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MediaTek Helio P90 is a big leap in AI power: Here's what's new

MediaTek reckons its new chipset will trump Qualcomm's Snapdragon 710 in the AI department.

Published onNovember 30, 2018

The MediaTek Helio P90 chipset.

The Helio P60 may have been MediaTek‘s most impressive chipset in a few years, delivering dedicated AI silicon in a mid-range processor. We’ve seen the P70 since then, but we’ve also received a sneak peek at the Helio P90 following a visit to the company’s HQ, and it’s looking like an exponential leap in terms of AI capabilities.

Much like the Helio P70 and P60, we see a dual-core APU returning in the Helio P90 (clocked at 624Mhz compared to the P70’s 525Mhz). But the APU is also joined by a separate, in-house AI Accelerator chip for dedicated AI tasks. All in all, the company says this setup should provide 4x better computing power and 2x better efficiency over the P60 and P70.

Read: Here’s what MediaTek is doing about slow Android updates, lack of source code

The chipmaker says the Helio P90 delivers 1,127 GMACS of total AI computing power compared to the P60’s 280 GMACS and the Snapdragon 710‘s 614 GMACS. The upgraded APU provides 320 GMACS, but the lion’s share of power comes from the AI Accelerator (807 GMACS). GMACs (or giga multiply accumulate operations per second) are often used to measure AI computing power, as multiply accumulate operations are a common type of operation in machine learning.

If that’s not enough, MediaTek also showed press a benchmark comparison, pitting the Helio P90 against the Kirin 980 and Snapdragon 845 in four neural network tests (Inception V3, MobileNet V1, ResNet-50, and ResNet-34). The results showed that the P90 emerged ahead in three out of the four tests, with the Kirin 980 winning the final test. But MediaTek reckons it can squeeze out 15 to 20 percent more performance with optimizations.

AI to bring camera enhancements

The AI additions don’t stop there, as Helio P90 has another dedicated AI chip, called a Face Detection Engine. This will deliver quicker facial detection (obviously) when taking photos, allowing for faster focusing on subjects. In fact, the company says the Face Detection Engine enables faster facial detection when taking photos than the iPhone XS Max. MediaTek has also mooted security uses for the new chip, such as better face unlock.

Additionally, the firm says the P90 will be capable of better beautification features, multiple object recognition, better automatic exposure thanks to improved environmental recognition, more real-time photo/video enhancements (such as video bokeh), and AI noise reduction.

MediaTek is using the APU and AI Accelerator to intelligently reduce noise in low light settings.

The latter feature is pretty intriguing; it uses the APU and AI Accelerator to intelligently reduce noise in low light settings. MediaTek showed press a comparison between its P90 test platform and the HUAWEI P20 Pro. We couldn’t make out a big difference in the comparison (largely due to the screen being used), but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, the HUAWEI device is a mobile photography powerhouse.

TL Lee, general manager of MediaTek’s mobile business unit, said the team believes the AI noise reduction feature will come to all phones running the Helio P90 chipset. This could make for big improvements in low-light performance, especially in mid-range phones, as they traditionally struggle when the sun goes down.

The MediaTek Helio P90 chipset.

Another AI capability worth highlighting is real-time pose recognition. The P90 is able to conduct pose-tracking with multiple people, as well as 3D pose tracking. It all sounds very gimmicky, but MediaTek has mooted possible uses for animation and fitness (such as an AI-powered yoga training app).

Finally, MediaTek is also tapping that machine learning power to enable AI-powered coaching in games, such as guiding new players in a game. The chipmaker confirmed that it was working with a U.S. developer to implement the feature.

Samsung unveils Exynos 9820 with 8nm process and 8K video recording
A render of the Samsung Galaxy Exynos 9820.

It’s also worth noting that this isn’t a flagship chipset, as the company is actually targeting the mid-range to upper mid-range bracket with the Helio P90. But if these benchmarks and capabilities are representative of what we’ll see in phones, it’ll certainly help to blur the line between high-end and mid-range silicon.

The company will be revealing the full Helio P90 spec sheet on December 13, so check back then when we hope to have more details on horsepower and availability. One thing already seems clear, the Taiwanese chipmaker is bringing a ton of AI power to the mid-range.

What do you make of the Helio P90’s AI capabilities? Give us your thoughts in the comments!

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