ARM is perhaps best known for its Cortex A-series processor cores, which it licenses to system-on-a-chip makers, but the firm also has a strong presence in graphics. According to ARM VP and Media Processing chief Pete Hutton, shipments of silicon featuring ARM's Mali GPU designs have grown more than tenfold over the past couple of years—and Mali GPUs now power over 50% of Android tablets and over 20% of Android phones.
With that growth in mind, ARM has made two new additions to the Mali family. There's the Mali-T760, which is designed to deliver "unmatched" performance for high-end tablets and smartphones, and the Mali-T720, a "cost-optimized solution" aimed at "entry-level Android devices."
Although the T760 is aimed primarily at tablets and phones, it has a desktop-class feature set, including support for DirectX 11.1 feature level 11 and the ability to handle double-precision floating-point datatypes for GPU computing.
The Mali-T760 has up to 16 shader cores, twice as many as the previous generation, as well as higher performance per core. Also, ARM says it's improved energy efficiency by cutting bandwidth utilization both inside the GPU and between the GPU and the rest of the SoC.
ARM has taken steps to shorten time to market, as well. The Mali-T760 has "reduced wire count and layout congestion for larger core count implementations" thanks to the implementation of a switched fabric between the shader core and L2 caches. Development can be accelerated through the use of POP IP on TSMC's 28HPM and 16FF fabrication processes. (Those are, respectively, TSMC's 28-nm fab process for high-performance mobile applications and its 16-nm FinFET process. The 28-nm process is widely used today; TSMC announced last October that the first silicon based on its 16-nm FinFET process would tape out at the end of this year.)
Thanks to the extra shader cores, the use of 16-nm FinFETs, and tweaks to shader, texture, and memory ratios, ARM claims the T760 offers a power efficiency improvement of 400% over the older, four-core Mali-T604.
The Mali-T720 is a little less exciting. ARM describes it as a "cost-optimized solution" that's "derived from the market-leading Mali GPU found in the Samsung Galaxy Note 3." (The Galaxy Note 3 is powered by the Mali-T628, according to GSMArena.) The T720 features eight shader cores, and it supports OpenGL ES 3.0, OpenCL, and RenderScript programming interfaces, along with DirectX 11 feature set 9.3 for Windows RT (so basically the DX9 feature set).
ARM touts a 30% die-area reduction and a 50% performance increase for the T720 over the previous generation. Energy efficiency is claimed to be more than 150% higher than that of the Mali-400, as well. Like its faster sibling, the Mali-T720 can be implemented in silicon with the help of ARM's POP IP—though in this case, it looks like only TSMC's 28HPM process is supported.
ARM says three companies have already licensed the new Mali GPUs: MediaTek, Rockchip, and LG Electronics.