arm-maliAt ARM TechCon conference in Silicon Valley, ARM has announced its new T700 series of graphics processor (GPU) which is set to be its fastest to date for high-end smartphones, with the T760 spearheading the line-up. ARM also talked about a T720 model that is aimed for mid-range/low-end devices and reminds that MediaTek, LG and Rockchip have already signed up, just to cite a few. You can expect many variants of these GPUs to show up, depending of the customer requirements in terms of number of cores, and frequency. Unfortunately, the number of cores alone is only useful when comparing GPUs from the same vendor since each chipmaker can have a different definition (if not “exotic”) for what a “core” is. The ARM Mali-T760 is compatible with OpenGL 3.0, OpenCL and RenderScript.

While we have yet to run any benchmarks, this promises to provide excellent performance (well, that is a new GPU after all!). That’s not too hard to guess, since graphics performance tends to go up almost linearly with more cores, but the more interesting part comes from ARM’s claim that the T760 is 400% more power-efficient than the older Mali-T640. In general this means that the new chip can drive many times the performance in the same power budget. Although this is a natural evolution for chips, it gives you an idea as for how fast graphics performance is rising even within a very strict power envelope.

That said, a lot of power-savings also come from architectural and algorithmic optimizations aimed at conserving bandwidth (remember that bandwidth costs a lot of power). That includes techniques like frame buffer compression (FBC), or avoiding refreshing elements that did not change (ARM calls this “Smart Composition”). On PC, graphics chip already use similar techniques, but mainly focused towards pure performance (Early Z out, Z-compression, frame buffer compression). On mobiles, the game is different because GPU vendors need to bias towards battery life rather than FPS.

The efforts seem to pay off for ARM: the company has announced that its Mali GPU shipments have increased by 10X just over the past two years, and it looks like ARM’s ride on the smartphone and tablet explosion is far from over. From the arrival of 4K, higher resolution displays and more demanding apps and games, the upgrade cycle for mobile will keep going strong.

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