Video: Qualcomm goes after MediaTek’s octo-core chips again

by: Bogdan PetrovanAugust 30, 2013

qualcomm mediatek

Some may argue that it is inelegant for a company of Qualcomm’s level to go after smaller competitors, but that won’t stop the San Diego-based chip designer from doing just that. Repeatedly.

Back in early August, a Qualcomm top executive called current octo-core systems-on-a-chip “dumb” and brashly compared the competitors’ designs with “lawn motor engines” sold as an “eight-cylinder Ferrari”.

Who was the target of Qualcomm’s derision? MediaTek, the Taiwan-based chipmaker that has been killing it with its low-cost smartphone and tablet SoCs, which power most of the mobile devices made in China.

Now Qualcomm tries to hammer the point home with a video advertisement that compares its own quad-core designs with the designs of an unnamed competitor. However, eagle-eyed readers will notice that the color and font of the “Our Competitor” title matches precisely the styling of MediaTek.

Essentially, Qualcomm argues that having four great cores is much better than having eight older cores that deliver less performance. According to the chipmaker, 17 out of the 20 top apps in China only make use of two cores, which is a bottleneck that cancels the benefit of having more than four cores.

The video is a thinly veiled jab at the “true octo-core” processor that MediaTek recently announced with great fanfare. The problem is MediaTek’s chip features older, slower ARM Cortex A7 CPU cores, which puts it at disadvantage compared to the custom Krait 400 designs that Qualcomm uses.

Truth is Qualcomm has a point here and the video illustrates it quite well: with the way apps use the processor at present, it makes more sense to have a few fast cores than a bunch of older ones. This is reflected in benchmark scores as well.

But Qualcomm’s efforts to discredit MediaTek’s products are telling for the success that the scrappy Taiwanese chipmaker has been enjoying as of late. MediaTek is very strong in China, a market that is sensible to cost, which prevents Qualcomm from competing as effectively as it does internationally.

And, with the octa-core chip, MediaTek is showing that it’s not satisfied with catering for the entry-level to mid-range market. From this perspective, Qualcomm’s jabs could be viewed as a sign of insecurity.

When asked for comment on Qualcomm’s attack, MediaTek said it has no interest in the activities of competitors.

  • truthguy

    it doesn’t matter what IS better, only what the companies can sell. To the average consumer a octo core sounds waaaay more impressive than a quad core from yonder years ago.

    • kascollet

      Sad but so true !

  • APai

    qualcomm can show videos and other crappy stuff. but mediatek has already won the market. the target market in asia will not care for their expensive chips. mediatek is doing pretty good! we don’t want another company dominating the mobile space like how intel did with the desktop.

  • Jason Yuen

    Both companies have valid points. Better cores make for better current application performance, but more cores can allow for more versatility but only if done correctly as we see in the moto X. That said, the useful life of devices are no longer as lengthy as they used to be. Qualcomm may have an advantage in the short run, but perhaps that’s all that matters anymore. Evolving for a rapidly changing market may reap more rewards than preparing for the long run. For a 1-2 year device, I would rather have a Snapdragon.

    • crackinthewall

      The Moto X isn’t a true octocore device and X8 is a misnomer for a customized dual core SOC.

      • Simon Belmont

        He never actually said the X8 was an octo-core. He just said that it had “more cores” to be more versatile.

        You and I both know that those “cores” aren’t the same as having eight CPU cores. But, again, I don’t think that’s what he was getting at.

        • crackinthewall

          Which is unlike what Samsung and Mediatek does with the SoCs. There are only two CPU cores in the X8 while the other two companies used eight real CPU cores. If we counted all the processors in other SoCs, even MediaTek can claim they have a hexadecacore SoC.

  • cycad007

    It really doesn’t matter what Qualcomm says. MediaTek chips are selling like hotcakes in China. While I don’t think MediaTek is anywhere on par with Qualcomm, it’s only getting stronger & stronger with each purchase. Perhaps in a couple generations, MediaTek will be able to go toe-to-toe with Qualcomm.

    • crackinthewall

      Because it’s cheaper? I doubt Mediatek can offer something as powerful as Qualcomm’s best without charging a similar price. The only reason they can charge that low is that they’ve cut a lot of corners to get there.

      • xoj_21

        it offer good performance vs price ratio wise.
        qualcom went to high end with new chips got over 2ghz.

        mediatek if 8 core implementation should outperform similar priced qualcomm 4 core kraits. and give u better battery

        • crackinthewall

          Which just proves my point. It’s not just about clockspeed but the architecture. Mediatek uses an older architecture (A7) while Qualcomm used a custom architecture similar to A15 and Samsung went full A15. Not only that, the octocore MT6592 can clock up to 2GHz. In reality, this will not compete with the S600 and S800 but with LOWER-clocked S4 Pro and Exynos quadcore.

      • jaja

        Actually, they can, salary in Chine is extramly low, almoust all materials are cheaper, and they dont have even close marketing expences as qualcomm…

        • crackinthewall

          Almost everyone makes chips in China or some other country with really low salary.

    • Mike Reid

      & selling ONLY in China…

      How many “1st world” phones use Mediatek ?

  • renz

    so what company will they bash next?

  • Roberto Tomás

    I’m not sure that Qualcomm didn’t seriously fake this… or compare an older quad or dual core to their quad core. The reason is simple: Mediatek’s new 8-core chip uses power vr rogue series 6 gpus — the weakest configuration of which is exactly as powerful as the power vr series 5 in the apple ipad 4. The reason their AnTuTu scores were so ungodly high in the first place wasn’t 8 cores, but that honkin’ monster next-gen gpu.

    I guess it is possible that the game in question simply refuses to use the gpu for graphics, which is good for a comparison but bad practice because most people will play games with their gpu.

    • Simon Belmont

      They’re talking about raw CPU computing power per core, here. They aren’t talking about GPU rendering power or speed.

      The comparison video isn’t going into Qualcomm’s Adreno GPU or PowerVR’s Rogue GPU. I do agree that using a Guitar Hero style graphical example to exemplify CPU core power is a bit misleading because you think GPUs are involved in the comparison, but I don’t believe they are here.

  • Magnetic1

    Then Exynos dual core is the best soc? Antutu says not exactly.
    But it’s nice to future proof at least an app generation.

    • xoj_21

      4212 is the standard.

  • Bhairav Pardiwala

    The true reason that hurts Qualcomm is Mediatek phones have taken over Indian market

  • brendan soliwoda

    This coming from a company who last year said that it was pointless to make a quad-core processor when they could perfect dual-cores. Lol, what hypocrites.

  • Amdahl’s law increasingly punishes CPU designs with more than 4 cores. Unless apps are designed specifically for 8 low performance cores, with a parallel efficiency of at least 500% gains over a single core, Mediatek’s 8 A7 cores are pure marketing BS. Is there such an app?