MediaTek has been a quiet supplier of processors (SoC) for a massive number of smart devices, including smart speakers from the biggest brands. With the launch of these new Dimensity 1100 and 1200 chips, you can expect to hear more about MediaTek in upcoming smartphone reviews.
MediaTek’s come back to high-powered smartphone SoC was already well underway with the Dimensity 1000C as it was by LG for the T-Mobile LG Velvet, for example. Things are going to get hotter for MediaTek 2021.
First, the new pair of processors are manufactured with a 6nm (nanometer) semiconductor process, versus 7nm for the Dimensity 100. That alone generates more power-efficiency and the ability to either pack more compute power per square-millimeter or lower costs to trickle-down technology to a lower price point (or to increase profits).
Steady CPU gains
The CPU configuration is one of the highlights of the Dimensity 1100 and 1200 SoCs. Coming from the 1000-series, the Dimensity 1100 has a modest CPU boost as it uses the a newer ARM Cortex A78 core design (vs. A77 previously).
The Cortex A78 architecture is supposed to bring ~20% more sustained performance for the same power usage and consume up to 50% less energy for the same performance under ideal conditions (versus A77).
The Dimensity 1200 pushes the envelope further as one of the A78 cores can reach as high as 3.0Ghz to push single-threaded performance to new heights for the Dimensity family. The new processors’ AI compute unit is ~12.5% faster than previous generations, according to MediaTek.
GPU: up to 168Hz refresh rate
Things have not changed on the GPU side: the Dimensity 1000, 1100 and 1200 all feature a Mali-G77MP9 GPU, and without clock frequency data, they all seem the same. Any benchmarks that you see from Dimensity 1000 GPU performance could serve as a starting point for the two new chips.
There is support for 144Hz (D1000) and 168Hz (D1200) displays, and the announcement has a cryptic reference to “Ray Tracing.” We’ve confirmed with MediaTek that there’s no hardware ray-tracing in the Mali-G77MP9 GPU, so in my opinion, this seems to refer to “ray-tracing like” techniques such as ambient occlusion, for example, which can give a ray-tracing look. We’ll see what comes out of this.
Photography: up to 200 Megapixel cameras
Photography is a priority for the new 1100 and 1200 models. MediaTek says that it can support 108 Megapixel cameras with the Dimensity 1100 and 200 Megapixel cameras with the Dimensity 1200.
Mediatek did not provide performance data for its new Image Signal Processor unit (ISP), but we can extrapolate a bit using previous announcements. The Dimensity 1000 could officially process 80M pixel at 24 FPS, or 1.92 Gigapixel per second.
The 1100 and 1200 chips have specs mentioning 108MP and 200MP cameras in the press release, but there’s no mention of 24 FPS this time, and the ISP’s core count remains at 5, the same as Dimensity 1000. Nothing indicates that the ISP is faster than the Dimensity 1000’s.
In any case, even 1.92 Gigapixel per second is very substantial, and with most cameras using on-sensor 4-to-1 or 9-to-1 pixel binning, ISP units deal with a stream of ~12-megapixel images for stacked photography. The new Dimensity ISP will not be a bottleneck even for 4K/HDR video in my estimation.
If you take a 200MP picture with a full HDR stack, you might start being limited by the ISP’s performance in some extreme cases. In reality, the only phones with a 108MP option in “full auto” mode we have reviewed is the Galaxy S/Note 20 series. Xiaomi has an excellent 27MP option, I think.
We encourage phone OEMs to include 27MP and 108MP options in full auto, but so far, few have heeded that call, despite the opportunity for sizeable gains in photo Details and Texture. Most people never, ever, use non-auto camera modes. That is why we favor auto-mode in our consumer mobile camera reviews based on our Uber IQ Camera benchmark.
A steady evolution
Overall, the new Dimensity 1100 and Dimensity 1200 represent a steady evolution of the 1000-Series, not a generational jump. Some people wanted to see the Cortex X1 CPU core or a newer GPU, for example.
Such features would be exciting, but the market dynamics that MediaTek navigates dictate these choices. Despite being potent processors, the MediaTek Dimensity 1×00 family is designed for raising value (performance per dollar spent), not for absolute specs and performance dominance. Their rising adoption is proof that the strategy works.