MediaTek's new high-end Android 5G chipsets aim to squeeze out Snapdragon

MediaTek has revealed two new chipsets for 2021 Android smartphones, with the Dimensity 1200 and Dimensity 1100 5G aiming to take on the high-end and challenge Qualcomm's Snapdragon dominance there. The two new 6nm chipsets each promise 5G support as well as a considerable uptick in multimedia capabilities, including support for up to 200-megapixel cameras.

The Dimensity 1200 5G is the flagship of the two, with a five-core HDR-ISP that can handle staggered 4K HDR video capture. It taps a new MediaTek APU 3.0 AI processor, which the company says is both more efficient and faster, and can handle 200-megapixel sensors.

On the CPU side, there's eight cores in total. As we've seen other companies adopt, the Dimensity 1200 has one Arm Coretx-A78 primary core for maximum performance, clocked at 3GHz, paired with three Cortex-A78 super cores and four Cortex-A55 efficiency cores. There's also a nine-core GPU, which supports 168Hz refresh rate displays.

For the Dimensity 1100 5G, that gets four Cortex-A78 cores running at up to 2.6GHz, and four Cortex-A55 efficiency cores, plus a nine-core Mali-G77 GPU. It has the exiting APU 3.0 for AI, and can support up to 108-megapixel camera sensors. Its GPU can drive up to 144Hz refresh rates.

Both chipsets get a new AI-powered panoramic Night Shot mode, Multi-Person Bokeh, AI noise reduction, and HDR. They also use the AI chipset for upscaling SDR video to HDR. The MediaTek HyperEngine 3.0, meanwhile, promises to improve touchscreen responsiveness, mobile game ray tracing, and 5G call and data concurrency.

It's 5G where Qualcomm keeps an edge, though, at least for some markets. Certainly, MediaTek hasn't stinted on much of the cutting-edge 5G technology that we've come to expect in modern chipsets. Both the Dimensity 1200 and Dimensity 1100 get 5G standalone and non-standalone support, 5G carrier aggregation for both FDD and TDD, and dynamic spectrum sharing, along with True Dual SIM 5G (5G SA + 5G SA) and Voice over New Radio (VoNR). They also have an 5G HSR Mode and an 5G Elevator Mode for maximizing connectivity even in unfriendly environments.

What they don't have, though, is mmWave support. That means they're not compatible with the highest-speed networks in the US from Verizon and others, significantly limiting their appeal – and, thus, the appeal of smartphones using them – and arguably locking them out of the US market. Still, that might not be all that much of an issue in the long-run.

MediaTek may not be quite as well known as Qualcomm is in smartphone chipsets, but that's certainly not the case in actual sales. Indeed, back in Q3 2020, the company surpassed Qualcomm as the largest mobile chipmaker. A push for the low- and mid-range has been credited for that.

Xiaomi, Vivo, OPPO, and realme have all said they plan to use MediaTek's new chipsets in upcoming phones. The first devices to pack the Dimensity 1200 and 1100 should arrive sometime late Q1 or early Q2 this year.