Linley on Mobile
ARM Pumps Up Mali-T658November 28, 2011
Author: Kevin Krewell
Just a year after ARM introduced the first of its “Midgard” GPU-IP products, the Mali-T604, the company followed with a major upgrade. The new Mali-T658 will provide up to eight unified-shader cores and at least four times the floating-point performance of its predecessor. Considering the time between RTL release and production silicon can be up to 24 months, ARM expects to see first products using the T658 in 2H13.
Quickly increasing content complexity and new GPU compute applications are driving the need for ever better graphics performance in mobile devices. Display resolution and pixel density are rapidly increasing, with 720p HD displays now appearing in smartphones like the Galaxy Nexus and HTC Rezound.
The T658 design was tuned for more than graphics. To support GPU compute tasks, the shaders in this design support both single- and double-precision floating-point math. ARM sees the need for more GPU compute power—not just for graphics (games), but for user-interface augmentation, image processing, game physics, audio/voice processing, and cryptography. In general, the company believes that power-sensitive high-performance computing must be heterogeneous (mixing CPUs with GPUs), an approach that offers the most floating-point operations (flops) per watt in a given die area. Other vendors support this trend: the GPU silicon area in most new SoCs and PC-processor designs is growing faster than CPU die area. Over time, ARM expects its CPU and GPU IP to work together more closely.
ARM licenses the Mali-T658 IP for up to eight cores. Quad-core implementations should appear in 28nm and 32nm SoC designs shipping in 2H13. The Mali-T658 will support graphics APIs including Khronos OpenGL ES, Khronos OpenVG, and Microsoft DirectX 11. For compute workloads, ARM will support APIs including Google Renderscript, Khronos OpenCL, and Microsoft DirectCompute. To reduce customers’ time to market, the T658 and T604 use the same driver software.
ARM’s first public licensees for the T658 include Beijing Nufront, Fujitsu, LG Electronics, and Samsung. But Samsung is also a PowerVR licensee. With Samsung on the fence, ARM’s Mali still has a ways to go to match the customer list of rival Imagination Technologies.