Your next phone might not have a Snapdragon processor, and that's a big deal

Mediatek Logo next to a building
Mediatek Logo next to a building (Image credit: Android Central)

MediaTek doesn't get a lot of press from western technology journalists. It makes plenty of budget-minded chips for companies looking to build entry-level devices, but outside of a few phones or Chromebooks, we rarely hear about any products powered by MediaTek SoCs.

Many expected that to change in 2020 when MediaTek announced the Dimensity 1000. This type of chip was a first for the company and it clearly was designed to go head to head with Qualcomm. The Dminesity 1000 is an octa-core 7nm chip complete with an integrated wireless package that includes Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.1, and Sub-6 5G in Stand-alone and Non-Stand-Alone configurations.

The Dimensity 1000 compares favorably to Qualcomm's high-end Snapdragon line.

Several companies did use the new chip from MediaTek, but none of them are exactly household names in the west. And as pointed out by AnandTech, the chip offers performance on par with Snapdragon chips. Not too shabby for an SoC that promises to use 40% less power than the Snapdragon 855 it competed with when launched.

MediaTek suggested that we would see a worldwide release of the Dimensity 1000 in 2020. We didn't, but there are several valid reasons why it may have played out that way. The COVID-19 pandemic brought the entire industry to a halt for several months, or maybe smartphone makers just didn't want to gamble on MediaTek; we've all seen products that don't live up to the hype written in a press release.

Perhaps the most logical explanation was that MediaTek was playing it safe. The company may have worked with Chinese phone makers to get the Dimensity line out into the world to see how things went outside of the testing lab. If the price was right, smartphone manufacturers would gladly take a new high-performance chip to test in a budget or mid-range phone. If it was a success, everybody wins. If not, customers would chalk it up to buying a "cheap" phone.

MediaTek Dimensity 1000

Source: MediaTek (Image credit: Source: MediaTek)

We will probably never see a name-brand phone using a Dimensity 5G chipset released in North America. North America's network system and patent system belong to Qualcomm and that's not likely to change any time soon. But in places like Europe and the rest of the world, 2021 might be the year a Dimensity high-end chip makes a big splash.

Early adopters may need some convincing if flagship phones ship without a Snapdragon.

This depends largely on phone makers, though. MediaTek carries a reputation as a company that makes decent and affordable SoCs for low-end products, and manufacturers of tech products know that early adopters are aware of just that. If companies feel that smartphone enthusiasts aren't likely to buy a product with a MediaTek chip, it may not be worth the risk to release them.

If the opposite is true and there is enough buzz around MediaTek's 2021 lineup, it could be the start of a shift in the industry. Qualcomm owns the high-end market. Samsung, Xiaomi, LG, Motorola, and every other company know that a Snapdragon will perform as advertised and create more happy customers. We've all heard the complaints when Samsung releases a Galaxy phone using its own Exynos chips and a big part of that is that customers want to see a Snapdragon inside.

With Samsung out of the picture, we need a number two in the mobile SoC playing field.

Samsung has basically admitted defeat and is rejiggering its Exynos fabrication plans because Qualcomm is so dominant. We need a number two to keep Qualcomm engineers working those long days to push out chip designs that are amazing. With Samsung generally out of the picture, the number two is MediaTek.

The Dimensity line probably won't be able to compete with Qualcomm's incredible Snapdragon 700 series when it comes to performance versus value, but it could pleasantly surprise us all when it comes to those expensive flagships. If 2021's Dimensity 1000 successor continues the trend of being powerful and affordable, we might find out.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

  • My phone has an Exynos and it works just fine. Samsung A51 5G and absolutely zero complaints.
  • Same, unfortunately. I don't know how they compare at lower tiers like the A51, but for the flagships the Exynos just isn't competitive.
  • I'm just waiting for all the Chinese hate. I'd love to give a Dimensity 1000+ phone a try. But it'll be a long time, probably never when I see one in the US with flagship specs.
  • I really hope MediaTek do step up. Qualcomm really needs some competition. Until the US government unfairly sanction them to death for no reason besides jingoism and greed.
  • "The Dimensity line probably won't be able to compete with Qualcomm's incredible Snapdragon 700 series when it comes to performance versus value..." I don't really understand this one Jerry, it seems the Dimensity 820 outperforms the 765/G in just about everything as evidenced by the Redmi 10X's performance, and it would appear to have the value edge as well!?!
  • I completely agree. The benchmarks and reviews out there have proven that any misgivings or reservations regarding the 800+ series are unfounded and completely rebutted. The Redmi 10X, not even the pro version, is stalwart proof of that fact.
  • It is hard for me personally to trust the benchmarks on Mediatek devices. They have been caught cheating them too many times:
  • I feel disgusting saying this but I will switch to Apple before I use a MediaTek "powered" device.
  • Qualcomm needs some competition. Although they make some good stuff (SD 810 excepted), and the incremental changes are often insignificant (845 faster than 855 depending on optimization), the big issue is price gouging and driving up prices of phones.
  • It's funny, the government is up in arms about Google being a monopoly, but yet they don't say boo about Qualcomm. I wonder if they have a larger market share in the US phone industry than Google has in search.
  • The other thing MediaTek needs to do is ensure ongoing support for future versions of Android without companies having to pay out the nose for it.
  • I have a galaxy note 10+, with an Exynos SOC, it runs very well, never heats, never lags, does not close background apps or services, well, it is an excellent device, in no way I would complain about paying the same as the snap version, why would I? The differences are really marginal, I accept that the snap is better, but, just a little bit, some minutes more on battery life, 1 or two seconds for the time to open apps, what else? Heat management? My device has never lagged or stuttered because of throttling, in any way noticeable, that is, all the complaints, rantings, gripes etc, come mainly from geeks obsessed with numbers, benchmarks, thermal tables, blah, blah, blah, in real life, it is hardly noticeable to really suffer all "the first world problems" these geekie boys are rabid about
  • When there is a comparison between Exynos, Mediatek and Snapdragon chipsets, I think with the new Dimensity series, MediaTek enjoys an edge over its other two counterparts. Mediatek is here to give a strong competition, especially to Snapdragon in terms of offering better, faster and cheaper 5G enabled smartphones.
  • I think this is something that was expected to happen. Although it is true that we will porbably not see a Mediatek powered smartphone in a name-brand company anytime soon in NorthAmerica, Mediatek will however be successful in setting up a considerable consumer base in Europe with their Dimensity series. This 5G series has the power along with the aspect of affordability and it has already proven to be better than the Snapdragon 700G series so far.
  • No that's not a big deal. Mediatek is doing fairly well and I think it is capable of outperforming Snapdragon in some time.
  • Not for me. I am quite happy with my MediaTek Helio G90T processor and this is the best gaming smartphone I have used till now.
  • Not me, the next phone I’ll get will be powered by an Apple A series chip which are superior to both Qualcomm and MediaTek.
  • Dimensity dominates the mid range chips performance AND value.