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Entry level dual-core ARM SOC consumes wireless radios

May 8, 2013 — by Eric Brown 3,665 views

MediaTek has already received orders for over one million units of a dual-core Cortex-A7 processor it announced May 2, says DigiTimes. Designed for affordable Android smartphones with up to qHD (960×540) displays, the 28nm-fabricated MT6572 SOC (system-on-chip) augments its dual 1.2GHz cores with integrated radios for WiFi, Bluetooth, FM, and GPS functions, as well as an HSPA+/TD-SCDMA baseband.

Taiwan-based fabless semiconductor firm Mediatek has quietly risen to success in recent years, meeting the growing demand for affordable Android phones, primarily in emerging markets in Asia. Recently, its ARM Cortex SOCs have been gaining greater visibility with mainstream design-wins from customers like Acer and Lenovo. Mediatek may already have a winner on its hands with the MT6572, according to a May 6 DigiTimes report, which says the company has received orders for over a million units aimed at phones designed for sub-$100 smartphones. According to MediaTek, meanwhile, we can expect to see “hundreds of commercial models powered by the MT6572 beginning in June.”

The MT6572 is the world’s first entry level dual-core SOC with integrated WiFi, FM, GPS and Bluetooth functions, offering significant reductions in costs and space. Further cost reductions were achieved by integrating a Rel. 8 HSPA+/TD-SCDMA cellular modem, affordable Cortex-A7 processor, and “cost-effective” 4-layer PCB design, says Mediatek. The SOC provides support for up to HD 720p video playback and record, up to qHD (960 x 540 pixel) displays, and a 5-megapixel camera. Welcome to the world of not-so-shabby new “low end” of Android smartphones.


Mediatek did not respond to our requests for a datasheet, but two MT6572 block diagrams (shown below) have surfaced on the web.

MediaTek MT6572 SOC block diagram
(click image to enlarge; sources: Gizmochina; VRZone)


The device appears to be the heir to the company’s ARM11-based MT6573 SOC for low-end smartphones, as well as a dual-core version of its new quad-core MT-6589 SOC. The MT6572 offers an Adreno graphics processing unit instead of the quad-core model’s faster PowerVR Series5XT GPU from Imagination Technologies. The MT-6589 also adds dual-SIM support, as well as support for higher resolution cameras and displays.

The MT-6589, which similarly integrates wireless and cellular modems, beat out Qualcomm and its Snapdragon S4 Play MSM8226 and MSM8626 for the honors of being the first quad-core Cortex-A7 SOC to reach market. Among other upcoming competitors, Allwinner recently announced quad- (A31) and dual-core (A20) Cortex-A7 SOC models.

The Cortex-A7, which has only recently reached market, is the cost-effective, power-optimized, multicore-ready heir to the Cortex-A8. It was designed and released along with the much more powerful Cortex-A15 architecture, sharing a common microarchitecture that includes built-in virtualization, AMBA 4 ACE coherency, and Large Physical Address Extensions (LPAE) NEON advanced SIMD. The shared architecture also enables the two core types to exist in tandem in Big.Little chipsets. The Big.Little design, which has been adopted by the eight-core, Samsung Exynos Octa-core and the HiSilicon K3V3 chipsets, enables the A7 core to offload certain tasks from the A15 and run them on less power.

As a standalone processor, the Cortex-A7 offers five times the power efficiency of the Cortex-A8 and 50 percent higher performance, claims ARM. In December, Engadget ran benchmarks on a preliminary version of the quad-core on the MT6589, finding it to be roughly on par a dual-core Cortex-A9-based Snapdragon S4.

The MT6572 appears to be available now, and will appear in the first smartphones in June, says Mediatek. More information may eventually be found at Mediatek’s website.

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