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MediaTek outs an octa-core processor for $200 LTE smartphones

You'll soon be able to buy LTE smartphones powered by a processor with eight cores for between $200 and $300 without subsidies, thanks to MediaTek’s latest SoC (system-on-a-chip).

The LTE smartphone chip sector is becoming more competitive, with vendors like Intel, Broadcom and now MediaTek launching products to challenge Qualcomm’s dominance. MediaTek has helped cut the cost of low-end phones and now hopes to do the same with more sophisticated smartphones based on the MT6595 SoC, which was announced Tuesday.

The chip is based on ARM’s big.LITTLE architecture and uses four Cortex-A17 plus four Cortex-A7 CPUs. The Cortex-A17 is ARM’s latest processor and was also announced Tuesday. It offers better efficiency and higher performance than ARM’s existing Cortex-A9 processor. To improve performance even more, MediaTek has implemented its own CorePilot technology to allow all eight cores to be used simultaneously.

“We want to offer great performance at an affordable price,” said Johan Lodenius, chief marketing officer at MediaTek.

After a little prodding, Lodenius said that smartphones based on the SoC are expected to cost between $200 and $300 without subsidies, which is in line with ARM’s thinking. The company said it is targeting midrange smartphones and tablets starting at $200 with the Cortex-A17.

On Monday, Broadcom announced LTE SoCs intended for smartphones priced below $300 without subsidies. Next year, the cost of the cheapest LTE smartphones are expected to be below €100 ($140), according to market research company CCS Insight.

The integrated LTE modem on the MT6595 is capable of speeds up to 150Mbps (bits per second) on the downlink and 50Mbps on the uplink.

MediaTek has also implemented some other interesting features, including hardware support for the new H.265 video codec, letting users record and play back Ultra HD content. Users will also be able to play back video using H.264 and VP9 codecs.

Smartphones based on the SoC can have 20-megapixel cameras and screens with a 2560 by 1600 pixel resolution.

Letting smartphone vendors build affordable devices isn’t just about developing low-cost chipsets, according to Lodenius. The company also offers so-called reference designs—which are essentially blue prints for how to put together a device—to speed up the development phase and lower development costs.

The MT6595 will be commercially available by the first half of year, with devices expected in the second half.

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