In April this year, Samsung launched their Exynos 5410, a supposedly ‘octa-core’ processor for mobile devices. At first the world was shocked. How had Samsung managed to create the next level of processors in such a short time? The answer was soon revealed. The Exynos 5410 did not actually utilize all eight cores at once. In other words, the chip itself is comprised out of two different quad-core processors that don’t work simultaneously, namely the 1.6 GHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A15 and 1.2 GHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A7. This processor utilizes the big.LITTLE architecture and switches between the processors depending on the amount of power required. Recently Samsung also unveiled the second iteration of their ‘octa-core’ processor, the Exynos 5420, which powers some variants of the Galaxy Note 3.
All that might be about to change however, as the world is on course to see the very first true mobile octa-core system-on-chip (SoC) in little under a month. MediaTek, a Taiwanese chip maker, has developed one, and is getting ready to ship it as we speak. To clarify, this chip is not the first octa-core processor, but the first mobile octa-core SoC, which will only be utilized in mobile devices.
A few months ago in the summer, MediaTek had announced that it had begun development of a true octa-core device. What they mean is that unlike Samsung’s Exynos 5410 and 5420, their octa-core SoC will be utilizing all eight cores at once.
While sceptics remained even after MediaTek’s announcement, another announcement by MediaTek will definitely put all doubts to rest. They said that their new chip, the MT6592 is getting ready to be shipped. This SoC, which is ARM A7 based, is expected to be launched on November 20 in Shenzhen, and may be a Chinese market exclusive, at least for a few months. Whether MediaTek will be using their own device to showcase the MT6592, or a partner device remains to be seen.
Prototypes of this SoC were benchmarked on AnTuTu 4.0, and they returned with a healthy showing. The test was performed on a prototype running said octa-core CPU operating at 1.7GHz paired with a Mali-450 GPU, 1GB of RAM and a 720p HD display. In this configuration, the prototype device scored 25,495 points, which is a hair shy of the HTC One’s S600 performance, but some way off the Snapdragon S800 powered flagships.
Do not be disappointed, though. MediaTek has said that the MT6592 can go up to clock speeds of 2.0 GHz, and that there is a possibility of going even higher. This means that we can probably see the retail devices scoring as much as 30,000.
So far, 8 Chinese manufacturers have an agreement with MediaTek to utilize the MT6592 in their devices. Seven of these eight manufacturers are Huawei, Lenovo, ZTE, OPPO, Coolpad, Vivo and Gionee. It is still possible that we might see international sales of some of these octa-core devices, especially since Huawei, ZTE and OPPO have a Western presence.
Still, one must not hope for too much. MediaTek has clearly stated that the manufacturing run of the MT6592 will be limited, so we might not see many devices using this SoC for now. The best bet of this SoC going mainstream is in the early Q2 of 2014. However, Samsung has also announced that they will also be releasing a true octa-core Exynos SoC during that time, and that it will be running on the 64 bit architecture. It is highly possible that we might see the Galaxy S5 housing this SoC, or perhaps the rumoured super-premium Galaxy F line.
Bottom line is, 2014 may well be the year of the octa-core. What do you think?