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MediaTek Dimensity 9300 deep dive: A true Snapdragon rival?

MediaTek brings maximum performance in CPU, GPU, and AI to its latest processor in a bid to claim the top spot.

Published onApril 24, 2024

Apple, Google, and Qualcomm all revealed their 2024 flagship mobile silicon in the tale end of 2023 and so too has MediaTek. The new MediaTek Dimensity 9300 sports major improvements for AI, graphics, and photography, as well as a CPU setup that’s a major departure from the status quo.

MediaTek recent chips have been good, but the Dimensity 9300 appears to be something quite different. Let’s dive into the specifics to see if the chip has what it takes to best Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 3, Google’s Tensor G3, and its other rivals.

MediaTek Dimensity 9300 specs

Dimensity 9300Dimensity 9200
CPU Config
Dimensity 9300
1x Cortex-X4 @ 3.25GHz
3x Cortex-X4 @ 2.85GHz
4x Cortex-A720 @ 2.0GHz
Dimensity 9200
1x Cortex-X3 @ 3.05GHz
3x Cortex-A715 @ 2.85GHz
4x Cortex-A510 1.8GHz
Dimensity 9300
Arm Immortalis-G720
Hardware ray-tracing
Dimensity 9200
Arm Immortalis-G715
Hardware ray-tracing
Dimensity 9300
8MB L3
10MB system-level cache
Dimensity 9200
8MB L3
6MB system-level cache
Dimensity 9300
APU 790
(added INT4 support and hardware compression)
Dimensity 9200
APU 690
RAM support
Dimensity 9300
LPDDR5T @ 9600Mbps
Dimensity 9200
LPDDR5X @ 8333Mbps
Dimensity 9300
UFS 4.0 with MCQ
Dimensity 9200
UFS 4.0 with MCQ
4G/5G Modem
Dimensity 9300
LTE/5G (integrated)
Sub6GHz and mmWave
7,900Mbps down
Dimensity 9200
M80-based LTE/5G (integrated)
Sub6GHz and mmWave
7,900Mbps down
Other networking
Dimensity 9300
Bluetooth 5.X
Wi-Fi 7
Dimensity 9200
Bluetooth 5.3
Wi-Fi 7 Ready
Dimensity 9300
TSMC 4nm+ N4P
Dimensity 9200
TSMC 4nm N4P

Dimensity 9300 CPU setup explained

Peering through the spec sheet, the stand-out change is the new 4+4 CPU setup, featuring four powerhouse Arm Cortex-X4 cores and four high-performance Cortex-A720 cores. Unlike traditional mobile chipsets used in Android phones, including the latest Google Tensor G3 and Snapdragon 8 Gen 3, there are no lower-performance, energy-efficient Arm Cortex-A5XX series cores here at all. Surely that can’t be good for battery life? Well, actually, it might be just fine.

To understand the reasoning, we’ve dug up a slide from Arm’s announcement of the A720. Not only did the presentation point to a reduced number of little cores for mobile, as is the case with the 8 Gen 3, but a closer look at Arm’s DVFS curves hints that, although the A520 has a lower power/performance floor, the A720 consumes less power in its minimum state that the A520 does when running near max. The question then becomes whether the A520s ever realize any power benefit for real workloads, which are increasingly rich and complex, or if it’s actually as or more efficient to run them on an A720 in a low-power state.

Arm CPU Cluster Power and Performance Graph

MediaTek’s Finbar Moynihan provided an additional explanation, noting that it can be more efficient to turn on a more powerful core, run the job quickly, and then power down versus running for longer on a less capable core. Google provided similar reasoning for its dual Cortex-X1 approach in the original Tensor and G2. However, the Tensor G3 has since adopted a more conventional single-large core. MediaTek backs this up with numbers, claiming that “typical” tasks, like web browsing and social apps, and more demanding applications see a 10% to 15% reduction in power consumption compared to the Dimensity 9200.

The Dimensity 9300 still uses a three-tier CPU approach of sorts. One larger Cortex-X4 core is clocked up to 3.25GHz, while the other three run at 2.85GHz. MediaTek notes there’s no difference to these cores in terms of cache, only that the higher clocked core is laid out with a larger silicon area to enable the higher frequency. The four Cortex-A720s are identical, with a peak clock speed of just 2.0GHz each, again pointing to a power-efficient implementation of these cores versus other chipsets. For comparison, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 clocks its A720 cores up to 3.2GHz.

MediaTek Dimensity 9300 vs 9200 CPU

MediaTek pairs its CPU with 8MB L3 cache and 10MB of system cache, for a 29% growth in cache size versus last year. Put all together, the Dimensity 9300 delivers 15% more performance at the same power or 33% lower power for the same performance as the Dimensity 9200. Alternatively, pushed to the max, the CPU setup delivers 40% higher peak performance than last year’s model. That all sounds promising, but we’ll definitely be keeping our eye on idle power consumption and thermals with this new design.

Built for generative AI

You can’t launch a chip in 2023/2024 without talking up AI capabilities, and MediaTek has some equally significant changes here too. The Dimensity 9300 comes with an upgraded APU 790, boasting double the integer and floating point capabilities and a 45% reduction in power consumption. It’s much more potent for various machine learning tasks, from voice recognition to image segmentation.

As is the trend, the Dimensity 9300 includes specific enhancements for on-device generative AI, which MediaTek claims results in an 8x uplift in performance over the previous generation. The problem with generative AI models, such as LLMs, is that they have a huge memory footprint, which makes running them on a phone much trickier than on a cloud server. To get around this, the APU 790 supports INT4 (A16W4) to run smaller quantized models and a dedicated hardware memory decompression block that feeds the APU. In MediaTek’s example, a 13GB INT8 model can be pre-compressed to just 5GB to fit into RAM and then decompressed in hardware on its way to the APU.

On-device generative AI is coming, thanks to next-gen mobile processors.

In terms of applications, the APU 790 can run a 7 billion parameter LLM at 20 tokens per second, which is fast enough for real-time use. For comparison, Qualcomm says its Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 can run a 10 billion parameter LLM at almost 15 tokens per second, which seems fairly comparable. The Dimensity 9300 can extend this to run a 13 billion parameter LLM within 16GB of RAM, right up to 33 billion parameters with 24GB RAM, albeit with a much slower 3-4 tokens per second processing rate.

While compressed models won’t be as accurate as their data-center counterparts, the prospect of running generative AI on-device, with all the security and bandwidth benefits that entails, is now very real. As seen in initiatives like Gemini Nano and Samsung’s Galaxy AI suite. Importantly, MediaTek fully expects its partners to make use of these capabilities right away.

Plenty of other Dimensity 9300 improvements

MediaTek Dimensity 9300 infographic

CPU and AI are two big pieces of the latest Dimensity pie, but there are numerous toppings too. Gamers, for instance, are treated to the latest Arm Immortalis-G720 GPU in a 12-core configuration, up from 11-core last-gen). Combined with architectural and process node improvements, MediaTek estimates up to a 23% peak performance improvement over the 9200 and up to a 46% ray tracing uplift. Perhaps more tempting is the prospect of a 40% reduction in power consumption for the same level of performance as last year’s model, resulting in much longer game sessions without charging.

The new GPU setup also includes support for global illumination effects, a 40% memory bandwidth saving for geometry-heavy games, and 2x MSAA support for crisp graphics without the performance hit of 4x MSAA (previously the lowest AA level supported in the G715). On the display side, WQHD panels with refresh rates up to 180Hz or 4K at 120Hz are now supported, as is dual-active display for foldables, and Google’s Ultra HDR display format from Android 14.

Powerhouse CPU and GPU parts should make the D9300 a hit with gamers.

For photographers, MediaTek’s Imagiq 990 ISP remains tightly coupled to the APU, supporting up to 16 object layers of segmentation even when recording video. Speaking of, the ISP supports always-on HDR capture at 4K, along with software bokeh and depth effects. The dual-lossless zoom hardware engine reduces quality loss when cropping in from a high-resolution sensor, and there’s a dedicated OIS sensor core now in the ISP, rather than sharing resources with a sensor hub or other components.

The Dimensity 9300 also sports a new secure boot chip, an isolated secure computing environment, and Armv9’s Memory Tagging Extension to help developers avoid memory exploits to keep upcoming smartphones more secure. Networking upgrades are more iterative. You’ll find integrated support for Wi-Fi 7 and 5G sub-6GHz bands at up to 7Gbps downlink.

MediaTek Dimensity 9300 benchmarks

With devices in hand, we can now see where MediaTek’s Dimensity 9300 chip stacks up against the competition. As expected based on the specifications, MediaTek’s flagship chip provides robust CPU capabilities. While not quite matching the Apple A17 Pro for raw power, its beefy CPU setup marginally bests Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 in multi-core workloads.

Major rival Qualcomm pulls ahead in graphics workloads, with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 holding a solid lead in single-shot benchmarks (including ray tracing) and mostly performing better under prolonged stress in our benchmarks. You can see a deeper comparison in our Dimensity 9300 vs Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 article. Not that the Dimensity is a slough when it comes to gaming. Its GPU handles demanding modern titles with nary a hitch and it firmly surpasses the performance offered by Apple A17 Pro and Google Tensor G3.

When will we see smartphones powered by the Dimensity 9300?

Android smartphones powered by the MediaTek Dimensity 9300 were announced in late 2023 and arrived in consumer’s hands in early 2024. The high-end vivo X100 Pro is perhaps the best example of a global flagship powered by MediaTek’s latest and greatest, while several China-only handsets also make use of the processor, such as the OPPO Find X7.

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