We’ve recently covered how Samsung’s own in-house GPU, graphics processor unit, has suffered from delays. The news yesterday that Samsung has signed a long term license agreement with ARM in order to continue using the Mali GPU is almost certainly at least related. The Business Korea newspaper reports that the five year contract entitles Samsung to use ARM’s Mali T-820, T-830, T-860 and T-880 graphics chipsets. This development should ease any pressure on Samsung to rush its own in-house GPU although it may not ease the pressure on Samsung developing these! As regards to Samsung’s own in-house GPU, we understand that as far back to 2011, Samsung have been hiring GPU circuit designers and engineers and have concentrated their efforts on a series of internal projects with the ultimate goal of incorporating in-house GPU technology into the Exynos chipsets, such as the 7420, which powers the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge smartphones.
With the Galaxy S6 family, Samsung announced that the business was only prepared to use the very best of components in order to build the very best of smartphone device. It would appear, then, that ARM’s Mali chipsets are as good as is necessary for Samsung. Son Jae-cheol, Samsung Electronics’ SoC Processor Development Team Vice President, explained that the ARM Mali series offers “high expandability and energy efficiency” and “image quality is a very important factor in premium mobile devices.”
However, whilst some websites are reporting that this news means that Samsung’s own internal GPU is delayed by five years or perhaps even in jeopardy, this may not be the case. We have already seen how Samsung will happily use different providers’ components across the one family of devices, for example we have seen different processor families used in the same smartphone such as Qualcomm Snapdragon and Samsung Exynos for the Galaxy S range, depending on the market and network technologies. We have seen some of Samsung’s lower end handsets use an inexpensive System-on-Chip product and going forwards, it is entirely possible that Samsung’s internal GPU technology will be aimed at the higher or lower end of the spectrum. Given their expertise, I would expect Samsung’s own in-house GPU to be a high end chipset, meaning that they may well use the ARM Mali chipset for the lower and mid range SoCs.