ARM has introduced a new Mali graphics accelerator (GPU) boasting a fivefold performance improvement over existing chips, and aiming to bring high-performance graphics to smartphones, digital set-top boxes and in-car entertainment devices.
The first chips featuring the technology are not expected until the end of next year, and commercial products are not likely to arrive until 2012, the firm said.
The Mali-T604 is ARM's fourth generation GPU, and is a scalable multi-core design that raises the performance bar for visual computing in the consumer electronics space, according to ARM, while boosting energy efficiency by reducing the memory bandwidth by up to 30 per cent.
"We're targeting a significant uplift in graphics performance of about five times over the Mali-400, but adding this capability for visual computing across the CPU and GPU with support for Open Computing Language APIs," said Ian Smythe, director of marketing for ARM's Media Processor division.
The Mali-T604 design is not intended as a standalone GPU, but to fit inside a system-on-a-chip design alongside an ARM processor, such as the multi-core Cortex-A15 design announced in September.
Smythe explained that the Mali-T604 is largely similar to the Mali-400, with one to four shader cores, but that the internal architecture of the shader cores has been redesigned to achieve the performance increase.
"Moving forward we will see performance in the Mali family increase in an annual tick, all with backwards software compatibility," he said.
With an ARM CPU and Mali-T604 GPU, future processors are expected to power devices from smartphones right up to high-end digital televisions with full 1080p resolution, according to ARM.
"The combination of CPU and GPU is about overcoming the lack of memory bandwidth in embedded systems," explained Smythe.
"We're not trying to match up against the capabilities of PC graphics cards, but perhaps put the performance of a PC from a few years ago into embedded systems."
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