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Dimensity 9000 revealed: MediaTek takes aim at the Snapdragon 800 series

MediaTek is positioning the Dimensity 9000 as a direct rival to Qualcomm's best Snapdragon processors.

Published onNovember 18, 2021

MediaTek has been a flagship-level player for a couple of years now, with its Dimensity 1000 series and Dimensity 1200 delivering plenty of grunt. But truth be told, these chips still generally played second-fiddle to the Snapdragon 800 series, with device-makers opting for the Snapdragon 865 series and Snapdragon 888 family for their premium phones.

The Taiwanese chip designer has just launched the Dimensity 9000 processor though, and it’s specifically aiming this new chipset at Qualcomm’s top-tier processors.

“We’re moving deliberately into flagship tiers, and I think that’s probably a space that people have not associated MediaTek with, historically,” said Finbarr Moynihan, MediaTek’s vice-president and general manager of marketing, in an interview with Android Authority.

“To be fair here, I think MediaTek has never really played in the true flagship tier of smartphones. To some degree, our competitor has had that playground to themselves for far too long.”

Moynihan added that this wouldn’t be a “one-and-done” strategy and that it requires a “sustained, multi-year investment” from MediaTek. So what does this new processor look like, then?

Dimensity 9000: The meat and potatoes

For starters, this is the first smartphone chipset built on TSMC’s 4nm-class process, which is essentially an enhanced take on its 5nm process. So this should enable some efficiency and performance improvements out of the box.

This is also the first MediaTek processor with a Cortex-X series CPU core, packing the latest ArmV9 CPU cores. You’re getting an octa-core CPU arrangement consisting of one Cortex-X2 CPU at 3.05GHz, three Cortex-A710 CPUs at 2.85GHz, and four power-sipping Cortex-A510 cores at 1.8GHz.

The company is pretty bullish on the Cortex-X2’s capabilities, claiming a 35% performance boost and a 37% efficiency boost over the Cortex-X1 on a 5nm process. Of course, the real test will be against other 4nm-class products, but it’s clear that this CPU setup should be in the same ballpark as Samsung and Qualcomm’s next processors.

MediaTek was also keen to point out that its new processor packs 8MB of L3 cache and 6MB of system-level cache (SLC). By comparison, the Snapdragon 888 touts 4MB of L3 cache and 3MB of SLC.

The Dimensity 9000 looks like a major boost for MediaTek, but we'll need to wait for rival chips to launch to get a better idea.

The MediaTek Dimensity 9000 also employs a Mali-G710 MC10 GPU — right in Arm’s performance sweet spot for its new graphics core. This is the latest GPU in Arm’s portfolio, and the chip designer claims that its implementation will result in a 35% performance boost and a 60% efficiency gain over the Snapdragon 888. Again, this is comparing a 4nm-class part against a 5nm chipset, but that’s a major gain if confirmed, although the real point of comparison will be against Qualcomm’s next processor.

It’s also worth noting that the company’s Arm GPU implementation has historically lagged behind Samsung and HUAWEI. For example, the Exynos 2100, Kirin 9000, and upper mid-range Exynos 1080 all used a newer GPU than the Dimensity 1200 and with more shader cores. In saying so, there are other factors like GPU clock speed, and it does become a case of diminishing returns at some point when you add more cores to the mix. But we’re keen to see real-world results for the GPU to determine whether this implementation is up to scratch.

MediaTek Dimensity 9000MediaTek Dimensity 1200
MediaTek Dimensity 9000
1x Cortex-X2 @ 3.05GHz
3x Cortex-A710 @ 2.85GHz
4x Cortex-A510 @ 1.8GHz
MediaTek Dimensity 1200
1x Cortex-A78 @ 3GHz
3x Cortex-A78 @ 2.6GHz
4x Cortex-A55 @ 2GHz
MediaTek Dimensity 9000
Arm Mali-G710 MC10
MediaTek Dimensity 1200
Arm Mali-G77 MP9
MediaTek Dimensity 9000
180Hz at FHD+
MediaTek Dimensity 1200
168Hz at FHD+
90Hz at QHD+
Machine learning
MediaTek Dimensity 9000
APU 5.0
six cores
MediaTek Dimensity 1200
APU 3.0
six cores
MediaTek Dimensity 9000
Helio M80 architecture
MediaTek Dimensity 1200
Helio M70 5G
MediaTek Dimensity 9000
320MP single
32MP+32MP+32MP triple
8K/24fps recording
MediaTek Dimensity 1200
200MP single
32MP+16MP dual
4K/60fps recording
MediaTek Dimensity 9000
MediaTek Dimensity 1200

True to the previous-generation Dimensity 1200, MediaTek says the Dimensity 9000 sports software-based ray-tracing too. However, the company also says it’s worked to implement ray-tracing via Vulkan for Android on the new processor.

“So we don’t think it’s going to be ‘mainstream’ this year or next year even in mobile gaming specifically,” Moynihan explained. “But it is important that we work with the ecosystem to begin to develop that, because it is an important technology. And I think future generations of graphics cores are going to add more hardware support.”

In any event, the new Dimensity processor also gains a fifth-generation APU for machine learning tasks. This upgraded bit of silicon is a hexa-core design, featuring four performance cores and two efficiency cores for less strenuous tasks. MediaTek reckons you’ll see a 400% performance boost and 400% efficiency gain compared to the third-generation APU found in the Dimensity 1200.

Multimedia support gets a boost

The Dimensity 9000 doesn’t mess around in the multimedia space either, starting with camera capabilities. The Imagiq 790 image signal processor touts a speed of nine gigapixels per second (a two-fold increase over the previous generation), and this has seemingly been put to good use.

For starters, the new processor now supports a maximum single-camera resolution of up to 320MP, as well as hardware support for a 32MP+32MP+32MP camera setup.

One flagship-level feature missing from MediaTek’s top-end range was 8K recording, but the new chipset now supports 8K/24fps video recording too. It also supports three simultaneous 4K HDR recording streams and 4K three-exposure video HDR. Otherwise, you’re still getting AV1 decoding here (but no AV1 encoding just yet).

Connectivity and more

A smartphone chipset means nothing without connectivity, but the Dimensity 9000 brings a 5G modem based on its M80 architecture. This features 3GPP release 16 features, 3CC carrier aggregation (supporting up to 7Gbps downlink speeds), and the firm’s own PowerSave tech for improved battery life.

Unfortunately, despite being based on the firm’s first mmWave modem, the Dimensity 9000 modem only supports sub-6GHz 5G connectivity at this stage. The company did however acknowledge that we’d see more regarding mmWave devices and launches in 2022.

Other notable features include Bluetooth 5.3 support, Wi-Fi 6E capabilities, complete GNSS navigation, and LPDDR5X RAM support at 7,500Mbps.

MediaTek Dimensity 9000: Hot or not?

586 votes

MediaTek also confirmed to us that the chipset supports its Dimensity 5G Open Resource Architecture (DORA), giving device-makers closer software access to the processor. This initiative also allows device makers to brand these tweaked processors, such as OnePlus’s Dimensity 1200-AI and vivo’s Dimensity 1200-Vivo. So we’ll presumably similar branding in place for the Dimensity 9000.

The company confirmed that it’s already sampling the SoC to customers right now, but when will we see actual devices, then?

“I think realistically we’re probably looking at late Q1, Q2 next year,” Moynihan said of the first device launches, suggesting that we could see releases after the Chinese New Year (February 1, 2022).

What do you make of the Dimensity 9000? Let us know by taking the poll further up the page.

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