Earlier this month we published an article that said quad core smartphones using MediaTek’s newest chip are going to flood the market in Q1 2013. When we wrote that article, said chip wasn’t announced. Today that changes. Here’s everything we now know about the MT6589: It’s built using 28 nanometer technology. It has an integrated modem that can handle both HSPA+ and TD-SCDMA, China’s version of 3G. It uses four ARM Cortex A7 processors and an Imagination Technologies PowerVR Series5XT graphics processor. The chip supports 13 megapixel cameras, 1080p displays, 1080p 30 fps recording and playback, and it also has integrated 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0, and GPS.
Myriam Joire, our good friend over at Engadget, had a chance to benchmark the first phones that use the MT6589. We’re not going to republish her data, but we will say that we’re not too surprised with the results. MediaTek’s new chip is essentially a slightly faster dual core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4. Now we know what you’re thinking, how can this be? It’s because ARM’s Cortex A7 core isn’t as fast as Qualcomm’s Krait core. Despite lumping four of them together on a piece of silicon, they’re barely faster than the two cores we’ve seen inside devices since the beginning of the year.
We’re thrilled that MediaTek was able to produce the MT6589, but we’re also realistic. Phones using MediaTek chips usually don’t leave Asia. Why? We’re going to assume patent issues. But don’t be disappointed. Last week Qualcomm announced two quad core A7 chips called the MSM8226 and the MSM8626. They have the exact same specs as the MT6589, except for the graphics processor. Qualcomm uses their own Adreno GPU instead of licensing a solution from Imagination.
So what should you take away from today’s news? Progress is amazing. Three years ago, single core 1 GHz processors and 800 x 480 screens were considered bleeding edge. Now MediaTek is going to supply cheap quad core chips that can drive 1080p smartphone screens to the Chinese market.