ARM, the company’s whose chip designs are a mainstay in the mobile world, has introduced a new member of its Cortex family, designed for the mid-tier tablet and smartphone market. It has also unveiled a new graphics processor and video coding engine that aims to boost performance without taking a huge power hit.
The new chips are a sign of two things occurring in the mobile market — the need for a greater range of processors to meet the needs across a broader spectrum of users as well as the growing prominence of the GPU. While ARM designs the brains inside the vast majority of mobile devices, it can’t afford to let someone else run away with the GPU.
The UK firm launched the Cortex-A12 on Sunday at Computex. The processor offers a 40 percent performance boost over the Cortex-A9 processor and features such as hardware virtualization and support for the new ARM big.Little heterogenous computing architecture. It allows device makers to pair the fastest cores with more energy-efficient ones under the same architecture. This means device makers can mix and match to eke out the most performance with the smallest power consumption.
With this latest core ARM is expanding the appeal of this modular strategy, with a core aimed at the mid-market, and expected in devices by the middle of 2014. While here in the U.S. where top-line smartphones are often subsidized by carriers, in other parts of the world a smartphone might cost $600. That’s still a pretty penny for many people, but the low-end Android handsets for developing countries aren’t a great fit either.
Along with the brains for the mid-market phones, ARM has also introduced its Mali-T622 GPU, which it hopes will be used in tablets and handsets, but also in set top boxes and other video-playing devices. ARM has been pushing harder on its graphics line in recent years, as GPUs become more essential inside phones and tablets. Playing video has become more common, but even everyday apps rely more on the GPU than one might imagine.
The Mali GPU, while in televisions and other home entertainment devices is competing with GPUs made by Nvidia in its Tegra chip, Qualcomm’s Adreno GPU, and perhaps soon against Apple, which has reportedly hired a bunch of former AMD graphics chipmakers for its own GPU dreams. ARM also is offering a video processing engine running on its cores that emphasizes quality without power consumption — exactly what hardware designers expect from ARM.