18 5 月, 2024

Manufacturing

Processing Machinery

OPPO crosses the “Challenger’s Abyss” and bravely ventures into the “Deep Water Zone”

8 min read

The dividend of “retaliatory growth” and the migration of the global market from 4G to 5G have not brought significant improvement to the existing mobile phone industry. On the contrary, under the global semiconductor shortage, the industry’s trend of internal competition is becoming increasingly apparent.

Chinese mobile phone manufacturers are increasing their investment in hard technology. Among them, OPPO demonstrates a rare forward-looking approach in the industry.
Three years ago, OPPO founder and CEO Chen Mingyong announced at the first OPPO Future Technology Conference that OPPO would invest 50 billion yuan in research and development budget over the next three years. In addition to continuously focusing on cutting-edge technologies such as 5G, artificial intelligence, AR, and big data, OPPO also needed to build underlying hardware core technologies, software engineering, and system capabilities.
And on December 14-15, at the Third OPPO Future Technology Conference, it was named Mariana? The first self-developed OPPO chip of MariSilicon X (hereinafter referred to as “Mariana X”) has been unveiled and will enter the stage of market validation in the first quarter of 2022. Chen Mingyong has fulfilled his lofty promise three years ago.
OPPO Leaps Over the Challenger Abyss
But more importantly, this marks that OPPO has begun to have a technology core that is deep and hard enough to create a grand future when considering the future of the integration of all things.

OPPO Leaps Over the Challenger Abyss
There is a “core” that refuses to roll in

Taking the first self-developed chip, OPPO pointed the Mariana X towards an NPU chip specifically designed for imaging. Why?
In today’s increasingly homogenized mobile phone industry, mobile imaging is widely recognized as one of the few product directions that still have sufficient development space. In fact, observing the consumption behavior of mobile phone products, it is not difficult to find that due to the popularity of short video content, higher requirements for mobile phone image performance are also more directly put forward.
Especially when implementing the processing of massive data with 4K or higher definition, the current hardware performance of mobile phones is still insufficient. Compared to larger cameras, mobile phones are limited in size and cannot fit larger specifications of hardware into limited space.
Therefore, it is necessary to use the support of algorithms to introduce AI algorithms into imaging in order to significantly improve the actual experience of imaging, and “computing imaging” also puts higher requirements on the computing power of mobile hardware.
However, the vertical integration of mobile imaging links is one of the most challenging technological areas in the mobile phone industry, which is precisely why OPPO needs to firmly dive into the “Mariana” market.
At present, although some manufacturers have launched ISP chips specifically designed for mobile imaging in the market, there is still a problem of insufficient computing power under this framework, whether it is integrated into SoC or independent of the motherboard ISP chips.
It is precisely by anticipating various limitations that OPPO is determined to “solve core problems with core technologies”.
Our self-developed dedicated NPU can maximize the solution to computing power and energy efficiency issues, “explained Jiang Bo, senior director of OPPO products. As a chip specifically designed for mobile imaging, the Mariana X and SoC together form the” left and right brain “of mobile phone core computing.
OPPO Leaps Over the Challenger Abyss
Of course, the outcome is always much easier than the process sounds.
In fact, mobile imaging cannot achieve the expected results by specialized research on a specific hardware or algorithm. This is a systematic engineering process with a long link, from front-end sensors and lenses to ISP chips responsible for image processing, to later tuning and optimization, all of which require deep cooperation.
Over the past decade, OPPO has accumulated extensive experience in customizing image sensors, camera modules, and lenses, as well as in AI algorithms. The launch of the self-developed NPU chip means that OPPO has become one of the few terminal manufacturers that truly redesigns the full image link.
The reason why Mariana X can break through is because it reshapes the image link of mobile phones, elevating the AI calculation that is usually completed in the backend to the front-end RAW domain with more original information, reducing the loss of information details caused by multiple conversions of traditional links, and striving to achieve the best image effect.
Under the combination of multiple technologies, the OPPO Mariana X chip can achieve night view videos in the 4K+20bit RAW+AI+Ultra HDR specifications, which has reached the new limit of mobile phone imaging computing power.
The Mariana X image processing unit supports a processing bit width of up to 20bit and supports 20bit Ultra HDR, which is four times the current flagship platform’s HDR capability. In real-time rendering, the brightness contrast between the brightest and darkest areas reaches an extreme value of 1 million to 1.
It is precisely because of the presentation of products with such powerful technological applications that OPPO firmly believes that the dedicated NPU for imaging will drive “one machine, two cores” to become the future development direction of mobile imaging.
OPPO Leaps Over the Challenger Abyss
Bravely explore the “deep water zone”
The breakthrough in self-developed chips is a major step for OPPO to venture into the deep waters of hard technology.
In the construction of system capabilities for hardware, software, and server collaboration, breakthroughs in underlying core technologies are an important prerequisite. Therefore, the launch of Mariana X will elevate OPPO’s technological competitiveness to a new dimension.
In terms of future innovation direction, OPPO has proposed the “3+N+X” strategy, where “3” represents hardware basic technology, software basic technology, and service basic technology; “N” represents the capability center, including interconnectivity, multimedia, artificial intelligence, and security privacy, while “X” represents differentiated technologies, including flash charging, imaging, new forms, and AR augmented reality technology.
In 2019, we said we needed to have the courage to grind a sword for ten years and bravely step into the research and development of deep water areas, which took three years. Now I can say that the first step we took into the deep water area was this chip, “Chen Mingyong said.
OPPO Leaps Over the Challenger Abyss
Do OPPO “core making” have to be self-developed?
Long ago, OPPO realized that “time differences” and “intergenerational differences” can lead to differences in software, hardware, and even service collaboration, and these differences may be key opportunities for manufacturers to achieve differentiation in the internal market.
There is no NPU on the market that can meet OPPO’s scenarios, algorithms, and achieve the expected optimal solution. Through self-developed Mariana X, we have achieved deep coupling between OPPO’s self-developed algorithms and chips. The image chain is optimized from sensor customization to receiving processing, and then to image processing chain optimization, which maximizes and optimizes the performance of the algorithm on the NPU
As Jiang Bo said, this is OPPO’s differentiated advantage as a mobile terminal manufacturer.
In 2018, OPPO officially established a research institute to increase efforts in the field of underlying technology research. In addition to the chip project “Mariana Plan”, software engineering and cloud service capacity building are named “Pantanal Plan” and “Amazon Plan” to build a full set of underlying capabilities.
OPPO Leaps Over the Challenger Abyss
6nm ‘watershed’
This “advantage” is difficult to smooth out in a short period of time, as OPPO adopted a “saturated” stacking approach in the design of the Mariana X, and what is even more surprising is that OPPO challenged the 6nm high process technology at its first attempt.
The 6nm process technology needs to be improved in terms of ecology, making research and development more difficult. It takes 6 to 9 months longer than mature processes, and 6nm requires more high-end EUV lithography technology. Compared to low process processes, the DUV lithography technology used is more expensive, reaching a level of tens of millions of dollars, 2 to 3 times higher than 12nm, and the cost of a single test chip is as high as 100 million yuan.
In such a difficult and high-risk situation, OPPO is committed to addressing the pain and value points on the user side without hesitation.
The successful mass production and commercial use of the Mariana X has given OPPO a good start on the path of self-developed chips. At present, there are only four manufacturers in China capable of designing 6nm process chips – Huawei Hisense, MediaTek, Alibaba, and OPPO.
It can be said that OPPO, which successfully conquered the 6nm process, has obtained admission tickets to advanced manufacturing processes, and the chips are manufactured by TSMC, which means that OPPO is likely to have entered TSMC’s strategic customer list. This is actually recognition of the design strength of OPPO chips.
A technology company cannot have a future without its underlying core technology, and high-end products without core technology are even more castles in the air, “Chen Mingyong had previously stated.
And technological breakthroughs will also drive OPPO to launch a new round of challenges towards high-end products. The opening work of this decade long image will also be used on the flagship new product of the Find X series in the first quarter of next year.
In addition to self-developed chips, the OPPO Air Glass also catches the eye with its lightweight appearance and cool experience.
OPPO Leaps Over the Challenger Abyss

Among them, OPPO Air Glass belongs to the category of products representing the differentiation ability “X” mentioned above. Prior to this, OPPO has launched two generations of AR products. This new generation of products has completed the transformation from toys to tools. OPPO has its own understanding of such products: for auxiliary display products, information is the pain point that users are most eager to break through, and the product needs to be easy to use and practical.
Mariana X is just a small step for us, and our footsteps will not stop. We will continue to invest resources, use a team of thousands of people, and work hard to develop our own chips. No matter how many challenges lie ahead, we will persevere and remain steadfast. “At this year’s Future Technology Conference, Chen Mingyong’s statement clearly gave OPPO a more determined outlook on continuing to explore deep technology areas.
In the era of internal competition, OPPO did not follow the trend, but instead returned to its original intention and used key technologies to solve key problems. Even in the face of high-risk uncertainty, it remained steadfast in its commitment and was not afraid to go far on the right path.