MediaTek Unveils World's First Octa-Core, 4G LTE System on a Chip

Your next smartphone could be both faster and cheaper. Low-cost chipmaker MediaTek announced the MT6595, the first SoC (system on a chip) to sport both a 4G LTE radio and an octa-core processor. The MT6595 is also among the first products to utilize ARM's new high-end Cortex A-17 architecture, employing the new technology on four out of its eight cores. The company says its new SoC will appear later this year in phones, helping keep costs to the $99 to $199 off-contract price range.

MediaTek claims that the new Cortex A-17 cores offer a 60 percent performance improvement over prior-generation processors. The MT6595 also employs an Imagination Technologies PowerVR Series6 GPU that should make gaming and using graphically-intensive apps particularly smooth and snappy. The new SoC supports screens with up to 2560 x 1600-pixel resolutions, 20-MP cameras, 4k video playback and 802.11ac Wi-Fi.

MORE: Best and Worst Smartphone Brands

By using "big.LITTLE" MP technology, the MediaTek MT6595 will route tasks to either its high-performance, high-power A17 cores or to its low-power Cortex-A7 cores. Demanding apps, such as games, will use one or more of the A-17s, but less-intensive processes such as checking email will occur on the A7 cores.

The MT6595 is also among the first chips to support the H.265 video format, which allows it to decode or encode Ultra HD (4K2K) video in hardware. As phones with higher-than-HD screens hit the market, being able to play 4K videos will become even more important. Because 4K is supported in hardware, the processor will be able to process it in a lower-power state than it would have otherwise. 

Though its processors power millions of phones in Asia, MediaTek is not a well-known brand in the U.S. The company's 3G SoCs power a couple of low-end phones on T-Mobile and a single tablet on AT&T. However, Mohit Bhushan, the company's VP for U.S. Marketing, says that the company plans to expand its presence in 2014, appearing in a number of budget-oriented phones in America. As more U.S. carriers ditch phone subsidies and consumers opt for plans that force them to pay full retail, low-cost handsets will become an even more important part of the market. 

Avram Piltch
Online Editorial Director
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master's degree in English from NYU.