Mediatek fill the mid-range with Helio P23 and P30

A lot more than the low end, a little less than the high end

Mediatek LogoMediatek is filling out their middle with the new Helio P23 and P30 8C phone SoCs. As is the norm nowadays these two SoCs are all about adding features not raw numbers, something SemiAccurate agrees with.

As you know the middle of a range usually doesn’t garner headlines because it is always overshadowed by the high-end for speeds and feeds and the low-end for price. That said these devices sell lots of units, and we mean lots and lots because they are the basis for phones that cost half what the halo devices do, give or take. While they may not do everything the big, big and expensive boys do, they do 90+% and cost far less. This is why they sell well.

The Helio P23 and P30 share a lot of features not least of which are the eight Arm A53 cores, four at high clocks and wattage, for at lower clocks and wattages. Both top out at 2.3GHz for the fast quad and both have a Mali G71 MP2 GPU, 770MHz in the P23, 950MHz in the P30. Both also have dual SIM capabilities (DSDS) and Mediatek claims they are the first to market with dual VoLTE and dual LTE capabilities. Toss in antenna tuning called TAS 2.0 and worldmodem features and you have a good foundation.

From here the two SoCs start to differ, enough so they are different dies, not just fusings of the same layout. Lets start out with the big middle chip, the Helio P30. Since we are on modems both can do TDD and FDD LTE Cat7, CDMA2000, TD-SCDMA, and 2G/EDGE. If you are not up on LTE specs, Cat 7 is 2xCA for UL and DL for 300/100Mbps respectively. The P30 goes one better and adds 64-QAM for the UL resulting in a 150Mbps upstream aka Cat13. If this sounds like a curious choice of places to add speed, think about the use cases of modern phone, uploading video is a key selling point and Mediatek put the resources for that in the P30. It does make sense.

Another differentiation point is the imaging path, a key feature for modern phones. Both SoCs support Mediatek’s Imagiq 2.0 suite of hardware and software enhancements for imaging and add what the company calls a CCU or Camera Control Unit. This puts several of the basic camera functions in a dedicated hardware block for speed and low power. The P23 support 13+13MP cameras or a single 24MP unit while the P30 ups the numbers to 16+16MP or 25MP. This more than meets the ‘good enough’ bar for sensors given the lens sizes available on modern phones, more buys you little if anything.

One major differentiation point is the VPU in the P30 or Visual Processing Unit. The VPU is a 500MHz DSP, Tensilica if it matters, connected to the ISP and is fully programmable by the phone designer and even users should the phone keep it exposed. Several third parties have already announced support and DSPs in phones are a good thing, Qualcomm has had it for years and SemiAccurate feels that any credible SoC needs one. OK, absolute bottom feeders may skip DSPs for now but in a generation or two they will need one as well to be competitive. Mediatek needed the VPU to remain competitive in the mid-market and now they have it.

Last up we have the video decoder which will do H.265 in 4K30 in hardware. While we would like to see 4K/60 and H.265 encode, this is a mid-range part after all. If you want those capabilities there are many SoCs out there to fit the bill but they are usually at a much higher price point. Full 4K H.265 will come to the P23/P30 tier sooner or later, probably about the time 4K screens do. Don’t wait up, it will be a while.

And in a nutshell that is the definition of mid-range phone SoCs of late, pretty close to the high-end but missing a few bullet points. The new Mediatek P23 and P30 fit the bill nicely while hitting the high points that tend to sell phones in the volume markets, 8C, big sensor support, dual SIMs, and a few bells and whistles. This pair should do pretty well on the market.S|A

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Charlie Demerjian

Roving engine of chaos and snide remarks at SemiAccurate
Charlie Demerjian is the founder of Stone Arch Networking Services and SemiAccurate.com. SemiAccurate.com is a technology news site; addressing hardware design, software selection, customization, securing and maintenance, with over one million views per month. He is a technologist and analyst specializing in semiconductors, system and network architecture. As head writer of SemiAccurate.com, he regularly advises writers, analysts, and industry executives on technical matters and long lead industry trends. Charlie is also a council member with Gerson Lehman Group. FullyAccurate