With foldable becoming more “mainstream,” smartphone manufacturers follow Apple’s A and M series and Google’s new Tensor chipset in developing their in-house CPUs. Vivo launched its V1 image processor in the Vivo X70 series a few months ago, and now OPPO, a distant relative and rival, is following suit. On the other hand, OPPO has set a lofty objective of exceeding Google in computation photography and AI-powered image processing.
Smartphone cameras have become indispensable, and not simply because of their technology. While the image sensor and lenses collaborate to produce high-quality images, it is only half of the story. The laws of physics and product design limit camera hardware, but the software is almost endless, limited only by the silicon on which it operates.
Since its Pixel smartphone brand, Google has demonstrated that the correct software can accomplish seemingly amazing things with mediocre camera hardware. Indeed, only with the Pixel 6, Google finally decides to replace its camera modules. It was able to do so with confidence thanks to introducing a new Tensor processor for these phones.
Custom-made processors aren’t new, but they’ve been increasingly popular in recent years because of the high-profile success of Apple’s Silicon M laptop series. Even if on a far smaller scale than a full-fledged application processor, the current supply scarcity isn’t deterring phone makers from taking the risk. OPPO isn’t one to be left behind, and its new self-designed chipset appears to be a game-changer.
MariSilicon X by OPPO
The Neural Processing Unit (NPU) is the technical name for the company’s new processor, and its primary purpose is to provide the muscle for artificial intelligence and machine learning activities. In terms of processing power, the 6nm MariSilicon X, according to OPPO, is capable of 18 trillion operations per second (TOPS) with a power demand of 11.6 TOPS per watt. OPPO’s new CPU will be utilized for more than just general-purpose AI functions, though, with the company saying that it will also boost mobile photography.
Compared to other NPUs, the MariSilicon X’s design is slightly different due to mobile photography. For example, it has its image processing unit (ISP) and dedicated DDR memory with a bandwidth of 8.5 GB/s. These are designed to process enormous volumes of data quickly, particularly data from a phone’s camera.
The MariSilicon X, according to OPPO, is capable of real-time 4K 20-bit HDR processing of RAW data, demonstrating its number-crunching prowess. This could improve a phone’s Night Vision and noise reduction capabilities, even if the resolution is 4K. The phone maker also claims that the NPU works well with the RGBW image sensor unveiled in August, but no phone with such technology has yet been released. That could change in the first quarter of 2022 when the next Find X flagship — most likely the OPPO Find X4 — debuts with the RGBW sensor and the new MariSilicon X NPU.