The last 2 years have been quite exciting for the mobile silicon landscape – Arm’s release of the Cortex-A76 had marked a big jump in performance for smartphones, vastly raising the bar of what is possible to achieve in a mobile SoC. With this generation, we’ve also seen SoC vendors deploy some increasingly competitive designs that improved upon their predecessors – much to do with the new IP, but also a large part thanks to new 7nm manufacturing technologies.
We’re all too familiar with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 and 865 which power the majority of flagship devices in the market right now. Qualcomm has been steadily improving their execution of the last couple of years ever since the Snapdragon 835, and the new S865 is really a great balance between performance and power efficiency for 2020’s devices. We’ve also seen HiSilicon push out quite competitive products with the Kirin 980 and the 990 – although the future of Huawei’s in-house SoC designs are in grave limbo and run the risk of no longer seeing successors in the future.
Qualcomm’s and HiSilicon’s successes have however come at a cost in the market though – we’re all aware of Samsung’s missteps with their Exynos series, although we do hope things will improve in the comings years, fingers crossed.
The other victim to Qualcomm and Huawei’s success has been MediaTek. The Taiwanese SoC vendor had been traditionally been a larger player in the smartphone market, however it’s been losing market share to Qualcomm quarter after quarter for years now. Last year, the company had revealed that with the new 5G generation of “Dimensity” SoCs we’d be seeing a renewed push into the high-end market.
Today, we’ll be taking a closer look at one of these Dimensity 1000 powered phones, the OPPO Reno3 5G. The Reno3 series has been quite the oddball device line-up this year, as the company has been selectively releasing quite different variants at a rapid pace in different markets – all with different SoCs and slightly differing device specs.
|Some OPPO Reno3’s|
|Reno3 Pro 5G
a.k.a Find X2 Neo
4x Cortex A77 @ 2.2GHz
Mali-G77MP7 @ 695 MHz
2x Cortex A75 @ 2.2GHz
1x Cortex A76 @ 2.4GHz
2400 x 1080 (20:9)
2400 x 1080 (20:9)
2400 x 1080 (20:9)
|Dimensions||160.3 x 74.3 x 8 mm
|158.8 x 73.4 x 8.1mm
|159.4 x 72.4 x 7.7 mm
|RAM||8/12GB LPDDR4X||8GB LPDDR4||8/12GB LPDDR4X|
|128GB UFS 2.1||128/256GB||128/256GB UFS 2.1|
|Battery||4025mAh (15.57Wh) typ.
3935mAh (15.22Wh) rated
|VOOC Flash Charge 4.0
|Front Camera||32MP f/2.0||44MP f/2.4
+ 2MP f/2.4
|Primary Rear Camera||64MP IMX686 1/1.73″ 0.8µm
f/1.8 w/ OIS
|48MP IMX586 1/2.0″ 0.8µm
|2MP depth portrait
|13MP 1/3.4″ 1.0µm
|2MP black & white portrait
|2MP black & white portrait
|2MP black & white portrait
|4G / 5G
|5G Sub-6 Integrated||4G LTE||5G Sub-6 Integrated|
|SIM Size||Dual nanoSIM|
|Wireless||802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax 2×2 MU-MIMO,
BT 5.0 LE, NFC, GPS/Glonass/Galileo/BDS
|802.11a/b/g/n/ac 2×2 MU-MIMO,
BT 5.0 LE, NFC, GPS/Glonass/Galileo/BDS
|802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax 2×2 MU-MIMO,
BT 5.0 LE, NFC, GPS/Glonass/Galileo/BDS
|Special Features||In-screen fingerprint sensor|
|Launch OS||Android 10|
All in all – there’s 4 different variants of the “Reno3”, with the key characteristic being that we’re seeing quite different devices in the Chinese market compared to the international counterparts. We have had our hands on 3 of these for several months now:
The Chinese market Reno3 5G is the most interesting device today as it’s the one phone that employs MediaTek’s newest Dimensity 1000 SoC. To be precise, this is a “1000L” lower-binned variant of the chip that slightly differs in clocks speeds and GPU configuration. Originally planned for 4x 2.6GHz Cortex-A77 cores with 4x 2.0GHz Cortex-A55 cores and a Mali-G77MP9 at 800+MHz, the new lower-binned chip only clocks the big cores at 2.2GHz, and disables two GPU cores to make it an MP7 configuration at 695MHz. Strangely enough, this May we saw MediaTek re-release the chip in the form of the Dimensity 1000+ with the full specifications that were originally promised late last year.
The Chinese market also received the Reno3 Pro 5G – a higher-end variant of the phone with a different design, powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 765G SoC. This product positioning was quite weird, as on paper, you’d expect the regular Reno3 5G actually outperform the Pro 5G variant – and this is actually the most interesting topic we’ll be addressing today. The Snapdragon 765 features older Cortex-A76 cores, one at 2.4GHz, and one at 2.2GHz, alongside 6x Cortex-A55’s at 1.8GHz, and has the Adreno 620 as its GPU.
The interesting thing also about the Reno3 Pro 5G is that a few months after the Chinese launch, we’ve actually seen the device come to international markets, but this time marketed as the Find X2 Neo.
The Reno3 and Reno3 Pro in international markets are seemingly quite shadows of their Chinese counterparts. The Reno3 comes with a 2018 launched MediaTek P90 chipset, while the Reno3 Pro using a P95 that doesn’t really change much at all in the configuration of the chip beyond a slight clock boost to its AI engine. The 2x Cortex-A75 cores at 2.2GHz with 6x A55’s at 2.0GHz and an ImgTech PowerVR GM 9446 GPU at 970MHz are all quite outdated in 2020 – with the SoC being fabricated on an older 12nm process.
The Reno3 Pro also has very little to do with the Reno3 Pro 5G other than their naming – the latter is clearly a higher-end device in terms of design and screen.
The piece today isn’t much of a device review as it’s more focused on the SoC differences between the phones, with an emphasis on the MediaTek Dimensity 1000L on the Chinese Reno3 5G.
The Reno3 phones are actually outdated by this point in time as the company has followed up with the Reno4 series in China – a slight design iteration on the previous gen, mixing and mashing specifications again whilst retaining the Snapdragon 765G and dropping MediaTek as a SoC source, making today’s article all the more intriguing.
The positioning of the Snapdragon 765 Reno3 Pro 5G versus the Dimensity 1000L Reno3 5G is an extremely interesting one. By all means, the regular Reno3 is supposed to be the lower-end device and in fact does cost less than the Pro variant of the phone. Logically, we would expect OPPO here to choose the lower-end SoC for the Reno3 whilst the Reno3 Pro gets the better performing chipset. Although that’s what everybody would assume at first glance, things aren’t quite as straightforward.
The although the two devices and SoCs are seemingly positioned close to each other, they’re very different in terms of CPU capabilities. There are two factors at play here: first of all, the MediaTek chipset outright has a core-count advantage over the Qualcomm design by simply having four big cores instead of only two. That’s already a major difference and usually the kind of differentiation you’d expect from SoC at different class categories.
Secondly, MediaTek’s design uses newer Cortex-A77 cores whilst the Snapdragon uses last year’s Cortex-A76 IP. The Cortex-A77 is generally 25% better clock-for-clock compared to its predecessor, which seemingly compounds the processing power ability difference between the two SoCs and Reno3 phones. Qualcomm does have an advantage in terms of clocks speeds which does slightly make up some of this difference: at 2.4GHz on one of the Cortex-A76 cores it’s 200MHz ahead of the MediaTek chipset, which should reduce the expected performance gap a little bit.
Another big difference between the two SoCs is the fact that MediaTek uses TSMC’s 7nm node, while the Snapdragon 765 is manufactured on Samsung’s 7LPP node, with the only other public silicon out there manufactured on this process technology being Samsung’s own Exynos chipsets.
Comparing single-threaded performance between the two SoCs, we see the expected performance gap between the two designs materialise in the measured results. In SPEC2006, the Dimensity 1000L outperforms the S765 by respectively 13% and 22% in the integer and floating-point suites.
Furthermore, the Dimensity-powered Reno3 5G is able to do this whilst consuming less power and energy than the Qualcomm chipset. Generally, we expect this difference to be process-node related as we highly suspect Samsung’s 7nm node being less power efficient than TSMC’s process technology.
Whilst we don’t usually run SPEC in rate mode (multi-process test), GeekBench5 very much showcases the multi-threaded performance advantage that the MediaTek-powered Reno3 5G has over the Reno3 Pro 5G: With a score of 2702, it’s 50% faster than the 1802 score of the Snapdragon 765.
The one area where I did note that the Snapdragon chipset outperforms the Dimensity counterpart is memory latency. On the part of the CPUs, the Qualcomm chipset seemingly has a lower latency memory subsystem that allows it roughly a 13% latency advantage in full random DRAM memory accesses – or around 22ns at a test depth of 128MB.
The memory characteristics between the two SoCs are quite different, as the MediaTek chipset does showcase stronger CPU-side memory bandwidth, particularly in memory reads that reach up to 19GB/s versus 13.3GB/s for the Qualcomm chipset, with a similar advantage in memory copies, although the Snapdragon seems to have faster accesses and more bandwidth for memory writes.
All in all, until now it seems that the MediaTek powered chipset has a clear advantage in terms of performance and power efficiency, which actually makes sense as the Dimensity 1000L on paper just is a higher specced piece of silicon.
Whilst the controlled performance tests are heavily favouring the Dimensity 1000L powered Reno3 5G, what also matters in user experience in daily usage is the overall system performance, including the device’s software stack and the SoC’s scheduler settings. In that regard, we’ve haven’t really tested a MediaTek device in several years now.
In PCMark’s web browsing test, none of the Reno3 phones showcase very convincing results as we’re seeing scores well below the average flagship device today – but that’s to be expected given these phones are targeted at the mid-range.
The writing test is a more representative workload for daily user experiences. Here both the D1000L and S765 Reno3 phones performs in line with their mid-range nature and perform extremely close to each other. The Helio P90 based global Reno3 Pro doesn’t fare well at all here as it’s a clear tier below other phones.
In the photo editing test which makes use of Renderscript and loads the GPU, the MediaTek Reno3 5G is ahead of its P95 sibling as well as the Snapdragon 765 counterpart.
In the data-manipulation score, the Reno3 phones are all performing close to each other.
In the overall PCMark scores, we achieve the expected hierarchy between the devices, although the absolute score differences are quite smaller than we would have imagined.
As we hadn’t measured a MediaTek chipset in quite a few years, I was curious as to how their scheduler performs in relation to what we know of other SoCs such as from Qualcomm, HiSilicon, Samsung or even Apple. We’re using our internal workload performance ramp test for this task:
Surprisingly, MediaTek’s Dimensity 1000L performed massively better than any other SoC on the market, scaling up from idle to maximum frequency on the performance cores in just 4.2ms. The Snapdragon 765 Reno3 Pro 5G here took a more conventional stepped ramp-up approach, reaching the maximum performance state in 78ms.
I was quite astounded to see such an aggressive scheduler behaviour on the MediaTek chipset – it seems their scheduler will wake up tasks at maximum frequency very quickly and ramp down from there, instead of ramping up performance gradually. It’s a big difference, and it’s seemingly a lot more aggressive than any other SoC on the market.
I’m still not sure how this translates into more natural workloads with intermediate load behaviours – both the Reno3 5G and Reno3 Pro 5G both performed quite similarly in subjective device usages, with the MediaTek variant only pulling ahead under more notable workloads such as installing applications.
GPU performance between the different devices isn’t something that you’d be able to guess just by looking at the specification sheets. On MediaTek’s side, whilst the chip in theory has 9 physical GPU cores, in this lower-binned chip variant we only see 7 of them active, at around 700MHz.
Qualcomm’s Adreno 620 is quite slower than what you’d expect from the SoC, as we saw the LG Velvet posting performance results that generally were 2.5x slower than the latest Snapdragon 865 flagship SoC.
Throughout the results, the hierarchy is quite clear, with the MediaTek D1000L chipset notably outperforming the Snapdragon 765 by up to considerable margins of up to around 50%. Both phones are doing this whilst being extremely conservative with their power usages, not exceeding 2.5-3W, and thus never getting into any thermal stress situations where they would require to throttle.
The international Reno3 devices here are really getting shafted – only posting a fraction of the performance of their Chinese counterparts. These are quite terrible results for the Imagination GPU, and in hindsight, makes their claim of a 2.5x performance increase with the new A-Series GPU look a lot less impressive – but that’s a discussion to be addressed once we actually see silicon designs with the new IP.
Today’s article was meant to put better context behind the performance and power efficiency of the new MediaTek Dimensity 1000 series, and whilst the results weren’t always clear-cut, in majority of scenarios the new chipset clearly outperforms its competition.
But the question is, what is its competition? Although MediaTek has positioned the D1000 as a flagship SoC, to date we still haven’t seen the release of a device with the full-featured chipset at its maximum frequencies, and even the Reno3 5G that we’ve tested today only featured a lower-binned variant in the form of the D1000L.
Given the price of the Reno3 5G being cheaper than that of the Snapdragon 765G powered Reno3 Pro 5G and the new Reno4 5G, one can come to the conclusion that MediaTek’s chipset is competing in the same, or cheaper price-range than the Snapdragon 765.
If we come to that conclusion, along with the fact that the MediaTek chipset outperforms the Snapdragon 765, that begs one question: why aren’t there more Dimensity 1000 devices out there?
Although the MediaTek chip has been out for several months now, we still have only seen a handful of devices using it, while in recent months we’ve seen a ton of Snapdragon 765 devices being announced and released.
In a recent Q2 2020 earnings call, MediaTek had revealed that the company was only planning on starting to ship 5G smartphones internationally outside of China in Q3 of this year – a full 3 quarters after the initial introduction of the Dimensity 1000. That’s actually a quite revealing strategy and probably serves as to an explanation why we haven’t seen more design wins from the company – they simply weren’t focusing on markets outside of China yet. That’s quite the odd business decision with the only possible explanation that I can think is that they are severely wafer capacity limited as they fight for supply with Apple, Qualcomm and AMD, and that they’re selling everything they’re able to produce at the moment. Expanding production could possibly allow them to onboard more vendors and design wins.
With HiSilcion no longer being able to produce at TSMC, there’s been rumours that Huawei might be able to fall back on MediaTek for their consumer smartphones, which would be quite an interesting combination and a tremendous opportunity for MediaTek – all assuming there’s no regulatory troubles or hurdles.
As for OPPO’s Reno line-up
The conundrum with writing about these phones as a western publication is that I have to make a distinction of what’s available for most of our readers out there. In this regard, the international variants of the Reno3 and Reno3 Pro are just terribly bad value devices. The Helio P95 is simply a 2-year old SoC which had no business to be implemented in 2020 device. The focus market of these phones seems to be India where the Reno3 Pro is to be had for ₹28,000 (USD~375), which is still too much given its abysmal performance.
The Chinese Reno3 can be had in China for ￥2699.00 (USD~387) and offers tremendously better value as a device thanks to the Dimensity 1000L chipset. It’s just a pity that’s it’s not officially available anywhere else, and that it’s also being phased out in favour of newer models.
Finally, the Reno3 Pro 5G is interesting, and it’s actually a pretty great device all in all. In terms of polish as a device, it’s clearly above the other Reno phones, but also comes at an increased cost of around USD 520. In Europe and other markets, it’s also officially available as the Find X2 Neo, but the price here lands in at 635€ at the time of writing. The issue I have here is I think that’s also too expensive given what it delivers – less performance than comparable devices at this price-range. Other than its metal body, it’s also being outshone in value by the OnePlus Nord – essentially its cousin that is most likely manufactured in the same factory or even the same production line, but only comes in at a more reasonable 399€.