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Planned 8-way GPU geared for smartphones

Posted: 14 Nov 2011 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:image processing? augmented reality? GPU?

ARM Holdings plc has revealed the next core in its Mali line of GPU that is targeted to turn up in smartphone system-chips by 2013. The Mali-T658, according to the company, has double the number of arithmetic pipelines per shader core from two to four, and supports up to eight shader cores, compared with the Mali-T604's four shader cores.

ARM claims that the result is up to 10 times the graphics performance of Mali-400 GPUs found in mainstream consumer products in 40nm silicon and four times the GPU compute performance of the quad-core Mali-T604 GPU that is expected to appear in silicon next year.

Like its predecessor, the Mali-T658 is expected to perform some generalCpurpose computing on suitable applications. These include image processing, augmented reality or running physics engine software for games. ARM has had at least two more graphics cores on its graphics roadmap to take performance up and to the right.


Mali-T658 roll out in context of smartphones. Source: ARM

ARM said the Mali-T658 will give the company performance leadership over its rival graphics core licensor Imagination Technologies Group plc whose top-of-the-line GPU is a PowerVR Series 6 design, codenamed Rogue. "Imagination and Vivante; they are the competition," noted Ian Smythe, director of marketing for the media processing division at ARM.

However, ARM also claims that Mali in all its versions, with 57 licenses and 29 SoCs designed, is now the most widely licensed GPU architecture.

little-big in action
ARM emphasizes that with the Mali-T658 SoC designers are able to make use of a carefully crafted system-level approach to multicore design. That approach includes ARM Cortex processor cores, the little-big power efficiency technology and cache-coherent interconnect.

As a result, designers are expected to target high-end smartphones on 28nm silicon with quad-core Mali-T658 coming to market in 2013 and eight-cored Mali-T658 graphics units to be 20nm silicon in 2015. The core is also expected to find application in tablets, smart TVs and automotive infotainment systems.

The core has been made compatible with the recently announced A7-A15 little-big coupling so that as computation is moved on to the T658, it may accompany the movement of the core program down from the A15 to the A7, stated Jem Davies, VP of technology for the media processing division at ARM. The autonomous nature of the Mali Job Manager, and its ability to carry on graphics processing with a reduced load on the CPU, means it is suited to working alongside a big-little CPU system. By using the right processor for the right task, the Mali-T658 is able to handle GPU compute tasks in parallel with the CPU handling the always-on always-connected tasks. ARM CoreLink system IP enables system-level cache coherency across clusters of multicore processors, including the Cortex-A15 and Mali-T658.

In addition, the Mali-T658 is compatible with the ARMv8 full 64bit instruction-set architecture, as is the Mali-T604. ARM lead partners on the development of the Mali-T658 are listed as Fujitsu Semiconductor, LG Electronics, Nufront and Samsung.

The Mali-T658 GPU supports all popular graphics and compute APIs, including Microsoft DirectX 11, Khronos OpenGL ES, Open VG, Khronos OpenCL, Google Renderscript and Microsoft DirectCompute, ARM added.

- Peter Clarke
??EE Times

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