ARM has unveiled a pair of Mali GPU designs intended to complement ARM CPU cores in system on a chip (SoC) processors for smartphones and tablets, offering double the graphics performance for next-generation devices.
The ARM Mali-T760 and Mali-T720 are the latest in the firm's GPU designs, following the second generation of Mali-T600 series last year and the Mali-T622 that accompanied its Cortex-A12 CPU core earlier this year.
Because ARM does not manufacture chips itself, the new GPU designs will be licensed to partner vendors who will combine them with components such as ARM's CPU cores to make SoCs for tablets and smartphones.
ARM said that the first SoCs with its new GPUs should be available by Q3 next year, with shipping devices using them by the end of 2014.
As the high-end design, the Mali-T760 is the first ARM GPU to scale up to 16 graphics cores, double that of the previous generation, and is expected to be capable of 326.4GFlops of compute power.
It is intended to deliver a step up in graphics performance for high-end tablets and smartphones, while also keeping power consumption low and staying within thermal constraints.
Meanwhile, the Mali-T720 is aimed at entry-level and mid-range devices and so its design is optimised instead for a reduced silicon footprint area and power consumption compared with earlier designs.
Nevertheless, it can be configured with up to eight shader cores, matching that of last year's high-end Mali-T678, for a compute performance of up to 81.6Gflops.
Steve Steele, product manager of ARM's Media Processing Division, told V3 that the firm looks not just at the power consumption of the GPU, but across the whole SoC design.
"If you look at a typical SoC, the big thing in the corner is the GPU. They require a lot of hardware resources to get the work done, so the GPU is a consideration that must be looked at first," he said. "However, we look at the CPU and the GPU in isolation, then consider at how to save power as those components are combined into the overall solution."
This is increasingly important as SoCs become more complex, and increasing screen resolutions and frame rates call for higher performance, according to Steele, especially as battery technology is not advancing at the same rate. "We have to deliver higher performance without pushing up power consumption," he added.
To this end, the new GPUs feature technologies called ARM Frame Buffer Compression (AFBC) and Smart Composition to reduce memory bandwidth utilisation. AFBC uses lossless compression on all transactions that go to and from external memory, according to Steele, including intermediate rendering steps.
Smart Composition builds on the existing transaction elimination technology in ARM's Mali GPUs, which already writes out only tile data that has changed. This is now extended so that multiple applications and the system user interface a can be intelligently composited and then output to the display buffer.
ARM said that the Mali-T760 would be a good fit for SoC designs based on its Cortex-A15 or Cortex-A53/Cortex-A57 64-bit cores. It is compliant with OpenGL ES 3.0 and Microsoft's Direct3D 11.1.
Meanwhile, the Mali-T720 would be best paired with Cortex-A7 or Cortex-A12 cores, according to ARM, although it is up to SoC designers how they combine it. The Mail-T720 is chiefly targeting Android devices with OpenGL ES 3.0 and RenderScript support for GPU compute.
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