Although MediaTek managed to surpass Qualcomm as the world’s largest mobile SoC supplier after shipping a total of 351.8 million units to major smartphone OEMs across the world in 2020, its current-generation offerings are still an entire generation behind Qualcomm.
The top-of-the-line Dimensity 1200 is only marginally better than Qualcomm’s last year’s release, Snapdragon 865+. While one can attribute Mediatek’s inferiority to the lack of a Cortex-X1 core, and several other factors, such as a better GPU, ensure that Qualcomm’s supremacy is maintained, at least in the Android market. MediaTek plans on rectifying that situation in quite an unconventional way.
According to a report by Money UDN, MediaTek is eyeing TSMC’s 4nm node for its upcoming mobile chipsets. ‘Digital Chat Station’, a renowned Weibo/Twitter leaker, chimed in, too, stating that the hardware will be manufactured using a ‘new architecture’. Production, which expected to start in late 2021 or early 2022, sits in line with TSMC’s production schedule. Its 4nm node is expected to be fully operational at around that time. The Taiwanese company has also secured capacity on the 3nm node alongside the likes of Apple and Intel.
The report further adds that MediaTek has already received from several OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturer) such as Xiaomi, OPPO, Samsung, and Vivo for its putative 4nm SoC. A lot of information has not been released at this point, but according to NoteBook Check, “we can reasonably assume that it will pack an ARM Cortex A78 successor (Cortex A79). We could even see the Cortex-X1 (or its next iteration) make its first-ever appearance in a MediaTek chipset.”
What we do wonder is how MediaTek landed a deal with TSMC of all companies, which is already up to its nose in orders and has already stated that even at its full capacity it is not being able to fulfill demand.
One report speculates that compared to the usual price of US$30-40 per unit, Mediatek’s order comes with a price tag of nearly US$80 per unit. We will undoubtedly see this added cost pass down the chain, which, in turn, will drive up smartphone prices. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing, as MediaTek’s older offerings, especially for low-cost 5G-ready smartphones, still offer solid value for money.