Although much of the excitement around Siggraph is on the high-end of computing, there is still much more in terms of graphics technology being announced and displayed, especially for the billions of mobile devices being shipped annually.
[ARM TechCon 2012, the largest ARM design ecosystem under one roof, is Oct. 30 - Nov. 1 in Santa Clara. Click here to check out agenda.]
In one such announcement, ARM introduced new additions to the Mali-T600 family of GPU cores. The new GPU cores build on the momentum of the current Mali-200 and Mali-400MP product families, which are estimated to exceed 100 million units in 2012 from 25 of the company’s 51 Mali licensees. This momentum includes a leading position in DTVs and growing shipments in smartphones and tablets.
While still awaiting shipments with the next generation of ARM-based application processors, the T600 product family was the first Mali generation that was closely developed with the ARM CPU cores and with growing demands of computing applications in mind.
According to ARM the T600 family is capable of supporting the rising standards of the mobile computing segment, such as video at 60 fps, 1080p resolution, and OpenCL for GPU acceleration. Although the T624 is specified as being configured with four shader cores and the T628 and T678 with eight, all three GPUs offer a range of shader core configurations. The T624 can scale from one to four cores, the T628 from four to eight cores, and the T678 from one to eight cores.
The major difference between the T628 and T678 is an increase in the number of arithmetic pipelines from two to four making it better suited for applications requiring OpenCL for parallel processing. According to ARM, the primary application for GPU acceleration in mobile devices today is photo processing. As the number of sensors and application utilizing sensors increase, however, so too will the potential for GPU acceleration.
Like the other products in the T600 product family, the new GPU cores will likely be linked with the future Cortex-A15, Cortex-A7, and V8 generations of 32-bit and 64-bit CPU cores. As a result, devices featuring the technology will likely not be into production until the 2014/2015 timeframe.
Thus far, there are eight licensees for the Mali-T600 product family, including Samsung which is using the Mali-400 in versions of its Exynos product family of processors.
Despite the current success, Mali still faces challenges from Imagination, the largest supplier of IP GPU cores for ARM-based processors, and other internal graphics solutions from leading semiconductor vendors, including Qualcomm, NVIDIA, and Broadcom. Nevertheless, with continued growth in mobile devices, continue dominance of the ARM architecture, and a tighter collaboration between the ARM CPU and GPU product teams, Mali is still positioned well for future growth if it continues to make gains with market leaders.-Jim McGregor is founder and principal analyst at TIRIAS Research