Today we have with us the MediaTek X20, courtesy of Seeed Studio. This $200 dev board comes in the 96boards form factor with all the bells and whistles, but before heading into specs, performance and features let’s take a look at the unboxing.
The box looked more like a box for a new smartphone rather than a dev board, in other words, pretty darn fancy for a development board. On two of the sides we have the mediaTek branding and on the two sides we have branding for archer mind, 96boards and linaro.
At the bottom we find two “Warranty void if removed” stickers for some reason, maybe they don’t give a crap about the board being destroyed. Anyways once we are through that we are welcomed by a quick start guide which lists most of the components on boards and the specs.
With that said the board is powered by a MediaTek Helio X20 SoC which has a 10 core CPU consisting of three clusters, the most power efficient cluster has quad cortex a53 cores clocked at 1.4ghz, a balanced cluster consisting of quad cortex a53 cores clocked at 1.85ghz and lastly the most powerful cluster containing dual cortex A-72 cores at up to 2.3ghz. And that was straight up the most complicated specsheet I’ve ever seen for an SoC from the CPU point of view. It als sports a Mali T-880 MP4 GPU.
Apart from that we have 2 gigabyte of LPDDR3 RAM and 8 gigabyte of EMMC storage. On the connectivity side we have dual band wifi, bluetooth and GPS on board.
Once we are done with that piece of paper we see another compartment that houses the actual board covered in some ESD protective packaging, we are also provided with for standoff screws which I thought were a nice addon. However I was not provided with a power supply, had I not had the power supply from the hkey 960 this review would have been very much delayed, but since it is not a part of the actual board I will not take it against the X20.
One the dev board is out of its protective package, we can clearly see the SoC and RAM in a Package on Package config. On the left we have the emmc and on the right we have the power management IC. On the extreme left we have the wifi bluetooth and GPS chipset all in one single package.
So now it’s time to add the stand offs and boot it for the first time… And, yes the pre installed version on Android boots in a weird letter boxed portrait mode, but a quick update to the latest version of android from the 96boards website and everything works as expected.
Talking about Android, the only version available is android 6.0 with kernel 3.18 and the last release was in november 2016, but with that said the full sourcecode is available to download and compile.
Before we get into the benchmarks let’s take look into the gpio, I wasn’t able to find much documentation to access gpio on the low speed heder but the on board led’s are user programmable.
Now let’s get to the benchmarks, I will be comparing the X20 with the Hikey 960 as both of them lie in the same price point, the X20 coming in at $200 and the Hikey960 coming in at $239 and both of the prices are taken from seeed studio at the time of recording this video. Now that I’m done feeling like Linustechtips of the Single Board computers, let’s take a look at the series benchmarks which would be done against the hikey 960 and an air cooled x20 with an aftermarket heatsink and fan added on separately since the hikey 960 already had the heat sink pre installed.
First we have geekbench with single core cpu performance, the hikey 960 tops with 1,731 points followed by the air cooled x20 with 1,637 and very closely by stock x20 with 1,610 points.
Next we have the geekbench multi-core cpu performance with the air cooled x20 marginally beating the hikey 960 with 4,759 point following by hikey 960 at 4,662 points and the stock x20 with just 3,559 points, here we can clearly see a significant performance boost due to enhanced cooling.
Then we have the Antutu benchmark where the hikey 960 takes the cake with 113,449 points followed by the air cooled x20 with half of that at 67,247 points and finally we have the stock x20 with a mere 56,212 points.
Now on to the more graphics oriented benchmarks with antutu 3d, we once again see the hikey960 dominate the scoreboard with 13 and 22 fps followed by the air cooled x20 with 4 and 4 and then stock x20 with 3 and 4 fps.
Then we have 3d mark slingshot with the hikey 960 at 1,333 points followed by the air cooled x20 with 651 points and the stock x20 at 622 points
Then finally we have GFXBench with the hikey960 at 11fps in car chase, 18fps in manhattan 3.1 and 47 fps in T-Rex. In this benchmark both the air cooled and stock X20 had the exact same result at 6.8, 15 and 35 fps in car chase, manhattan 3.1 and T-Rex respectively.
Also keep in mind that the graphic benchmarks were running at 720p on the x20 compared to 1080p on the hikey 960.
To conclude the benchmarks, overall the hikey 960 dominated the x20 air cooled or not, thanks to higher number of top tier cores as well as the hikey 960 having cortex a73 cores as opposed to a72 on the x20. On the gpu side of thing the hikey960 has a more powerful Mali G71 MP8
8 core gpu clocked at 1Ghz as opposed to the X20’s quad core Mali T880 MP4 clocked at 750mhz. The only exception being geekbench multi core benchmark which gets affected by too much heat being generated on the hikey 960 and the cpus being mostly under clocked.
Since both the hikey 960 and X20 are based on the 96boards platform, the basic layout and feature set are the same, so let’s take a look at some features that makes them unique.
The hikey 960 has more ram at 3 gigabytes compared to 2 gigabytes of the x20, and more storage at 32 gigabytes compared to just 8 gigabytes on the x20. Apart from that the hikey960 has usb 3 host compared to usb to on the x20. The hikey 960 also support pcie gen 3 expansion via an m.2 slot. But the x20 has an in built gps receiver.
So till now it seems the hikey 960 is a better but there is more that what meets the eye, there are certain advantages to the x20 that make it seem like a better competitor. One of the main advantage is that the x20 is a fully developed and stable platform, whereas the hikey 960 is under constant development on the os side of things, at the moments it is only supported on the master branch of Android open source project that is it is not stable and the kernel is under heavy development as well so the x20 is much better from a stability point of view.
Next up is the tri-cluster cpu design of the helio x20 soc which allows for more granular control over performance and efficiency making it a more power efficient solution than the hikey 960 along with generating lesser amount of heat.
So at the end of the day, the X20 is a pretty decent dev board, although it could have been 20-$50 cheaper and then it probably would have made a bit more sense.