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MediaTek 5G SoC to debut new Cortex-A77 and Mali-G77 chips

May 29, 2019 — by Eric Brown 2,121 views

Arm unveiled a Cortex-A77 core with up to 20 percent better IPC performance over Cortex-A76 plus a faster new Mali-G77 GPU. MediaTek is combining both chips with its Helio M70 modem for a 7nm “5G SoC.”

Just before Intel launched its 10nm 10th Gen Ice Lake processors at Computex, Arm revealed yet another high-end Cortex-A design and new Mali GPU. The Cortex-A77 is a faster variant of the Cortex-A76 while the Mali-G77 updates the Mali-G76, which like the -A76 was announced a year ago. The chip designer also released more details on its Arm ML machine learning processor. Following Arm’s announcement, MediaTek announced the first SoC to use the Cortex-A77 and Mali-G77 (see farther below).

Cortex-A77 block diagram and MediaTek 5G SoC
(click images to enlarge)

The Cortex-A77 is designed for the “next generation of smartphones, laptops and other mobile devices,” says Arm. It will also likely show up in some high-end, Linux-based embedded boards and devices.

The Cortex-A77 offers a 20 percent boost in single-thread IPC performance compared to -A76, claims Arm. The -A77 is also claimed to provide 35+ percent more FP performance and 15+ percent more memory bandwidth improvements.


The 20 percent IPC improvement is a smaller boost compared to the 35 percent jump from Cortex-A75 to -A76, which debuted a new Artemis micro-architecture that is also used by the -A77. Like the -A76, the -A77 supports 7nm fabrication, which will be used by MediaTek’s 5G SoC.

Like the Cortex-A76, the Cortex-A77 supports up to quad-core blocks at similar clock rates. Incremental improvements include support for Armv8.2 architecture in addition to Armv8.1, along with AArch32 and AArch64 support. There’s also double the branch-prediction bandwidth and 50 percent increase in dispatch bandwidth, among other enhancements.

Arm also notes features like 64KB L1 I/D caches, 256KB and 512KB private L2 caches, and up to 4MB share L3 cache. Extensions are available for cryptography, RAS, and Armv8.3 (LDAPR instructions only).

Like the Cortex-A76, which is driving Qualcomm’s 10nm, up to 2.85GHz Snapdragon 855 and Rockchip’s upcoming and similarly octa-core Rockchip RK3588, the Cortex-A77 supports Arm’s DynamIQ multi-core scheme, a more flexible version of Big.Little. Arm recommends a pairing with the same Cortex-A55 companion chips supported by the Cortex-A75 and -A76.

Mali-G77 with new Valhall engine

The Mali-G77 GPU debuts a new Valhall architecture. It delivers a 30 percent increase in performance density compared to the Mali-G76 and a 30 percent energy efficiency improvement, claims Arm. There’s also said to be 60 percent improvement for machine learning (ML). Arm expects the chip will offer 40 percent higher peak graphics performance.

Mali-G77 (left) and Arm ML block diagrams
(click images to enlarge)

The new Valhall architecture introduces a new superscalar engine with greater energy efficiency and performance density. It also debuts a “simplified scalar ISA with a new instruction set that is more compiler friendly.” Other new features include dynamic scheduling of instructions and better support for modern APIs such as Vulkan.

The Mali-G77 provides wider execution engines than the -G76, with 16 wide-warps and 32 FMA lanes per core, up from 24 on the -G76. A new quad texture mapper doubles the texels per cycle to four, which should improve gaming performance.

Arm ML update

The Cortex-A77 is designed to work with Arm’s Project Trillium AI chips via DynamIQ, helping to improve applications such as augmented reality and visual and voice recognition. An Arm blog entry released in conjunction with the -A77 news offers more details on Arm ML, which follows an earlier Trillium chip called the Object Detection (OD) Processor.

The Arm ML design is expected to debut as a co-processor in mobile phones later this year. Arm now says the chip will achieve 5 TOPs per Watt, up from the projected >3 TOPs per Watt mentioned a year ago. The ML update also adds details such as the ability to use Winograd convolution to accelerate common filters by 225 percent compared to “other NPUs.”

MediaTek 5G SoC

MediaTek’s announcement for its upcoming 5G SoC multi-mode chipset is short on details such as the number of Cortex-A77 cores. The 7nm-fabricated SoC will also include the Mali-G77, as well as a third-generation version of its APU (AI Processing Unit). The MediaTek 5G SoC will provide 4K60 video encode and decode and an ISP that supports up to 80-megapixel cameras.

5G SoC infographic
(click image to enlarge)

The 5G SoC is named after the integration of MediaTek’s Helio M70 5G modem, although as noted by the CNXSoft post that alerted us to the announcement, “5G SoC” may be more of a descriptor than actual product name. The 7nm Helio M70 was announced a year ago, with plans to appear in smartphones sometime in 2019.

Like Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X50, the M70 is one of the first 5G smartphone modems on the market. The Helio M70 will offer up to 4.7Gbps peak download using sub-6GHz frequencies. The chipset includes both LTE and dual 5G networks (EN DC), enabling multi mode connectivity from 2G to 5G.

Further information

Arm’s Cortex-A77 and Mali-G77 designs appear to be available now, and MediaTek’s 5G SoC based on the chips will begin sampling in Q3 2019 with phone shipments in Q1 2020. More information may be found in Arm’s Cortex-A77 announcement and product page, as well as its Mali-G77 announcement and product page. More on the MediaTek 5G SoC may be found in the 5G SoC announcement and product page.

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