The ARM vs. Imagination IP battle has moved into the realm of video processor cores for 4K streams, but there is at least one other competitor present.
LONDON – We are used to processor IP companies ARM and Imagination battling to gain design wins for their CPU and GPU cores, but now the contest has moved into the realm of video rendering.
At the beginning of June ARM announced it was moving into video processor cores with the Mali-V500 as a complement to its Mali graphics processors. Meanwhile video rendering is something Imagination has done for some time and spanning many standards. But as ARM starts trying to compete there are significant differences in approach between the two companies.
The Mali-V500 is a multicore video solution that combines encoding and decoding in one core and scales from a single core capable of 1080p/60 frames per second encode and decode to multiple cores supporting 4K video at 120 frames per second.
It supports the H.264, H.263, MPEG4, MPEG2, VC-1/WMV, Real, and VP8 standards; but the V500 does not provide support for coming standard -- the High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) standard otherwise known as MEPG-H part 2 or H.265. HEVC is being authored to double the available bit-stream compression compared with H.264, thereby saving power while supporting increased resolutions and image quality in the form of color depth.
But Imagination likes HEVC and is claiming it supports the standard with its latest video processor core. Its PowerVR Series5 multi-standard video cores also support resolutions up to and beyond 4K but has split encode and decode functions into separate cores. The PowerVR D5500 decoder core is based on a new architecture designed for the higher resolutions, frame rates, and bit rates of 4K ultra-high-definition video. It supports increased color depth with 10-bit precision, and the company claims to have the ability to decode an H.264 high-profile 1080p image data stream at 30 frames per second at a power consumption of about 10 milliwatts, when implemented in 28 nm silicon.
ARM has provided plenty of other hooks in its V500 that it reckons licensees will like. TrustZone compatibility provides support for digital rights management; and the purchasing of videos with lossless ARM Frame Buffer Compression (AFBC) can be used internally, halving memory-VPU bandwidth, and externally to half bandwidth to displays, which rather suggests ARM has a display controller core in the works.
But why no HEVC support?