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




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.

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