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(Pocket-lint) - The next-generation MediaTek processors for 2021 - the Dimensity 1200 and slightly step-down Dimensity 1100 - are just around the corner, due to arrive in as-yet-unnamed devices from the end of the first quarter.

But what exactly can this new hardware - which is built on TSMC's 6-nanometre architecture - offer in terms of features? Well, there's 5G connectivity, high-end future camera support, and in the case of the Dimensity 1200 the highest display refresh-rate handling of any platform to date (beyond even Qualcomm's Snapdragon 888).

Pure performance

  • Dimensity 1200: Tri-cluster CPU architecture
    • 1x ARM Cortex A78 (3GHz)
    • 3x ARM Cortex A78 (2.8GHz)
    • 4x ARM Cortex A55 (2.0GHz)
  • Dimensity 1100: Dual-cluster CPU architecture
    • 4x ARM Cortex A78 (2.8GHz)
      4x ARM Cortex A55 (2.0GHz)
  • Both: Nine-core Mali-G77 GPU
  • Both: 16GB RAM support

The Dimensity 1200 and 1100 are produced by TSMC semiconductor using its 6nm process, the next step beyond the 7nm process of the older Dimensity 1000 that launched at the back end of 2019. This means shorter travel for current within the CPU and therefore greater efficiency and power savings - MediaTek claims a 25 per cent improvement generation to generation.

If you want to play the numbers game then it's worth pointing out that both Samsung's Exynos 2100 and Qualcomm's Snapdragon 888 platform are 5nm production processes - so ought to theoretically be more efficient again. 

But back to Dimensity. The 1200 and 1100 and both built upon the company's "APU 3.0", which is a hexa-core artificial intelligence (AI) processor - used to handle energy efficiency is how to distribute the workload based on task at hand.

The Dimensity 1200 is the top-end of the pair, with a tri-cluster architecture comprised of four lower-end cores, three higher-end cores, and one ultra-powerful core. The Dimensity 1100, meanwhile, opts for a dual-cluster, dividing low-end and high-end cores equally.

Both are powerful, but the 1200 can push that bit further when it comes to certain features. MediaTek claims it will run PUBG Mobile at a steady 90fps; the 1100 at 60fps.

That may well depend on RAM, but there's support for up to four channels of LPDDR4 at 2133MHz, so up to four lots of 4GB making up to 16GB total.

5G connectivity

  • Both: Integrated M70 modem
    • 5G + 5G DSDS
    • Sub-6 2CC

Any high-end processor in 2021 will support 5G, so it's no surprise to see both Dimensity 1200 and 1100 integrate MediaTek's M70 modem.

MediaTekMediaTek Dimensity 1200 photo 2

This supports 5G (and 5G dual SIM dual standby, i.e. DSDS), including Sub-6 band support and carrier aggregation (2CC), meaning the current sale of spectrum will become even more pertinent for end-user speeds in the near future. However, the M70 doesn't support mmWave.

Display support

  • Dimensity 1200: Quad HD to 90Hz, Full HD+ to 168Hz
  • Dimensity 1100: Quad HD to 90Hz, Full HD+ to 144Hz
  • Both: HDR10+ support

One of the Dimensity 1200's standout features is for display support. It can handle Full HD+ resolution up to a 168Hz refresh rate - the fastest of any processor announcement to date (Qualcomm's SD888 supports 144Hz). That's quite the accolade for next-gen gaming devices, should phone-makers jump aboard.

The Dimensity 1100 supports FHD+ to 144Hz, while both platforms can handle Quad HD up to 90Hz. That should deliver plenty of options for ultra-high resolution devices in terms of whether you wish to select resolution over refresh rate or vice versa - or neither should you want to push battery longevity.

There's also support for HDR10+ - the dynamic high dynamic range format - so bright screens and the correct content providers will be able to deliver a top-notch visual experience.

Video decoding supports the AV1 codec, supporting up to 4K resolution 10-bit content. No 8K encoding here as you might find elsewhere though.

Cameras support

  • Dimensity 1200: 200-megapixel support (for single camera)
  • Dimensity 1100: 108MP support (for single camera)
  • Both: 32MP + 16MP dual-camera support

The other big ticket item is the Dimensity 1200's support for main camera resolution processing up to 200-megapixels. Currently there are no single camera sensors with such a high resolution - but that spells what to expect from the industry in coming months.

Why would you want 200MP support? Well, there's already 108MP cameras out there, with 150MP rumoured to be around the corner. Typically such ultra-high resolution sensors are used to provide multiple 'pixel' sites to a single resulting image pixel - usually four to one - to add additional data that results in higher colour accuracy, sharpness and dynamic range. But it does also require a lot of processing power!

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The Dimensity 1100 offer 108MP support, which at the time of writing is the highest resolution you'll find in a phone. Plenty still offer 64MP units, so for the sub-flagship experience we would suspect to see the 1100 appear in a number of places.

Writing by Mike Lowe. Editing by Adrian Willings. Originally published on 19 January 2021.