At Computex 2016, The ARM Mali line of graphics processors (GPU) is getting a new addition in the high-end. With the Mali G71, ARM introduced a new premium GPU design that can is scalable enough to power handset to laptops In 2011, ~50M chips featured a Mali GPU. This number rose to ~750M units in 2015. Interestingly, 75% of them are used in televisions, 50% in tablets and 40% in smartphones. In the handset market, Qualcomm, Apple also hold significant shares of the market with their designs.
Mali G71, first to feature ARM’s Bifrost architecture
Literally at the core of this update, there’s a new architecture called Bifrost. The two details that ARM has been presenting so far reside in the energy efficiency in relation to the performance (+20% perf/Watt and +40% performance per square millimeter*) and the internal data communications between CPU and GPU cores (+20% bandwidth*). On top of this, support for the Vulkan API further increases the potential performance. *compared to Mali T880
The performance of GPU cores is increased by having more efficient internal local data storage instead of mainly using register files. ARM also thinks that compilers will have an easier time optimizing for this particular configuration. There are also features such as Index-driven vertex shading, which I suppose avoid redundant calculations, and Wire light pipeline, which ARM has yet to describe in detail.
Laptop-level performance and optimized for VR
We will have to wait for late 2016 or early 2017 to perform independent benchmarks, but ARM is confident that the Mali G71 can go head to head with an entry-level PC laptop GPU (such as the GeForce 940M, using GFXBench 4.0), at a much lower power level. The Mali G71 is scheduled to feature up to 32 shader cores (GPU cores).
ARM’s data also show that Mali G71 was designed for better VR performance: it supports screen refresh rates up to 120Hz and claims a 4ms graphics pipeline latency, although we need more details on this claim before commenting further. The big picture is that 20ms of overall latency (controler+app+graphics+display) is considered to be very good today. 120Hz is about 8ms, so we will see if VR mobile apps can effectively run with a much lower latency with Mali G71.
Additionally, G71 supports 4K screens and 4X multi-sample anti-aliasing, which is a way to smooth out visible pixels to avoid a “pixelated” look.