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ARM is kind of of big deal if you like mobile devices: they release and maintain the architectures licensed by nearly all the world's mobile System-on-a-Chip (SoC) makers. Today they've announced new CPU and GPU designs specifically targeted ant the growing mid-range market, the Cortex-A12 and Mali-T622. This silicon is powerful by today's standards, but a bit less so than their A15 (Samsung's Exynos 5250, NVIDIA Tegra 4) and T624 (and higher) counterparts, designed for more economical implementation. The basic idea is that mid-range devices, which ARM defines as between $150 and $350 unsubsidized, will get both more powerful and more efficient.


The Cortex-A12 is ARM's new mid-range architecture, which they claim is more capable and just as efficient as the older A9. Processors based on the Cortex-A12 will boost speed of single-thread operations by 40% over the A9, with a 30% smaller chip size thanks to its 28nm build process. More esoteric features include big.LITTLE processing for coupling with low-power A7 chips, a whopping 1 terabyte of addressable memory (a theoretical 1TB limit of RAM capacity), and software support for virtualization and TrustZone security. All of these are features of the more powerful A15 and A5* designs. ARM claims that pairing the A12 with the A7 processor in a big.LITTLE configuration can boost SoC power efficiency by as much as 100%.

The Mali-T622 GPU sits between the Mali-T604 and the upcoming Mali-T624 architectures, using the newer 2nd-generation Midgard standard. ARM claims that the T622 offers 50% more efficiency than the older generation (T604, found in the Exynos 5250 SoC) with multi-core rendering for up to OpenGL ES 3.0, DirecX 11, and OpenCL 1.1. Mali-T622 designs can be implemented in both single-core and dual-core configurations. The CoreLink CCI-400 cache interconnect between the Mali-T622 GPU and the Cortex A12 processor can share L2 cache among them, allowing for voltage scaling and more efficient power management.


Lastly, ARM announced the Mali-V500 video solution for scaling both encoding and decoding video processes. On a single GPU core, Mali-V500 can handle 1080p encoding at 60 frames per second, and decoding (playback) of 4K video at 120 frames per second. (This doesn't mean much for devices themselves, but outputting to a 4K TV or monitor with super-high framerate content should be possible.)

ARM expects the Cortex-A12 architecture, Mali-T622 architecture, and Mali-V500 video solution to be ready by mid-2014.

ARM Cortex-A12, ARM Mali-T622

CAMBRIDGE, England & TAIPEI, Taiwan--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Today at Computex, ARM announced an optimized IP solution designed to power the 580 million mid-range mobile devices expected over the next two years. The mid-range market is projected to exceed the number of premium smartphones and tablets beginning in 2015. Targeted at the mid-range market, this new suite of ARM IP is optimized for power, performance and die size. Used together, this suite of IP will provide consumers with premium features like virtualization, big.LITTLE processing and GPU compute at mid-range price points.

The suite extends the ARM® Cortex®-A processor and ARM Mali™-T GPU series with the Cortex-A12 processor and Mali-T622 GPU and introduces a new video IP product, the Mali-V500. With support from ARM POP™ technology and the ARM Development Studio 5 (DS-5™) toolchain, ARM partners can deliver smartphones and tablets with higher efficiency and reduced time to market. Partners will announce their plans in due course, but ARM expects this IP solution will be in mobile devices by mid-2014.

“Mobile users expect a range of devices at different price points and for a mid-range mobile experience to include some high end mobile features. With a billion smartphones predicted to ship in 2013 and tablets projected to out-ship notebook PCs, device-makers can now provide quality, high-performance mobile products with the features that matter the most, at a range of price points,” said Ian Drew, chief marketing officer and executive vice president, ARM. “The market is evolving at an amazing rate and there is now a choice of solutions for semiconductor companies and for mobile device-makers. Our suite of optimized IP expands the choice for the mid-range mobile market.”

The energy-saving technology known as ARM big.LITTLE™ processing is only just coming to high-end devices today, but now can be designed into mid-range smartphones, allowing users to do more with their devices. The Cortex-A12 processor offers ARM partners a 40 percent performance uplift in the same power envelope when compared to the successful Cortex-A9 processor. The Cortex-A12 processor builds on best-in-class efficiency as a standalone solution and additionally supports the innovative big.LITTLE™ processing technology with the Cortex-A7 processor. The Cortex-A12 introduces features found in premium smartphones and tablets to mid-range devices, including virtualization. Additional information for the Cortex-A12 processor can be found here.

The Mali-T622 GPU, is OpenGL ES 3.0 conformant, supports the Renderscript and OpenCL™ APIs, and is the smallest full profile GPU Compute solution available for mobile devices. The Mali-T622 GPU brings a rich, visual experience to mid-range mobile devices with functionality only now becoming available in the highest-end premium smartphones and tablets. It does all of this while providing a 50 percent energy-efficiency improvement over first-generation Mali-T600 series products. A closer look at the Mali-T622 GPU can be found here.

The energy-efficient Mali-V500 video solution provides dedicated video processing and reduces system bandwidth requirements by more than 50 percent[ii] compared to currently available solutions. The Mali-V500 is a multicore video solution, scaling from a single core capable of 1080p/60 encode and decode to multiple cores supporting ultra-high definition 4K at a blistering 120 frames per second. Additionally, the Mali-V500 video solution was architected with support for TrustZone® security technology enabling efficient, hardware-backed security for movie and TV content from download to display. More details on the Mali-V500 video solution are available here.

Jeremiah Rice
Jeremiah is a US-based blogger who bought a Nexus One the day it came out and never looked back. In his spare time he watches Star Trek, cooks eggs, and completely fails to write novels.
  • Logan Jinks

    Guess this doesn't mean much to me until I can real world performance. Also here's hoping those Intel Haswell chips make a big change for those windows 8 tablets

    • Sean Royce

      They should. Not drastic amounts, but their will be a noticeable increase in battery life. And a slight performance boost.

      • perfectlyreasonabletoo

        *massive GPU performance boost, very modest CPU performance boost

        • Sean Royce

          It's a cpu mate, not a GPU, how does that affect it? I'm seriously interested.

  • GraveUypo

    4k at 120fps = 320mbps with the best codecs you can find today.

    good luck finding any storage that can stream stuff that fast... specially on a cellphone. also it'd be funny how a 2 minute video would fill it entirely.

    • Matthew Fry

      But it would look so damn good!

    • perfectlyreasonabletoo

      320 mbps wouldn't be necessary at all. x264 can encode very good quality (CRF18) 1080p24 video at ~9 mbps. 4k has twice the pixel data as 1080p, but h.264 becomes more efficient at higher resolutions, requiring only around ~50% higher bitrate when going from 720p to 1080p on clean sources at approximately the same subjective quality.

      So, going from 1080p (2K) to 2160p (4K) at the same framerate should only require around ~15 mbps at the most. Even in a worst-case scenario 20 mbps is more than would be needed.

      Multiplying the framerate by 5 (24 -> 120) doesn't necessitate multiplying the bitrate by 5 either. Far less data is required to encode frames similar to those which came before them, and at 120 fps almost the whole of every frame would be virtually identical to the previous one. Motion analysis would also be far more accurate compared to 24 fps video, creating even more savings. (if Open-GOP is available the savings would increase further)

      In summary, properly encoded 2160p120 video need not require more than 20-40 mbps at the most. 32 mbps = 4 MB/s, well within the read speed of common SD cards. A 16 GB SD card (14.9 GB formatted capacity) could hold at least one hour of very high quality x264-encoded h.264 4K+120fps video at 32mbps/4MB/s.

      Also, you said "the best codecs you can find today", which doesn't really even mean h.264 but in fact the ~50% superior h.265, aka HEVC ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_Efficiency_Video_Coding ). It would theoretically be able to provide 4K+120fps video at just ~20 mbps (2.5 MB/s) at the most, meaning at least 1h40m of very high-quality 4K+120fps video on a 16 GB SD card, or at least 2 hours if even just a small compromise was made (if the functional equivalent of CRF19 rather than CRF18 is used, bearing in mind x265 doesn't exist yet AFAIK). This isn't really applicable though since the hardware decoder in question almost certainly can't decode h.265 as well as it can decode h.264, if at all... just correcting your assertion about "the best codecs".


      TL;DR: Not 320 mbps, more like 40 mbps at most... maybe 60 mbps (worst case) if you needed to use Baseline rather than High profile.

      TL;DRTL;DR: You done goofed.

      • Productivity


      • GraveUypo

        10mbps is low quality internet encoding. the usual bitrate for high quality 30 fps 1080p video is around 20mbps.

        also motion analisys is entirely dependant on the contents of the video. if could go as you say for movies and shit with fixed, planned camera work, but for shaky home videos or high-speed footage (worst case scenario being random noise on the screen) it could need to skyrocket to rates over 1 gbps.

        maybe 320mbps is a bit too much, but i'm certain it wouldn't be 60mbps. not at that frame rate.

        just to get an idea, the bitrate for a raw video (no compression) at that quality and frame rate would be 24,01 Gbps.

        • perfectlyreasonabletoo

          10 mbps might be low quality if you're using a bad encoder or terrible settings but it's virtually transparent for any high-quality 1080p video with few exceptions.

          • GraveUypo

            it isn't even close to being transparent. it's decent for most things, but far far from transparent. and lumping up all videos on a same bitrate threshold is the biggest mistake you can make.

            one of the reasons 4k videos can be smaller than one would expect is because they wouldn't need to be as transparent as content on smaller resolutions since the 16x16 block gets smaller as resolution increases, so bad compression artifacts on some of those gets less noticeable. for transparency you need really high bitrates.

      • GJ

        Actually 4K has four times the pixels as 1080p.

        1080p = 1920x1080 = 2 megapixels

        4K = 3840x2160 = 8 megapixels

        • perfectlyreasonabletoo

          Aha, you got me there. 4K is 8mp not 4mp, my bad.

  • Matthew Fry

    And just like that, the Nexus 10 is put into the mid-range. I wonder how long it will take for mobile devices to get close to catching up to desktop computing.