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Helio P90 Announced by Mediatek – A Premium AI-Powered SoC

We heard about a lot of new SoC releases in the past few weeks, with Qualcomm releasing the Snapdragon 855 and Huawei releasing the Kirin 980 (earlier this year), both based on the 7nm manufacturing process. We were expecting a new SoC from Mediatek as well, given the fact that OEMs are transitioning to the 7nm manufacturing process, and today MediaTek announced the Helio P90.

Under the Hood

Surprisingly, the Helio P90 isn’t based on the 7nm manufacturing process, unlike most of the recent SoCs launched in the premium segment, which is quite disappointing. The chip is made in the 12nm manufacturing process, with Cortex-75 cores running at up to 2.2 GHz and six A55 cores at 2.0 GHz, both successors of the A75 and A73 cores present in the P60/70. The processor is a rival to the 7-nm Snapdragon 855, the recently launched SoC by Qualcomm which uses four large cores, one running up to 2.84 GHz and three at 2.42 GHz, and four of the A55 cores at 1.80 GHz.

The most notable feature is the change in core configuration. Earlier, Mediatek used the 4+4 configuration, but now it has moved to the 6+2 configuration which we see in Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 670 and 710 chips. The GPU gets a double-sized upgrade as compared to the P70, which includes multiply-accumulate arrays for running machine-learning job along with an added AI accelerator. In connectivity, the P90 supports LTE Category 13 with 3× carrier aggregation (CA) up from Cat 7 with 2× CA, claiming downloads at up to 600 Mbits/s. It also supports 802.11ac Wi-Fi with 2 × 2 MIMO.

Speaking of the AI-aspect, the SoC has some notable features in that segment as well. “Helio P90 focuses on AI improvements that will augment everything from photo and video capture to object recognition and general computation. Using a fusion AI architecture, MediaTek’s second-generation APU adds a custom-built Inference Engine to assist the Tensilica DSP found in the earlier Helio P70. Collectively, the P90’s AI processors promise 1127 GMACs (giga multiply-accumulates per second) of computing power, up from 240 GMACs in the P70, or 4.6 times greater AI performance than the P70.”, as Venture Beat reports.

As MediaTek claims, the AI will “enable secure facial unlocking, full-body AR avatars, 4 times faster noise reduction for low-light photographs, real-time face beautification during video recordings, intelligent environmental awareness for improved photo exposures, and the ability to process either a single 48-megapixel image or dual-camera 24+16-megapixel images without missing a beat”.

P90’s AI performance | Source: GSMArena

Our Thoughts

While the specs do sound pretty interesting, it was still a really underwhelming release from MediaTek. The P90 goes against the Snapdragon 670/710 and 675, which are based on 10nm LPP and 11nm LPP as compared to the P90’s 12FFC, which gives the Snapdragon SoCs an edge. Moreover, it lacks the newer Arm’s Cortex A76 CPU, which is present in its competitors. The Helio P90 is already available for partners and it’ll be seen in devices in late Q1 2019. MediaTek also revealed that they’ll be launching their 5G-ready SoC in February, at the Mobile World Congress 2019.


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