Mediatek and Budget Phones – It Is Time We Rest The “Cheap Quality” Tag

by Chetan Bhawani 9

Mediatek

While choosing a smartphone, the first thing important nowadays for most of the users, is the processor. Even though most of them might not get deeper into the cores and structure, there is a question asked about who manufactured the processor for this particular device. It is an interesting topic, nevertheless. But who’s winning the race here?

Mediatek is the name being taken more often, off late, for the flurry of smartphones that are being released with the chipsets manufactured by it. Almost every Chinese smartphone manufacturer utilises Mediatek chipsets to power their smartphones in the budget and mid-range category, and that is one major reason why the devices are being sold at very affordable prices. Check similar specs on the phones having Qualcomm/Exynos processor, but the one having a Mediatek processor will be priced quite cheaper. Why? because Mediatek charges the smartphone manufacturers lesser for the internal system.

Cheap, directly points at low quality?

That has been the perception in general. “Snapdragon chipsets are costly, and thus are of good quality. Mediatek chipsets are cheaper, thus lesser in quality”. The fact is, pricing should never be the decider about the quality of the product. There are many factors to be taken into consideration, but users generally tend to keep pricing on the top of the list, or sometimes, just take that as the factor.

Taking an example for instance, on personal experience after using the same phone with two different chipsets, both for over a couple of weeks, I ended up recommending the Mediatek-powered variant over the Snapdragon one. The Xiaomi Redmi Note had no big difference in price between the one powered by Mediatek chipset and the one by Snapdragon chipset. The major difference was with 4G LTE connectivity, that was supported in the Snapdragon one.

Is Mediatek really making decent processors?

That was a classic example, where not just by theory, but on daily usage as well, the Redmi Note 3G with Mediatek MT6592 octa-core processor fared a lot better in performance and gaming, when compared to the 4G unit with Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 quad-core processor.

Let’s talk about the actual processor. The MT6592 has eight cores, clocking at 1.7 GHz. The Snapdragon 400 one has four cores clocking at 1.2 GHz. The MT6592 utilises something similar to Heterogeneous Multi-Processing (learning from a discussion on HMP), a version of big.LITTLE technology, where the number of cores to be used, are chosen based on the activity. This not just helps in better performance when needed, but also in saving some battery power when not many cores are actually needed for a simpler function.

Similar technology, HMP utilisation and higher clock speeds for a Qualcomm chipset would’ve easily costed the double of what Mediatek one costs. That is the difference. Of course Qualcomm is known for a cutting-edge technology, for a better technology while producing its System-on-chips, but it should be given all the accolades for the top-end chipsets used in flagship devices.

Just if we add another example, the Lenovo A7000 I am reviewing as I write this, has a great performance and plays high-end games, much better than how the smartphones in similar price range, having Snapdragon 400 (Redmi Note 4G) and Snapdragon 410 (Huawei Honor 4X) processor could handle them. Mediatek MT6752, octa-core 64-bit, that still might look like just a number. But in reality, it performs much better than the competition does.

Mediatek was criticised by its biggest competition, Qualcomm, for the octa-core processors, which according to the latter, is just a gimmick and nothing more than that. But, Qualcomm itself had to jump into the same pool and it did come up with its own octa-core chipsets, trying to use similar technology. They limit that to the costly SoCs, but that is where Mediatek leads the race, with similar ones being priced cheaper.

High time, look at actual results over numbers

Chinese smartphones were more like cheap built devices that had almost no value in a big market such as India, but now, the demand has been increasing at a swift pace. Shouldn’t the credit go to Mediatek for that, as much as it is given to Qualcomm?

It is not easy to get over the fact that Mediatek is cheap, but there is a marginal difference between cheap pricing and cheap quality. Mediatek has done appreciably well to tackle the latter, but managed to keep the former as it was always. Cheap in price, not with quality. In fact, take the recent octa-core 64-bit processors, the Qualcomm ones generated more heat than the Mediatek ones, in the real use case, not in the labs.

Of course, while spending on a smartphone that you might want to use for over a year, you would take the *processor* factor seriously, but it is time to look over the Mediatek vs Snapdragon war, where you unanimously decided the latter as winner, without even caring to watch the fight.

Chetan Bhawani

Chetan Bhawani is a dentist, a tech blogger and a passionate writer in the field of technology. He keeps himself connected to the web for the entire day, of course except when he's dozed off! Add +Chetan Bhawani on Google Plus for more!

  • Pawan

    Well written Chetan.. It’s a specifications war going around in the country. A phone with better specs is said to offer better experience.
    No matter, if a device is powered by Qualcomm or MediaTek’s chipset, we should look at the overall review.
    After all, none of us are aware of what’s inside that chipset which makes it better than other (unless we are a pro electronics engineer).
    Still, a buzz is going in the country and you noted it well 🙂

  • vishalaestro

    for those who doesn’t need software updates or any custom kernels or ROM’s ,using a mediatek SoC is good enough .it’s not only about the performance but also depends on other factors such a device driver support , image processing hardware and the DSP chip.mediatek chips are known to offer poor support for their Soc apart from the Android one devices i rarely find device drivers for the mediatek SoC’s whereas my 2 year old xperia l has cm 12.1 since qualcomm is providing adequate drivers through their CAF kernel which gets frequent updates .also the GPS module is weaker in mediatek SoC and doesn’t perform well under conditions where signal strength is low . the mali GPU in mediatek SoC is not powerful enough to beat the Adreno Soc (i mean even the midranged 305) this is due to the fact that Adreno has the most number of optimized games. qualcomm’s imaging hardware and the DSP chip is any way better when compared to what is present in mediatek Soc’s . os on the whole it’s the whole SoC that matters not only the processor . processor contributes only 20-25% of the total area of the Soc

    • Didn’t want to dig into GPU, drivers and such because it was directed towards general buyer perception about the “name” involved in the chipset. Even RAM is one major factor, but still, that is just another story.

      • vishalaestro

        the general perception will become good only if the consumer who had brought that product feels the product is worth it .since they are the one who mostly suggest product for the people who are going to buy their new phone.the mediatek name was not a hit since it was used by tier 3 companies and there were no convincing feature that made mediatek good apart from the competition. any phone with a mediatek processor tends to do very bad in battery and gaming since the application were not optimized to that particular architecture .

        • Mediatek name *was* not a hit, and it still isn’t. My point is exactly about that. Even the top-end game developers are working closely with chipset manufacturers to get the best out of those chipsets that are being newly made, learning from what was not doing well in the past.

          And we’re strictly talking about budget devices, which most of the users keep switching between, within not more than a year. Looking further into the future will not be wise for a budget device, when you see even mid-range devices getting poorer with performance, with time.

          Mediatek has been getting better, and we need to accept that. Of course they don’t offer a lot for the developers, for supporting ROMs and such, but someone who isn’t into all that, should rather not look at the processor maker at all.

          • vishalaestro

            until the chipset is adopted by the tier 1 brands . it’s not going to be a hit and those tier 1 brand will not use mediatek chipsets on their mainstream devices until mediatek provides device drivers for their chipsets, that’s the main reason why mediatek is ignored by tier 1 brands because they need source code to provide android updates right?

          • PRATHEESH PS

            Don’t you Know HTC adopted MediaTek Helio chipset in their latest flagship M9+?

  • im_mukund

    Good article. MediaTek has been doing real good job, especially with chinese smartphones. A year ago, people’s perception of chinese phone was like “No, its a china phone”. But now, minds have changed. People are buying chinese smartphones because of their cheaper price and device being powered by specs that are usually seen in a little higher-end phones.

  • PRATHEESH PS

    I think HTC is bold enough to Try out MediaTek Chipset in their Flagship Smartphone,the M9+.I am really eager to see How the Helio Chipset perform with its Snapdragon Counterpart,810