5th Generation APU/NPU, a Massive ISP, and New 5G & WiFi

APU/NPU AI/ML Upgrades

Moving away from CPU and GPU, we find MediaTek’s new “APU”, or AI Processing Unit, or rather NPU as we more generically tend to call it nowadays. MediaTek always had one of the earliest in-house implementations of such an IP, and the Dimensity 9000 now implements the 5th generation of such an IP.

MediaTek promises a +400% performance and power efficiency improvement over the previous generation Dimensity 1200 implementation, which is quite a step-up, however should be contextualised to other more performant competitor platforms.

The company had made one slide available of showcasing MLPerf against Apple’s A15, noting +108% at +75% power efficiency versus the iPhone chip, the company here actually quoted our own published MLPerf figures, however we’ll avoid using the slide as the comparison isn’t great as the iOS variant of the app isn’t fully optimised and doesn’t take advantage of CoreML acceleration.

A more apples-to-apples comparison would be the ETHZ Ai Benchmark across Android devices, here the chip should take advantage of all accelerator blocks including CPU, GPU and NPU, and the Dimensity 9000 is advertised to beat the Google Pixel 6 and the Tensor SoC, which recently had notably outperformed the competition. MediaTek doing even better here seems to be promising for ML performance of the SoC. Naturally, we’ll have to see more detailed benchmarks for a more thorough analysis of the ML performance, but it seems MediaTek has developed a quite solid contender here.

Media Pipelines & Massive ISPs

Moving onto the media side of things, MediaTek also throws in everything but the kitchen sink into the new SoC. We’ll get to the ISP in a bit, but in terms of video encoding and decoding, MediaTek supports all popular current codecs. There is no AV1 encoding yet, but the company says that the chip is the first in the industry to support 8K AV1 decoding – previous generation Dimensity and competitor SoCs only are able to do 4K decoding at the moment.

The display pipeline supports WQHD+ to 144Hz, or FHD+ to 180Hz with full HDR+ Adaptive (10-bit), so the chip should power the highest resolution and refresh rate screens out there.

Getting back to the ISP, MediaTek claims that the camera subsystem is massively revamped in this generation. The Dimensity 9000 features triple ISPs with the ability for concurrent operation, with the chip being able to push through 9 Gigapixels/s. We’re not sure exactly if the figures are comparable across the vendor claims, but Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 “only” supports 2.7GPixel/s. Interestingly enough MediaTek says this is only a 2x throughput increase versus the Dimensity 1200.

The Imagiq790 ISP claims to be the world’s first to support 320MP sensors and MediaTek claims they’re working closely with the sensor vendors to enable such functionality. We’ve heard last year about 200MP sensors when Qualcomm announced the Snapdragon 888, and in September Samsung had announced the HP1 at this resolution, though we haven’t seen devices with it yet.

In triple-camera operation, the ISP supports concurrent 32+32+32MP sensor operation. We’ve seen such operation become more popular in sensor-fusion like scenarios for computation photography, or concurrent video recording on multiple sensors.

The new ISP also vastly improves its capabilities in terms of bit-depth, as MediaTek now upgrades it to a full 18-bit pipeline. Although mobile image sensors today natively are barely 10- or 12-bit at most in terms of their ADC bit-depth, multi-exposure image stacking has become the norm, especially with sensors now also getting more advanced HDR techniques such as staggered HDR captures. The new higher bit-depth ISP now is able to better do exposure merging across multiple frames, with the Dimensity 9000 able to do 270 frames per second (at presumably 4K resolution) across three sensors on its three ISPs.

The raw throughput and processing power here would be immense, and a massive leap over any other current SoC in the market.

MediaTek says that they’ve improved the video pipelines as well, being able to tightly interact with the APU in a memory coherent fashion, bypassing the need to copy data over DRAM, increasing performance and decreasing bandwidth requirements and latency. Presumably vendors would be able to take advantage of the architecture to implement video recording with ML-based image processing models on-the-fly, essentially the same kind of technology Google had presented on its recent Pixel 6 phones and the Google Tensor chip.

Upgraded 5G Modem

On the modem side, MediaTek has had quite a lot of success with its recent 5G modem implementations. The new Dimensity 9000 modem upgrades things even further, advertising for the first time 3CC carrier aggregation with up to 300MHz of Sub-6 bandwidth, allowing for download speeds of up to 7Gbps.

The modem is fully compatible with 3GPP release 16, with one larger change being UL Tx switching, which allows for better uplink capabilities and utilisation of spectrum in multi-band 5G NR deployments.

MediaTek notes that its modem has been extremely power efficient compared to competitor products, and the Dimensity 9000 will continue on this patch by providing advanced power saving technologies.

Although the modem features all the bells and whistles for Sub-6 5G, it does still lack mmWave. MediaTek notes that this is simply a result of the market need and the company’s current customer focus. Currently, the US remains the only market where mmWave truly remains a critical feature, as most vendors opt to not even equip their global device variants with mmWave modules. The company admits that due to this, we’ll unlikely see US devices powered by the Dimensity 9000, and the company is fine with that compromise, as it tries to cater to and focus on vendors which serve the rest of the world. MediaTek noted that next year, we will see mmWave product announcements for the US market, but these will at first be in the low/mid-range line-up.

Finally, on the Wi-Fi side, MediaTek’s Dimensity 9000 platform also comes with their own in-house solution, now supporting Wi-Fi 6E for 6GHz band support, and 160MHz channel bandwidth, as well as Bluetooth 5.3. The GNSS solution now adds BDS-3 connectivity via B1C signals.

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  • Meteor2 - Tuesday, November 23, 2021 - link

    You folk know this is a tech site, right?
  • Oxford Guy - Tuesday, November 23, 2021 - link

    Tech is extremely reliant upon land use politics, including things like eminent domain. How do so many large tech companies try to get buildings going? They do it by demanding taxpayers to bribe them to come. Tech products don't spring out of thin air.
  • Oxford Guy - Tuesday, November 23, 2021 - link

    One of the critical questions facing humanity is to what degree is what is called capitalism required to facilitate a thriving tech advancement. That is directly tied to the deteriorating global ecology. Ignoring that in favor of a mere stream of press releases from tech companies isn't the role of a thinking individual.
  • mode_13h - Wednesday, November 24, 2021 - link

    > Ignoring that in favor of a mere stream of press releases from tech
    > companies isn't the role of a thinking individual.

    What is your point? That all readers should abandon this site? Or do you expect Anandtech to switch from covering the tech industry to covering economic and environmental justice? You know that's not going to happen.
  • mode_13h - Wednesday, November 24, 2021 - link

    > Tech is extremely reliant upon land use politics, including things like eminent domain.

    No, there's no justification for dragging the Amish into this. You're just inventing a controversy as flame-bait. And when I call you on it, you always change the subject. That's practically a flat-out admission of guilt, right there.
  • mode_13h - Wednesday, November 24, 2021 - link

    > You folk know this is a tech site, right?

    I'd be happy just to talk about tech. But, trolls are gonna troll. Mods don't remove (a lot of) their posts, so we have to fact-check their disinformation.

    Welcome to the internet.
  • Oxford Guy - Tuesday, November 23, 2021 - link

    ''‘Real communism” means the government has “withered away”. Any place like that? No.'

    According to a documentary I saw some years ago, there is a communistic community in an isolated part of China — a matriarchal minority.

    The conflation of 'big/powerful/well-known' with 'it exists' is utterly common but it's not accurate. Plenty of communistic communities have existed. Some still exist. Given China's dismantling of various minorities' communities for things like dam projects, though... I don't know if that matriarchal community still exists.

    As communism is about peaceful cooperating/sharing, it's not particularly surprising that such cultures fall to aggressive greed-oriented ones. The jailer's game ('prisoners' dilemma) appears to have one solution, when it comes to human temperament — unless geographical isolation protects the pacifists from the aggressors.
  • FunBunny2 - Friday, November 19, 2021 - link

    "believes that the Nazi's were socialists"

    all too often the Right Wingnuts twist the Nazi's use of language to twist the Prog folks everywhere. Goebbel's knew exactly what he was doing. just like recent liars.
  • AnsyX - Saturday, November 20, 2021 - link

    I fought the Communists, and I can tell you there is NO humanity in them -- any more than there were the Nazi's. Still, why don't we limit the conversation to the topic at hand? Let's get back a bit more respect for ourselves, each other, and our profession.
  • mode_13h - Sunday, November 21, 2021 - link

    > I fought the Communists, and I can tell you there is NO humanity in them

    If you're truly a soldier, then you're the least-trustworthy judge of the enemy's humanity. Soldiers are explicitly taught not to see such things. Your enemies will have been manipulated in similar ways. War is an exercise involving two groups of people taught not to see each other's humanity, in order for them to act more inhumanely towards each other.

    > any more than there were the Nazi's.

    We like to believe the Germans of the 1940's are different from us, but the story of ethnic cleansing and brutality has been repeated throughout human history. It helps to have some humility, if we have any hope of breaking the cycle.

    That's not to justify or excuse any government or political system. I just think it's counterproductive to dehumanize their members or followers. Indeed, can you really even hold someone accountable for their misdeeds, if you deny their very humanity?

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