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Mali-G76 GPU Boosts Area Efficiency

July 9, 2019

Author: Linley Gwennap

Arm has been working hard to improve its Mali GPUs, and that work is paying off. The intellectual-property (IP) vendor touted 30% greater performance per unit area for its Mali-G76, but our analysis of the initial G76-based products reveals nearly a 40% gain. The G76 employs a much more powerful shader that enables SoC designers to instantiate fewer cores even while increasing performance. For example, Samsung shifted from an 18-core Mali-G72 in last year’s Exynos 9810 to a 12-core Mali-G76 in the more recent Exynos 9820. The new cores are thus more efficient than the previous smaller ones.

Arm may be onto something; other GPU designers get better efficiency by using even fewer, more powerful shader cores. Apple’s most recent GPU employs eight cores, arranged in four dual-core clusters, that consume less total area than the 12-core Mali. The smallest of these premium GPUs is Qualcomm’s Adreno 640, which has only four shader cores. Yet all three designs offer similar graphics performance, implying that fewer cores is better.

Qualcomm continues to benefit from the industry-leading area efficiency of its Adreno GPUs. After a big gain in its sixth-generation architecture, it squeezed out a smaller gain in the Adreno 640. That GPU still surpasses Mali’s efficiency by 89% and delivers 55% better efficiency than Apple’s A12. Given the minor changes to its base architecture, the A12’s efficiency rose only slightly. The move from six to eight shader cores provides a small efficiency gain by distributing the GPU-common overhead across more cores. 

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