According to analysts at UBS (via Barron's), many Chinese smartphone vendors are set to switch from Qualcomm's (NASDAQ:QCOM) MSM8939 processor to MediaTek's MT6752 processor in upcoming smartphone designs. The UBS analysts claim this is because Qualcomm's design is inferior to MediaTek's.

It's worth digging in to see whether this claim holds up.

Comparing the key features of both chips
In the table below, I have listed the key specifications of both chips in order to provide a better sense of their capabilities:


Qualcomm MSM 8939 

MediaTek MT6752 


4x ARM (NASDAQ: ARMH) Cortex A53 @ 1.7GHz + 4x ARM Cortex A53 @ 1.0GHz

8x ARM Cortex A53 @ 1.7GHz


Qualcomm Adreno 405

ARM Mali-T760


1080p60 Playback using H.264 and H.265 (HEVC); 1080p30 capture with H.264

"H.265 Ultra HD video playback" (no additional details on MediaTek's website)


Up to 21MP camera support

Up to 16MP camera support


Cat. 4 LTE support (150Mbs)

Cat. 4 LTE support (150Mbps)




Sources: Qualcomm and MediaTek product pages.

Right off the bat, I can see where UBS is coming from: The MediaTek chip has eight cores that can run at 1.7GHz, while Qualcomm's is an awkward configuration in which half the cores can run at 1.7GHz and the other half run at just 1.0GHz.

The two chips are probably evenly matched in multimedia capabilities (although I wish MediaTek would provide further details about the H.265 playback capabilities of the MT6752) and in modem speeds. Qualcomm's chip seems to have the edge in connectivity support (802.11ac versus the older 802.11n Wi-Fi standard) and in high-resolution camera support.

The open question, then, is how does Qualcomm's Adreno 405 compare with the Mali-T760 graphics processor found inside the MediaTek chip?

Looks like a win in MediaTek's favor compared the Adreno 405 in the Snapdragon 615 with the Mali-T760 in the MediaTek chip. One graphics benchmark showed the Adreno 405 and Mali-T760 evenly matched in 2D graphics performance, but the Mali-T760 edged out the Adreno 405 in 3D graphics performance. In CPU performance, the MediaTek chip predictably pulled ahead of the Snapdragon 615.

The UBS analysts appear correct
It seems to me the UBS analysts are correct in their assessment that the MediaTek MT6752 has a superior performing architecture to the Snapdragon 615. I would not be surprised if UBS was also correct in claiming Qualcomm is losing designs in the midrange of the smartphone market to MediaTek. In fact, Qualcomm's CEO Steve Mollenkopf pretty much admitted as such on its most recent earnings call [emphasis mine]:

And thirdly, although we had a very strong competitive position exiting fiscal 2014, we are seeing heightened competition in China at the mid and high tiers. We are continuing to gain share year-over-year with OEMs based in China, but not at the pace we had previously expected. This is in part due to some product challenges with one of our chips in meeting some of the more demanding design points of those tiers. This has provided an opening to competitors who are being very aggressive in order to establish a position in the marketplace, resulting in more pricing pressure than previously expected.

Given that Qualcomm announced the Snapdragon 610/615 for the midrange of the market in February 2014, I'd expect the company to announce their successors (as well as the rest of the Snapdragon lineup) at the Mobile World Congress early next month. Perhaps that will give Qualcomm a chance to strike back against MediaTek.