MediaTek on Monday announced its newest silicon for top-tier Android phones, the Dimensity 9300. Along with incremental improvements to performance and battery life, the chip also adds something expected to be all the rage in 2024: on-device generative AI.

Phone manufacturers that build their own chips have been introducing AI features, like Google’s Tensor silicon enabling Magic Editor and Live Translation, but generative AI has become the new frontier for mobile AI.

MediaTek’s announcement comes weeks after Qualcomm revealed its Snapdragon 8 Gen 3, which is set to bring on-device generative AI to phones it powers, starting with the just-launched Xiaomi 14. This pits the two chip companies in a race to see which phonemakers will be excited enough by either chip’s features. MediaTek expects the first phones with the Dimensity 9300 to launch soon.

Read more: I Could’ve Used Qualcomm’s ChatGPT-Like Phone AI on My Trip to Hawaii

As far as the chip’s capabilities go, MediaTek isn’t as bullish as Qualcomm on generative AI. Though the Dimensity 9300 seems to be in the ballpark of Snapdragon 8 Gen 3, MediaTek’s chip takes less than a second to generate a Stable Diffusion image and can run 7 billion parameter AI models at 20 tokens per second. It can also run 13 billion parameter models and up to a maximum 33 billion parameters with reduced tokens per second. Ultimately, this gives the chip a bit more longevity as more robust language models come into use.

Instead, MediaTek touted the Dimensity 9300 for its 46% better peak performance and 40% lower power needed to meet the performance on last year’s Dimensity 9200 chip. The new silicon also has 46% better ray tracing than its predecessor. MediaTek made a direct comparison to Qualcomm’s just-launched chip, saying the Dimensity 9300 scored over 7,600 in a real device on the benchmark Geekbench 6.0 compared to the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 scoring 7,501 in what MediaTek called a “lab environment.” CNET ran Geekbench 6 test on a sample smartphone with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 and found similar results.

One difference between the two chips is architecture. MediaTek’s Dimensity 9300 is a 4-nanometer plus TSMC with eight total cores: four X4 performance cores (one at 3.25GHz, three at 2.85GHz) and four Cortex A720 efficiency cores running at 2 GHz. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 is a 4-nanometer TSMC and has eight cores as well: one ultra performance core at 3.3GHz, five large performance cores (three at 3.2GHz and two at 3GHz) and two small efficiency cores at 2.3GHz. 

Another difference is which phones end up using either chip. Chinese manufacturers like Xiaomi and Vivo have used Dimensity chips in their premium handsets, but those selling devices in the US, like Samsung and Motorola, typically use Snapdragon chips for higher-end phones. While that could always change, MediaTek isn’t expecting to land big in the US this year, though it does see more opportunity for markets in Europe.

“We certainly feel we can deliver everything that a flagship needs and to meet the needs of US carriers,” said Finbarr Moynihan, lead of corporate marketing at MediaTek. “For the near term, we’re going to see China is going to be the most important market for these devices in the near term.” 

In addition to overall performance improvements, the Dimensity 9300 adds to camera capabilities with 16-object segmentation (changing lighting and focus for up to 16 objects), pixel-level autofocus, standalone optical image stabilization and more to help phones take better photos.

For foldables, the chip supports dual active displays at 4K up to 120Hz, along with Google Ultra HDR display support in Android 14. Connectivity improvements with MediaTek’s UltraSave 5G give 10% more power efficiency as well as extra range for Wi-Fi connectivity.

We’ll have to wait until we get a phone running the Dimensity 9300 to see if it lives up to its benchmark claims. But perhaps more interesting are what manufacturers will do with its generative AI capabilities — even if MediaTek is less interested in the new technology, device makers and users will want to see what’s possible in the next era of smartphones.

Editors’ note: CNET is using an AI engine to help create some stories. For more, see this post.

Watch this: Review: We Tested the Google Pixel 8 and Its AI Features

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