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MediaTek teases first true octa-core mobile processor, but Samsung might steal its thunder

There have been octacores out there before, but there was always a caveat preventing them from being true 8-core processors. MediaTek has changed all that.
July 26, 2013
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The word “octa-core” has been thrown around a lot this year and it’s quite unfortunate that no true octa-core processor has come out yet.

Samsung tried it first with their Exynos 5 Octa processor this year. Then Motorola teased the tech community again with their X8 Computing System. Neither of those are true octa-cores.

MediaTek, a company not usually known for high-end processors in the mobile market, has just teased an octa-core processor. Here’s the kicker, it’s actually a real octa-core processor.

When Samsung first said they were doing an 8-core processor, we hoped for the best. However, Samsung ended up doing a system where four high powered cores would turn on when things needed to get done and four lesser cores would turn on when the powerful cores weren’t needed. So really it wasn’t a true octa-core processor. It was more like two quad-core processors smashed together. The initial plan was to make the two core cluster work together, but due to a hardware dysfunctionality, the system could only work with one of the clusters at a time.

Motorola teased us again with the X8 Computer System that boasted 8-cores. However, that’s really just a modified dual-core processor with two single core processors and a quad-core graphics chip, plus two other cores for sensors and language processing. The 8-cores claim is therefore just a marketing ploy.

mediatek octa core

MediaTek looks to change all that with their new processor. They’re touting it as a true octa-core processor. As you can see from the picture above, they say their processor can have 8 active cores all at once. This means no more of that faux octa-core stuff. This is the real deal and what a big deal it could turn out to be.

According to their marketing materials, MediaTek claims to bring a whole lot of performance improvements. This includes smoother interfaces, smoother web browsing, smoother gaming, and better video playback.

Why is MediaTek’s octa-core processor such a big deal?

There are a variety of reasons. First and foremost, it’s the only one of its kind. As we’ve mentioned above, other OEMs have attempted the 8-core set up but always seemed to fall short of the goal. MediaTek seems to have been able to make all 8 cores work at once without overheating issues or other problems. That’s pretty big news because that means that it’s only a matter of time before Intel, Samsung, Qualcomm, etc follow suit and we see more of these super powerful processors.

This is also a pretty big deal for MediaTek because this is really the first CPU they’ve done for mobile that may earn some respect. Before this, MediaTek was mostly known for supplying processors to the bottom half of the Android industry. Their chips aren’t terrible, but they’ve really never been touted as amazing before. That could all change with this octa-core chip.

There’s always a “but”

It is a little hard to get too excited, though. We haven’t seen any benchmarks for these new processors and likely won’t for a little while. However, if MediaTek’s octa-core is as powerful as they are claiming it to be, then this could change MediaTek’s position in the mobile industry.

And there’s another twist – Samsung just announced the second generation of Exynos 5 Octa, Exynos 5420, which is faster, has a better GPU, and, very importantly, can reportedly fire up both processor clusters. Samsung says it will start manufacturing the new Exynos 5420 this August, potentially throwing a wrench in MediaTek’s plans.

The Taiwanese chipmaker is unofficially said to ship its octa-core chip in the fourth quarter, meaning that, if Samsung plays its cards right, it could swoop in and get the coveted “first” title once more.