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MediaTek Dimensity 9300 deep dive: A true Snapdragon rival?
Apple, Google, and Qualcomm have all revealed their 2024 flagship silicon, and today we have all the details on MediaTek’s latest mobile processor too. 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 latest chips have been good, but this Dimensity 9300 is shaping up 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 9300||Dimensity 9200|
1x Cortex-X4 @ 3.25GHz
3x Cortex-X4 @ 2.85GHz
4x Cortex-A720 @ 2.0GHz
1x Cortex-X3 @ 3.05GHz
3x Cortex-A715 @ 2.85GHz
4x Cortex-A510 1.8GHz
10MB system-level cache
6MB system-level cache
(added INT4 support and hardware compression)
LPDDR5T @ 9600Mbps
LPDDR5X @ 8333Mbps
UFS 4.0 with MCQ
UFS 4.0 with MCQ
Sub6GHz and mmWave
M80-based LTE/5G (integrated)
Sub6GHz and mmWave
Wi-Fi 7 Ready
TSMC 4nm+ N4P
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.
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 a near-identical explanation for its dual Cortex-X1 approach in the original Tensor and G2. However, the Tensor G3 since adopted a more conventional single-large core approach. 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 here 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. For comparison, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 clocks its A720 cores up to 3.2GHz.
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 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 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. Importantly, MediaTek fully expects its partners to make use of these capabilities right away.
Plenty of other Dimensity 9300 improvements
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.
When will we see smartphones powered by the Dimensity 9300?
Given that the US market is pretty firmly set between Apple and Samsung, with Google and a few others making up the rest, who build their own chips or use Snapdragon, we will unlikely see many releases arrive on these shores. Still, the Dimensity 9300 will likely power a selection of handsets from the usual Chinese brands that’ll make their way to global markets over the coming months and throughout 2024.
Watch this space for announcements as early as the next few weeks.