The rate of change in technology has accelerated in recent years: modern smartphones are approaching if not already surpassing generation-old consoles in terms of graphical abilities and we've rumors that 2015 flagship devices are getting 4K screens. I'm not sure how many specification battlelines are being drawn up: if it isn't the push into 64-bit computing, it's the push into ever higher screen resolutions and more powerful, but also more efficient, mobile GPUs. Indeed, this is the focus of ARM's new Mali announcement: they're promoting more efficient hardware and higher performance. And so today I bring you news that ARM have announced a new Mali GPU family, the 800 series.
Mali should be a familiar name to many of us who have been interested in Android devices as their GPU chipsets have been inside several flagship devices; a great example is the Samsung Galaxy S III, which paired up the Mali-400 GPU with the Samsung Exynos quad core processor. The Mali-400 is still being used today; it may be a few years old but it's still perfectly capable. ARM's new Mali-800 series of mobile GPUs is joined by the Mali-V550 video accelerator and the Mali-DP550 display process. Let's take a look at these new products, due "early 2015."
I'll write about the Mali-800 series first, as there are three mobile GPUs here: the T820, T840 and T860. The entry level 800 series is the T820, where ARM explain that it has 40% higher performance than the outgoing Mali-T622 chipset. The Mali-T830 is 55% more powerful than the outgoing T622 chipset: the T820 and T830 offer up to four shader cores. ARM have a focus on power efficiency with the T860, which they claim uses almost half the power of the previous generation T628 GPU despite featuring up to sixteen shader cores. All three of these 800 GPUs support OpenGL® ES 3.1, DirectX® 11, OpenCLâ„¢ and RenderScript.
The new Mali-V550 video processor has full support for the HEVC standard, High Efficiency Video Coding. It's able to decode 1080p video at 60 fps on a single core, moving up to 4K resolution, 120 fps on an octa-core GPU. This scalability is important for power consumption as the unit uses more or less cores depending on the workload. The Mali-V550 is able to perform encoding and decoding simultaneously; this unit is designed to improve the quality of videos cameras as well as reduce battery life.
Mali's D550 display driver is the least exciting new product. This driver supports up to seven layers for image rendering, which "should enable users to benefit from more dynamic and immersive user interfaces." Again as with the V550, the D550 is a scalable solution, it'll stretch up to 4K resolution with support for filters, noise reduction and backlight adjustments internally.
It's unclear how many of 2015's flagship models will benefit from the new ARM Mali units, but it's clear that the focus is on a blend of high performance with efficiency improvements. It's going to be an exciting 2015!