ARM outs the Mali-T658 Midgard GPU design

ARM has announced the next generation of its Mali graphics processing IP, the Mali-T658, which pushes the company's Midgard GPU architecture to new heights of performance.

Mali is ARM's graphics-oriented accompaniment to the Cortex series of general-purpose processors, finding a home in high-performance chips like Samsung's Exynos 4212 as used in the Galaxy S II smartphone.

It's something of which the British chip giant is justifiably proud - even if it hasn't quite met the 500-times performance boost towards which Simon Hickman told us it was aiming earlier this year. Pushing an impressive number of pixels, the first-generation Midgard design - the Mali-T604 - proved a hit, but ARM claims its next product leaves it in the dust.

Designed for use with ARM's Cortex-A7 and Cortex-A15 CPU designs - preferably both, in the 'big.LITTLE' configuration the company recently unveiled - the Mali-T658 allows chipmakers to pack up to eight GPU cores into their system-on-chip designs for overall performance some four times greater than the Mali-T604 and ten times that of the more common Mali-T400.

The sheer number of cores isn't the only improvement to be found in ARM's latest Midgard Mali design, either: each core features double the arithmetic pipelines, helping push performance still further.

As usual, ARM is pushing for as comprehensive API support as it can manage, with OpenGL ES, OpenVG, OpenCL, Renderscript, DirectCompute and DirectX 11 - which will come in handy when Windows 8 makes an appearance - all support as standard.

“Next-generation consumer devices based on the Mali-T658 GPU will address the growing user expectation for slick user interfaces and desktop-class graphics," claims Pete Hutton, general manager of ARM's Media Processing Division. "Intuitive user interfaces will mean that consumers can access the full functionality of their connected devices, for richer user experiences. This includes HD gaming and new compute-intensive applications, such as augmented reality."

ARM has yet to suggest pricing for the Mali-T658 design, but claims to have customers including Fujitsu, LG, Nufront and Samsung signed up to make chips featuring the new technology. As is usual, however, many of those will likely keep that fact a secret from end-users - a situation ARM claims to be perfectly happy to support.