On the TechDissected main page, and in a sidebar widget, we offer a place to ask questions of TeD and get some information in return. A few weeks back we were asked to compare three of the processors available today in a myriad of mobile devices; both tablets, and smartphones. The three mobile processors in question are the Intel® Atom™ Z2580/Z2560 mobile processor, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 mobile processor and the MediaTek MT6592 Octa-Core mobile processor. Read on to get the spec sheets and some more in depth information about these mobile processors.

Could anyone share some knowledge about this 3 processors for mobile phones? What’s the difference between the following?

– Intel® Atom™ Multi-Core Z2580/Z2560 Processor 2.0/1.6GHz with Intel Hyper-Threading Technology

– Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 CPU Quad-core 1.2 GHz Cortex-A7 GPU Adreno 305

– Mediatek MT6592 CPU Octa-core 1.4/1.7 GHz Cortex-A7

asked by Liew Wen Hwee via Facebook

The Intel® Atom™ Z2580/Z2560 Mobile Processors

Since entering the mobile processor market in 2012 with the announcement at CES, Intel has made a few splashes in the mobile market. Being the latecomer to the market, it was imperative that they build a relationship with a large manufacturer, and perfect the design process. In 2012, Intel’s first phone was by Lenovo, and was called the K800. This got their foot in the door after a few failed attempts to push into the market.

Intel® Atom™ Z2580

Looking at this Atom chip however, is a bit different. They’ve ramped up the chip as part of the 32 nm process, and it also contains Intel Hyper-Threading Technology which supports 4 simultaneous application threads. Although the chip is only dual core, as on its desktop counterpart, the Hyper-Threading Technology does help with the load as compared with competing quad core mobile processors.

The chips contain the Intel Graphics Accelerator, and while not highly praised on its desktop counterpart, it has come a long way and can now provide an excellent experience. The resolution supported is up to WUXGA, or 1920×1200. This is excellent for larger tablets and with its fast signal processor, the camera is also no slouch. It offers continuous shooting mode, HDR and facial recognition to name a few.

The processor’s Intel technology allows for dynamic frequency scaling for responsiveness and power saving features. These mobile processors are optimized for use with Google Android, and new firmware, drivers and middleware have been written to complete the optimization.

CPU
  • 2.0 GHz (Z2580)
  • 1.6 GHz (Z2560)
  • 1.2 GHz (Z2520)
  • Intel® Smart Cache, 512 KB per core
  • Advanced 32nm, dual-core Intel architecture with High-K metal gate transistor technology
  • Intel® Enhanced Deeper Sleep C6E state
  • S0i1/S0i3 power reduction features
GPU
  • Dual-core graphics @ up to 300 MHz (1.2 GHz processor)/400 MHz (1.6 GHz processor)/533 MHz (2.0 GHz processor)
  • Supports EGL 1.4 + extensions, OpenGL ES1.1 and Open GL ES2.0+ extensions, OpenCL 1.1e, OpenVG 1.1
Audio/Video
  • Intel® Smart Sound Technology
  • 1080p30 video encode
  • 1080p30 video decode
  • X4 MIPI-DSI ports
  • HDMI 1.3a interface
Memory
  • Dual-channel 32-bit LPDDR2 interface
  • Total capacity up to 2 GB
  • Supports up to 1066 MT/s (533MHz) data rate
Camera
  • Primary camera support for up to 16 MP still image capture and full HD 1080p30 video capture with digital video stabilization
  • Secondary camera support for up to 2 MP still image capture
  • Supports auto-exposure, auto-white balance, and auto-focus
  • Zero shutter lag with time shift
  • Continuous image shooting at 3 fps for 8 MP images
  • Real-time face detection and face recognition for face/friend optimized image capture
  • HDR image capture with image stabilization and scene motion compensation
  • Automatic night mode scene detection with advanced noise reduction
  • Panorama captureBurst shot capture @ 15 fps for 8 MP images

The Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 Mobile Processors

As the clear leader in mobile processors, Qualcomm isn’t sitting on their laurels. They continue to make the most of their success by working with many OEM’s, and working across almost all mobile OSes. Their Snapdragon line works with Blackberry, Windows Mobile and Android devices.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 400Depending on the processor, the Snapdragon 400 series can be a dual or quad core processor. They all contain a Krait (dual-core) or an ARM (quad-core) CPU, an Adreno 305/306 GPU and a Hexagon DSP for ultra low power operations. This mid-range processor is built for speed and reliability, but includes things that other mid range processors wouldn’t; up to a 13.5 megapixel camera and full HD displays, being a few examples.

The Adreno GPU has been the standard for mobile processors for a while and provides an excellent experience with full HD video and 3D games. To add to the mix, audio delivery is enhanced with multi channel sound including DTS-HD and Dolby Digital Plus.

As a processor that was designed and built solely for smaller devices like mobile phones and tablets, the Qualcomm Snapdragon has had an advantage for quite some time. In February, it was reported that it was used as 64% of the world’s SoC in the mobile sector.

CPU
  • Quad ARM® Cortex™ A7 CPU at up to 1.6GHz per core
  • Dual core Krait 300 CPU at up to 1.7GHz per core
  • Dual core Krait 200 CPU at up to 1.2GHz per core
  • LP-DDR2 and LP-DDR3 memory for high performance and low latency
GPU
  • Adreno 305 or 306 GPU
  • APIs, including OpenGL ES 3.0, DirectX, OpenCL, Renderscript Compute and FlexRender™
DSP
  • Hexagon QDSP6
  • Hexagon DSP enables ultra-low power operation for a variety of applications like music playback, enhanced audio effects, computer vision processing and still and video image enhancements
  • Hexagon DSP now supports floating point calculations, byte vector operations, dynamic multithreading and expanded multimedia instructions for enhanced low power performance
Modem
  • Support for fastest global connections and advanced modem technologies—TD-SCDMA, DC-HSPA+ (up to 42Mbps), and 4G LTE speeds up to 150MBps
WiFi
  • Supports legacy 802.11n and new 802.11ac for peak Wi-Fi performance
Audio/Video
  • 1080p HD video playback and capture with H.264 (AVC)HD multichannel sound with DTS-HD and Dolby Digital Plus
Camera
  • Up to 13.5 Megapixel, stereoscopic 3DTake high-resolution, 3D photos with up to 13.5 Megapixel camera support
Display
  • Up to 1080p HD external display
  • Miracast™ support features wireless streaming to HD external display
Power Management
  • Energy efficient LP process and dynamic GPU clock and voltage scaling
  • Asynchronous Multi-Processing (aSMP) dynamic CPU power control for sustained peak performance
  • Qualcomm Quick Charge 1.0 integrated for up to 40% faster battery charging

The MediaTek MT6592 Mobile Processor

By far and away, one of the most difficult mobile processors to get information on is MediaTek. The MT6592 is no different. The octa-core chip uses an ARM Cortex A7 multi-core design using a 28 nm process. All 8 cores are dynamically scale-able to 2 GHz which results in excellent multi-processing and power-saving performance.

MediaTek MT6592

They’ve designed an advanced algorithm that can monitor temperature and power consumption, which is always helpful in the quest for better battery performance. We all know that higher temperatures hurt performance of the phone as well as the battery.

The MT6592 contains a quad core ARM Mali GPU which supports Ultra HD video playback capability, up to a 16 megapixel camera and a Full HD display. As the first company to combine the ARM octa-core Cortex A7 processor and the ARM Mali quad-core GPU, they are pioneering the next step in mobile processor technologies.

Features

  • Octa-core (1.7GHz or 2GHz) ARM Cortex-A7 processor
  • ARM Mali GPU
  • UMTS / HSPA+ R8 / TD-SCDMA / EDGE / LTE
  • Dual-band 801.11a/b/g/n, Bluetooth, GPS, FM receiver
  • Full HD display controller
  • 16MP image signal-processor
  • H.265 Ultra HD video record & playback

Analysis Of The Mobile Processors In Question

At first glance, I thought that these processors were in similar avenues of life, but I thought wrong. The Intel SoC was released first last year, followed by the Qualcomm offering, and then the MediaTek in 2014. The Lenovo K900 and the ZTE Geek were the first phones to include this Atom chip. The HTC First was the first smartphone to use the Snapdragon 400. Since then, the 400 has been used in phones like the Motorola Moto G, the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini, the HTC One Mini, and the Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3. After all of that, the MT6592 hasn’t been released in a phone, but Alcatel and Sony are reported to be using the chip in the Idol X+ and Xperia line, respectively.

So from the get go, you can see that the Intel model in question is quite old now, so to be fair, none of these chips are very “comparable” to each other. However, they all follow a progression. The Intel chip was announced early in the year, and Qualcomm came up with their 200, 400, 600 and 800 line. Not to be outdone, MediaTek shows up with, arguably, one of the most powerful mobile processors to date.

Also, what I’m seeing is how Qualcomm commands the market. Since they retain the highest market share, they have many more options and it shows. When you release a line of processors there are certain to be incremental differences in that line; or different model numbers. With that being said, Qualcomm is so far ahead at this juncture, they’ve released multiple lines of mobile processors, with multiple model numbers in each line. This not only shows dominance in the market, but shows that they have an option for all OEM buyers.

On the one hand, there is Intel, who in the desktop and notebook market, is the clear leader. But, in the mobile sector they are playing catch up. It seems they have a much more controlled release pattern. Maybe this is to increase lab testing time to ensure proper performance in the field. They have their foot in the door, but can they keep it there is the question. On the other hand, MediaTek seems to be trying to claw their way closer to Qualcomm while keep Intel at bay.

So, while the Snapdragon and the Atom are the only two you can purchase in devices currently, I’m going to tell you to go with the 400. Right now the Snapdragon line is the one to have; the 400 has served me well in the Moto G and the S4 Pro in my Moto X.

Intel: Atom Z2500 Series Spec Sheet
Qualcomm: Snapdragon 400 Spec Sheet
MediaTek: MT6592 Octa Core ARM Specs

About the author

Jeff Trocchio

Apple IIe green screen is whence I came. Where I go, only technology knows. If its Automotive, Mobile, Gaming or Computer tech I'll try my best to give my thoughts on it.