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ARM reveals the Mali T720 GPU to help vendors get Android devices to market faster

Also unveils most powerful GPU yet, the T760 for more power and efficiency
Tue Oct 29 2013, 16:00
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CHIP DESIGNER ARM has unveiled additions to its Mali series of GPUs, the T760 for high performance smartphones and tablets, as well as the T720 GPU, which is focused on Android powered budget devices.

ARM's top of the range Mali T760 GPU brings more power with higher efficiency and reduced latency when compared to ARM's last flagship GPU, the T678.

Targeted at devices at the top end of the market, the Mali T760 GPU delivers what ARM touts as "unmatched levels of performance" within constrained thermal envelopes associated with high-end tablets and smartphones.

"The T760 takes graphics to a new performance point that hasn't been offered elsewhere in the mobile space," said ARM president of solutions marketing Trina Watt Vice.

The T600 series of GPU could scale up to eight cores. The top end graphics in mobile phones right now is the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, which has a Mali T628 GPU.

"The Mali T760 is able to scale up to 16 cores, which doubles the previous generation, so you can imagine the potential that it gives for mobile devices," Vice added.

The T760 has several features to help it achieve better performance in an energy efficient way. These include a reduction of internal system on chip (SoC) bandwidth to decrease energy consumption, enabled by ARM Frame Buffer Compression (AFBC) technology, and Smart Composition, which is said to deliver a 50 percent reduction in memory bandwidth usage.

The T760 also brings simpler implementation through reduced wire count and layout congestion for larger core count implementations, which should help bring it to market quicker.

The other GPU that ARM revealed today, the Mali T720 is designed for the mid-range smartphone market running the Android mobile operating system (OS). It's designed for SoC providers that are servicing high-growth markets, whose success depends on reduced time to market and lowering manufacturing costs.

ARM claims the main features of this GPU include a 150 percent energy efficiency increase over ARM's previous budget device GPU, the Mali 400 as well as faster implementations through high routing density and a simplified design. It also touts a 30 percent smaller die area, while apparently increasing graphics performance more than 50 percent over the firm's previous graphics processors.

"There's this rapid growth of entry level devices," said ARM graphics product manager Andy Loats. "Traditionally in the low cost feature phone market, we found that the vendors saved money by reducing the feature set meaning smaller screens, lesser CPUs and older generation OS so they could cut the costs."

"But we found that in [the] market, the smartphone vendors are targeting the latest operating systems that everyone else is supporting, and that forces them to do some things that they weren't doing before."

Loats explained that because these vendors are supporting the latest OS, they have to have a SoC that supports it and a capable CPU and GPU complex, as well as memory that can support it. They also have to have a radio build onto the die a sopposed to a seperate component. Because of that, this is forcing them to create and design these on newer process nodes.

"Only a few years ago, these partners were targeting 65 and 45 nanometre (nm) process nodes, but because they are trying to fit the CPU, GPU and memory onto a die that's still in the 5x5 or 6x6mm range, they all have to move to 28nm and we are seeing all of our partners moving to this size."

Loats said that the costs to develop these SoCs have essentially doubled and tripled, making these vendors extremely competitive on price.

"Our SoC partners might put the first one out on the market with a $15 ASP, and as soon as the second person comes on the market the price drops to $7 and within a month or two, they'll be at $5.

"What's interesting about that is, if you look at the break even point of a $60m design effort, you can see that for $5 you have to sell 20m units, which is a lot of units for this market for a single SoC vendor, so the only way to make money and capture profit is to be the first in the market."

As a result, ARM discovered that when making a GPU it isn't all about efficiency and performance, it's also about making a GPU that a partner can produce quickly.

"And that's what the 720 is all about, so when a partner takes it they can get it out at market very fast," Loats added.

Licensees for the new ARM Mali GPUs include Mediatek, Rockchip and LG Electronics, whose lead license was announced in May. µ


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