ARM intros next-gen Mali-T604 embedded GPU, Samsung first to get it (update: video)

Promising "visually rich user experiences not previously seen in consumer electronics devices," ARM has introduced its latest embedded GPU architecture, Mali-T604, at its Technology Conference 2010 in California today. Though we're unlikely to see it in devices any time soon, the introduction means that the new design is available to ARM licensees -- and notably, the company points out that partner Samsung will be the first to get hooked up. Considering Sammy competes in the high-end embedded system-on-chip space already with its ARM-based Hummingbird line of cores, adding in the Mali-T604 is probably the next logical step for them. ARM says that it's designed "specifically" with the needs of general purpose GPU computing in mind and includes extensive support both for OpenCL and DirectX, so look for some insane number-crunching capabilities on your next-generation phone, tablet, and set-top box. Follow the break for ARM's press release.

Update: We sat down with ARM's Jem Davies to get some more details about the new Mali, and discovered it's only the first of several potential next-gen GPUs to come as part of the Midgard platform -- while this particular processor is available with up to four shader cores, successors might have more. The T604 itself is no slouch, though, as it can theoretically deliver two to five times the performance of the company's existing Mali 400 GPUs core for core and clock for clock -- which themselves run circles around the PowerVR SGX 540 competition if you take ARM at its word. Davies told us that not only does the Mali-T604 do DirectX, it supports the game-friendly DirectX11 as well as the always-popular OpenGL ES 2.0, and will appear in an system-on-a-chip together with an ARM Cortex-A15 "Eagle" CPU, when both are eventually baked into silicon several years down the road. Of course, in the eyes of marketers the future is always now, so get a look at conceptual uses (hint: augmented reality) for ARM's new Mali right after the break.

Additional reporting by Sean Hollister

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ARM Heralds New Era In Embedded Graphics With Next-Generation Mali GPU

10 November 2010

Samsung first to gain access to new Mali graphics technology

SANTA CLARA, CA, USA – NOV.10, 2010 – ARM today introduced the ARM® Mali™-T604 Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) at the ARM Technology Conference 2010 in Santa Clara, bringing innovative and compelling visual computing to next generation consumer electronics devices. Delivering up to 5x performance improvement over current Mali graphics processors, the Mali-T604 provides industry-leading graphics performance with an energy-efficient profile. The Mali-T604 enables visually rich user experiences not previously seen in consumer electronics devices, scaling from smartphones to high-end digital entertainment systems. The Mali-T604 is currently available to license by lead partners. Samsung, who is already a licensee of the Mali graphic processor technology, will be the first ARM Partner who can gain access to the Mali-T604.

"Visual computing is driving the next generation of consumer electronics, as consumers and developers demand the highest levels of graphics performance", said Lance Howarth, EVP and general manager, Media Processing Division, ARM. "The tri-pipe architecture in the Mali-T604 provides both market leading compute functionality and high-performance graphics without compromise, enabling unequalled user experiences in energy-efficient consumer electronic devices."

The debut of the scalable, multicore Mali-T604 GPU raises the performance bar for visual computing in the consumer electronics space, including mobiles, tablets, DTVs and automotive infotainment. The innovative tri-pipe graphics architecture within the Mali-T604 GPU, addresses the ever-increasing computationally intensive demand inherent in next generation interactive user interfaces and gaming.

"Allegorithmic is excited by the announcement of Mali-T604 with its enhanced GPGPU capabilities which will make it possible for procedural content to be computed on the device, " said Dr Sébastien Deguy, Founder and CEO, Allegorithmic. " enabling higher-quality graphics, reduced memory bandwidth and footprint, and best of all, reduced energy consumption."

ARM's fourth-generation GPU is specifically designed to meet the needs of General Purpose computing on GPU (GPGPU) and extends API support to include full profile Khronos™ OpenCL™ and Microsoft® DirectX®. Support for GPGPU is becoming increasingly important for enhanced Augmented Reality applications and gesture recognition.

"Khronos congratulates ARM on the announcement of the Mali-T604 and its plan to support full profile OpenCL 1.1 on both ARMv7 CPUs and the GPU. The OpenCL 1.1 specification was announced by the Khronos organization in June 2010 and is a significant milestone in enabling GPU computing on embedded devices", said Neil Trevett, President of the Khronos Group and Chair of the OpenCL Working Group."Khronos is committed to the development and promotion of royalty-free, open standards that enable heterogeneous computing with portability across multiple vendors' silicon solutions, growing the total market for applications that use GPU compute technology."

The Mali-T604 brings innovative, patented techniques reducing memory bandwidth consumption, by up to 30%, substantially improving system level energy-efficiency. The Mali-T604 fully exploits ARM's Cache Coherent Interconnect (CCI-400) to deliver a memory coherent system with the recently announced Cortex™-A15 MPCore™. Bringing the key resources together into an optimized coherent system enables higher performance and more efficient data sharing, maximizing throughput in ARM compute sub-systems.

About Mali Graphics Technology
The Mali GPU family scales from the smallest GPU in the world through to scalable multicore solutions for high frame-rate HD devices. It is widely adopted, currently having 31 licensees and ships in a growing range of consumer electronics devices. Building on the heritage of Mali-400 MP, the Mali-T604 is ARM's fourth-generation GPU and is the first member of a new family of GPUs based on the Midgard architecture which all use a common software driver, minimising software upgrade costs for future implementations. The Mali-T604 delivers up to 5x performance improvement over previous Mali graphics processors and is specifically designed to meet the needs of General Purpose computing on GPU (GPGPU). Together with its comprehensive ecosystem of Partners, ARM is uniquely positioned to offer IP and tools which address the complete range of graphics development activities - from System-on-Chip integration and software development through to content creation and optimization.