GPU launch season is open! NVIDIA has just revealed its Tegra 3 system on a chip (SoC), which comes equipped with a graphics processor that is theoretically 3X faster than Tegra 2. Today, ARM announces its Mali-T658 GPU, a new design that ARM says is 10X faster than today’s ARM Mali 400MP which can be found in the original Samsung Galaxy S2 Exynos chip.

To give you a rough idea of how fast Mali 400MP is, it just about as fast as Tegra 2 in GLBenchmark 2.0 Pro, and it is much faster than Tegra 2 in the Nenamark 2 benchmark (see my GS2 review). So, multiply that by 10 and this is… really fast. The catch is: it’s not going to be out as a product until 2013! ARM why are you playing with our emotions like that?By then, Qualcomm, NVIDIA and other mobile GPU vendors will have new GPUs. For instance, NVIDIA’s roadmap shows that in 2014 their “Stark” (as in Tony Stark) chip will be 100X faster than Tegra 2, and in 2013 the “Logan” (as in Wolverine) chip may be 50X faster than Tegra 2.

Obviously, talk is cheap, and only independent benchmarks can settle this, but I really like how hot the mobile graphics space is getting. Arm Says that the Mali T658 can have as much as 256 GFops* of computing power, which is just above what the Sony Cell processor of the PlayStation 3 can do – at a much higher power consumption level.

ARM believes that tablets and smartphones would be the main target for its chip, but Smart TVs could also be great candidates. Who knows what Windows 8 and ARM-based PCs can do by then. Interestingly, ARM executives have hinted that non-graphics computing will become increasingly important.

Note that ARM does not produce its own chip. Instead, it sells some intellectual property (the design) to third party companies. For example, virtually every smartphone chip vendor uses an ARM CPU core. However, some like NVIDIA and Qualcomm build their own graphics processing modules. [press release, product page]

*FLOPS stand for “FLoating Point Operations Per Second”, it’s a useful metric for scientific computations. Gigaflops is a billion flops.

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