mali t658 1 ARM announces the Mali T658 GPU core

It's somewhat amusing when you consider how far ahead of actual product availability that ARM announces upcoming solutions, although as an IP only company ARM might not have a lot of direct competitors when it comes to its CPU cores, but today's upcoming GPU announcement is an entirely different kettle of fish. As ARM allows its partners to use whatever components and building blocks they want, ARM is competing with several companies when it comes the GPU cores in ARM based SoC's and as such the company needs to try and stay ahead of the competition.

It's somewhat amusing when you consider how far ahead of actual product availability that ARM announces upcoming solutions, although as an IP only company ARM might not have a lot of direct competitors when it comes to its CPU cores, but today's upcoming GPU announcement is an entirely different kettle of fish. As ARM allows its partners to use whatever components and building blocks they want, ARM is competing with several companies when it comes the GPU cores in ARM based SoC's and as such the company needs to try and stay ahead of the competition.

Its latest GPU related announcement is of a product that we're not likely to see in products until 2013, as ARM has another GPU core that will arrive ahead of the Mali-T658 called the Mali-T604 which is the replacement of the current Mali-400. The Mali-T604 is likely to end up in the first quad core Cortex-A9 SoC's built on 32 and 28nm and is based on a new architecture that ARM calls Midgard (based on Nordic mythology) whereas the Mali-400 was part of the Utgard architecture.

mali t658 1 ARM announces the Mali T658 GPU core

ARM claims that the Mali-T658 will offer up to 10 times the graphics performance compared to "mainstream Mali-400 MP implementations" although the company doesn't go into any greater explanation as to which kind of implementation it's referring to. The problem here is that the Mali-400 comes in single, dual and quad "core" configurations and if the Mali-T658 is 10 times as fast as what we're seeing in something like Samsung's implementation of the Mali-400 MP in its Exynos then we're looking at an incredibly powerful GPU, but if it's compared to a simpler implementation, then it won't be quite as impressive.

Furthermore, ARM is claiming four times the GPU compute performance compared to the Mali-T604 which is said to offer 68GFLOPS of compute performance in what's presumed to be a four core design at high clock speeds. That said, the Mali-T658 will be scalable to up to eight cores which looks pretty impressive right now, but we shouldn't forget the competition. Imagination Technologies PowerVR Series5XT GPU which is already available can scale to 16 cores, it's just a matter of someone implementing into an ARM based SoC.

mali t658 2 ARM announces the Mali T658 GPU core

As far as software support is concerned, ARM is claiming that the Mali-T658 will support DirectX 11, OpenGL ES, OpenVG, OpenCL, DirectCompute and Renderscript. That's most of the major API's and as far as software developers are concerned the good news here is that the Mali-T604 and Mali-T658 will use common drivers of which the end result should be better software compatibility and a quicker and easier transition to the new GPU core. ARM has listed Fujitsu, LG, Nufront and Samsung as its launch partners, although others are likely to follow once we get closer to actual products.

In related news, Samsung has announced that it has licensed Imagination Technologies PowerVR SGX MP core technology. As to what this means in the long term will be interesting to see, but it suggests that Samsung is trying to make sure it can offer the best GPU core possible with whatever next generation ARM based SoC the company is working on. There's no doubt that the ARM space is where it's happening at the moment and with Windows 8 expected to end up on quite a few ARM powered devices, it looks like we're got quite an interesting future ahead of us when it comes to low power mobile computing.

Source: ARM, Anandtech