MediaTek has today announced the Helio X20, a new flagship SoC that's designed to compete with similar high-end smartphone and tablet chips from companies like Qualcomm and Samsung.

The Helio X20's most interesting feature is a new CPU design that's the first of its kind. Rather than opting for a traditional quad- or octa-core setup with one or two core clusters, the Helio X20 features a ten-core CPU that's divided into three clusters, which improves upon the widely used ARM big.LITTLE CPU design.

In the Helio X20, MediaTek has opted for four ARM Cortex-A53 cores clocked at up to 1.4 GHz for low-power tasks, four Cortex-A53 cores clocked at up to 2.0 GHz for a balance of performance and power consumption, and two new Cortex-A72 cores at 2.5 GHz for high performance tasks. The cores are all interconnected via a custom system called the MediaTek Coherent System Interconnect (MCSI).

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MediaTek claims that by opting for a tri-cluster design with ten CPU cores in total, the Helio X20 is 30% more power efficient than similar two-cluster designs. As the CPU is built on a 20nm manufacturing process, rather than the 14nm FinFET nodes we're seeing in the latest Exynos and upcoming Snapdragon SoCs, it'll be interesting to see how power efficiency compares.

On the GPU side, the Helio X20 uses an unannounced ARM Mali-T800 series GPU, similar to the high-end T880, with four shader cores and a clock speed of 700 MHz. MediaTek expects 40% higher GPU performance with 40% lower power requirements compared to the PowerVR G6200 used in the Helio X10 (MT6795).

The Helio X20 also features a 64-bit LPDDR3 memory controller clocked at 933 MHz for 14.9 GB/s of bandwidth, a 32-megapixel dual-ISP, 10-bit 4K HEVC/H.265/VP9 decoding and 4K HEVC encoding, and an integrated modem supporting LTE Category 6.

MediaTek will begin sampling for the X20 in the second half of 2015, and the company expects to see devices using the SoC to hit the market in early 2016.