smartphone feature — something one might only reasonably expect at a nearly $1,000 price point — but over the past year, chipmakers have worked aggressively to bring the new cellular technology to as many phone tiers as possible. Today, MediaTek is opening the 5G doors even wider with the announcement of Dimensity 700, a “mass market” 5G system-on-chip that will raise the floor for budget smartphones. On the other hand, it’s debuting two new Chromebook-focused chips called MT8192 and MT8195, each designed for next-generation convertible laptops and tablets that will challenge Apple’s iPads as affordable school- and work-from-home options.

The chips reflect a recent trend by which key chipmakers MediaTek, Qualcomm, and Samsung have rapidly brought advanced technologies into even the most affordable Google OS-powered devices, placing pressure on Apple, which has been unwilling or unable to offer them in even premium iPhones and iPads. For instance, MediaTek has rapidly integrated 5G modems directly into its system-on-chip solutions for Android smartphones, enabling greater power efficiency and thus longer battery life, while also upping the ante for entry-level convertible Chromebook tablet/laptop hybrids that now challenge iPads in the growing remote education market. These moves are enabling the latest processing, imaging, AI, and graphics advances to reach hundreds of millions of people who historically would have waited years for new technologies to trickle down and become mainstream.

Dimensity 700 is the third major 5G system-on-chip in MediaTek’s lineup, coming less than one year after the late November launch of Dimensity 1000 and 10 months after January 2020’s reveal of Dimensity 800. Peaking at 2.2GHz speeds and built on a 7-nanometer process, the octa-core chip features video and imaging cores that will enable budget Android phones to include 90Hz displays and up to 64-megapixel main cameras. By contrast, all iPhone 12 models are stuck at 60Hz, and their cameras are locked at 12 megapixels.

MediaTek is also including AI camera features, including AI bokeh (background blurring), AI beauty (face smoothing), and AI color optimization, as well as hardware-based multi-frame noise reduction to reduce graininess in low-light and night photos. On the 5G side, Dimensity 700 includes two-carrier aggregation for data speeds of up to 2.77Gbps, support for 5G dual-SIM dual standby, and 5G Voice over New Radio for high-definition calling without the need for a simultaneous 3G or 4G connection. The chip also promises battery-saving network- and content-awareness features that will use 5G more intelligently, reducing the need for phone recharges.

By contrast, the MT8192 and MT8195 aren’t 5G-capable, but are designed to up the ante for Chromebooks, which have surged in popularity due to school-from-home mandates. Each chip includes four power-efficient ARM Cortex-A55 cores and a five-core Mali-G57 GPU, backed by LPDDR4x RAM, PCI-Express Gen 3, and USB 3.2 Gen 1 support. While the MT8192 is a 7-nanometer chip with four additional Cortex-A76 cores, the MT8195 is built with the smaller 6-nanometer process and includes four Cortex-A78 cores. MediaTek is including dedicated AI and video processors with each chip, but notes that only the MT8195 delivers up to 4 TOPS performance, can handle up to three simultaneous displays — a premium feature for deluxe Chromebooks — and offers Dolby Vision support, while the MT8192 offers standard 4K HDR video.

Both of the Chromebook chips support up to 80-megapixel, 4-cell cameras; a single 32-megapixel camera; or dual 16-megapixel cameras with HDR and hardware-based depth separation support, designed to enable high-color video conferencing with background replacement. They also can handle some of Google’s latest “smart” innovations, including live speech translation, AR Core functionality, voice and gesture control, and ultra low-power voice assistant wakeup capabilities.

The first Chromebooks with the MT8192 are expected in the second quarter of 2021, with MT8195-powered “premium Chromebooks, smart displays, tablets and other smart devices” coming “at a later date.” Smartphones based on the Dimensity 700 will start arriving at an unspecified date in 2021.

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