ARM’s VR-ready CPU, GPU to revive smartphone demand

Article By : Alan Patterson

According to the VP of marketing of ARM, the Mali-G71 processor is up to the task of augmented reality and virtual reality on smartphones and is expected to be released by the end of 2016 or early 2017.

ARM announced its Mali-G71 graphics processor and the Cortex-A73 at the Computex electronics show in Taipei last Monday (May 30). While there are signs that demand for smartphones may have peaked earlier this year, ARM still sees plenty of upside in the handheld devices that have already doubled the number of personal computers in the marketplace.

ARM expects smartphones using the Mali-G71 made with 10nm process technology from Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSMC) to be on the market by the end of this year or early next year, according to Nandan Nayampally, vice president of marketing and strategy for compute products at ARM.

The Mali-G71 should be up to the task of augmented reality and virtual reality on smartphones, Nayampally said at a press event in Taipei. While using almost an order of magnitude less power, the performance of the latest version of Mali on a smartphone will be on a par with a mid-range laptop GPU. A Mali-G71 based SoC will run on about three watts compared with 25 watts for a typical laptop SoC, according to Nayampally.

Chip vendors including HiSilicon, MediaTek and Samsung Electronics have taken Mali-G71 licensees. ARM said that there are 10 licensees of the Cortex-A73 and nine for the Mali-G71.

MediaTek said it expects to have 10nm products using the new ARM cores on the market during the first half of 2017.

"MediaTek customers are building premium experience devices with more demands on power and performance than ever before," said Rolly Chang, corporate vice president and general manager of wireless communication business unit at MediaTek. "Partnering with ARM ensures our SoC designs deliver uncompromised premium experiences in next-generation mobile devices."

The new Mali core enables a 50 per cent increase in graphics performance, a 20 per cent increase in power-efficiency and 40 per cent more performance per square millimeter, according to ARM.

Bifrost, the third-generation ARM GPU architecture, is the foundation of the Mali-G71. The architecture is optimised for Vulkan and other industry-standard APIs, building on innovations from the previous Utgard and Midgard architectures.

At under 0.65 square millimeters per core on a 10nm FinFET process technology, the Cortex-A73 is the smallest and most efficient 'big' ARMv8-A core, the company said. Its advanced mobile microarchitecture enables a 30% improvement in sustained performance and power efficiency over the Cortex-A72.

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