SAN JOSE – ARM announced the first three members of the second generation of its Mali T600 graphics cores. The T624, 628 and 678 cores are the first to support Adaptive Scalable Texture Compression, a new specification simultaneously announced by the Khronos Group as part of a broad update of its graphics standards.
ASTC can enable higher image quality for a given level of compression or the same quality at using a higher compression rate. The specification supports a variety of texture formats at rates from eight down to less than one bit per pixel.
Under ASTC, “the encoding method is chosen independently for each block of pixels in the image, so that the coding adapts dynamically to most efficiently represent the image region-by-region,” according to a statement from Khronos which said the spec provides the best image quality and lower power consumption of all alternatives.
Competitors AMD, Imagination Technologies and Nvidia also praised the technology in a Khronos release, hinting at support in their future products. The three new ARM cores are available now, with the first handsets to use them expected to ship in the fall of 2013.
ARM also claims its cores are unique in supporting Khronos’ OpenCL Full Profile. OpenCL lets developers use graphics cores in parallel for intensive general-purpose computations.
By adopting the same Full Profile used in desktop apps, the new ARM cores ease the job of porting such apps to handset. Mobile developers are expected to use OpenCL for tasks such as voice and gesture recognition and computational photography for creating Photoshop-like effects.
The Mali-T624 has four shader blocks and a single memory management unit. The T628 and 678 have twice as many shaders and MMUs. ARM said the cores will offer 50 percent more performance in a smaller die area consuming less power than the first generation T600 cores released in November.
As detailed earlier this year, ARM said 12 partners shipped 48 million Mali cores in 2011 and it expects 25 partners will ship more than 100 million cores this year. Earlier estimates from market watchers gave Mali significantly lower numbers.
Separately, Khronos announced OpenGL ES 3.0, a backward-compatible updated to its widely used graphics APIs for embedded and mobile systems. The update supports a variety of new features including occlusion queries, transform feedback, instanced rendering and support for four or more rendering targets, Khronos said. It also includes an updated version of its shading language with full support for integer and 32-bit floating point operations and enhanced texturing functions.
Khronos also updated the desktop-oriented OpenGL standard to version 4.3, including some of the same new features in the new ES version.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.