The big focus on day one of Oppo’s annual Inno Day technology showcase was imaging, with one of the most prominent reveals being the debut of the company’s first in-house image-centric NPU – the MariSilicon X.
Oppo teased the new chipset in the lead up to its Inno Day event, which kicked off on 14 December; with its first real-world application set to be inside the company’s next flagship Find X phone, slated to arrive sometime in Q1, 2022.
NPU stands for ‘neural processing unit’ – hardware purpose-built to carry out machine-learning-based computation – and in the case of the MariSilicon X, the lead 6nm NPU is paired to an ISP (image signal processor) and “multi-tier memory architecture,” which collectively handle advanced image processing, with a flair for AI-based tasks.
As a point of comparison, according to Oppo, the AI noise reduction algorithm that the company uses on its current 2021 flagship – the Find X3 Pro – runs 20 times faster when handled by the MariSilicon X. The new chipset also enables live preview when using Oppo’s 4K AI Night Video feature and, what’s more, it can handle real-time RAW image processing (which includes HDR data too).
Considering Oppo’s next top-tier phone (thought to be called the Oppo Find X4 Pro) is already confirmed to be running the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 mobile chip (which itself packs Qualcomm’s updated AI-supported Spectra ISP), Oppo must be particularly confident in the MariSilicon X’s abilities, in order to spend time and energy implementing its own standalone chip, alongside the integrated imaging hardware that the 8 Gen 1 already offers manufacturers.
Typically, a standalone chip usually results in a more significant power draw than an integrated solution, but Oppo hopes to assuage concerns by quoting a potential throughput of 18 TOPS (trillion operations per second), while only drawing 1W per 11.6 TOPS (or about 1.55W at that quoted 18 TOPS).
The ISP portion of the MariSilicon X allows for 20-bit image capture (up from 10-bit on the Find X3 Pro) with an expanded 120db dynamic range (four times broader than on the X3 Pro), which should offer one of the most noticeable improvements to image quality versus its predecessor; an area that the likes of Apple and Google have also paid particular attention to with the camera experiences on their latest phones.
Noise reduction in both images and videos also looks to be a particular focus for the MariSilicon X, with a promised “8dB signal-to-noise ratio for images” and – with regards to Oppo’s use of RGBW camera sensors in its most recent devices – support for “the separation and fusion of RGB and white signals to deliver an 8.6dB improvement in signal-to-noise ratio and a 1.7x improvement in texture quality, making images more expressive in both photos and videos.”
While Oppo was keen to showcase the benefits building their own purpose-made NPU/ISP brings to the table, we’re still left wondering just how much more the next Find X’s cameras will get out of the MariSilicon X rather than simply relying on Qualcomm’s integrated solution – which boasts its own 18-bit ISP, allowing for 8K HDR video capture for the first time on mobile – especially where power efficiency is concerned.
Day one of Oppo’s Inno Day event also played host to the first “assisted reality (aR)” headset, which it calls Air Glass.