It’s not just high-end mobile devices which need to work like a dream, we expect a certain level of performance and a relatively advanced feature set even from a more modest, mainstream handset budget. Whilst it’s the top of the line products which often garner the most media attention, a large proportion of the global smartphone market is based on mainstream rather than premium devices. In manufacturing the high volume chips required for this market segment, the cost to the system contributed by silicon area will have a big impact on the final cost. In order to retain quality performance points within a mainstream budget, silicon area is therefore one of the key areas of focus for cost reduction.
The second GPU to be built on our innovative new Bifrost architecture, Mali-G51 is the first Bifrost GPU in ARM®’s High Area Efficiency roadmap. Exploiting the very latest ARM advances in bandwidth and power efficiency, combined with all-important area reduction, Mali-G51 is our most cost efficient GPU to date with up to 60% more area efficiency than Mali-T830 and 60% more energy efficiency.
Designed to bring premium experience to the mainstream device, Mali-G51 supports all the key everyday use cases from augmented reality (AR) and virtual spaces to casual gaming and a smooth, fluid user interface.
In May 2016 you may have seen the launch of the first of our Bifrost based GPUs, Mali-G71. This propelled the new Bifrost architecture into the premium mobile space with the highest performance capabilities designed to support VR gaming and other complex, power hungry content. This doesn’t mean however, that Bifrost is all about the biggest and best of premium mobile capability. Designed from the outset to scale across all levels of device, Bifrost can be carefully deployed to achieve the perfect performance point for any level of product.
Targeting the mainstream smartphone market, Mali-G51 brings the Bifrost architecture to a different market tier with features and capability specifically tuned to the area and power limitations of mainstream mobile. Individual features of the underlying architecture have been analysed and assessed against real graphics applications in order to ensure mainstream graphics needs are prioritized for a well-balanced design.
Bifrost’s low level instruction set, which gives control to the compiler, has been further optimized for Mali-G51 and specifically rebalanced for power sensitive graphics workloads. Not only that, but a new dual-pixel shader core has been implemented to double texel and pixel rates and can be used asymmetrically with a uni-pixel shader core in order to access even further configurability and versatility.
It’s no secret that there are challenges inherent in the mobile form factor that aren’t present in other types of device. Not only do we not have the PC’s lovely big fans cooling everything down, but we also don’t have a handy mains power connection running continuously. Every component in an SoC needs power and in using it, creates heat that the device has to dissipate. This heat dissipation has actually become harder in newer mobile devices where the bevel is getting smaller and ever more of the surface area is taken up by the screen which doesn’t have the same cooling capacity as the metal case. Reducing the power consumed by the GPU frees up this power to be used elsewhere in the SoC and decreases the thermal pressure the GPU adds to the device. It also means less power is consumed from the system’s total budget, a key requirement not only for a smooth experience but also for smartphone users to get the most from their device’s battery life.
Another exciting feature of the Mali-G51 GPU is the addition of the newest version of our advanced bandwidth saving technology, ARM Frame Buffer Compression (AFBC) 1.2. Latest optimizations include improved GPU performance in bandwidth limited scenarios as well as improved display processor performance for rotation use cases.
AFBC 1.2 also improves compression for constant colour blocks, providing further significant savings for user interface and 2D graphics applications. Fully backwards compatible with former versions, AFBC is therefore available across the full Mali Multimedia Suite (MMS) of Graphics, Display and Video processors with the newly launched Mali-V61 video processor. System wide optimizations like AFBC 1.2, Adaptive Scalable Texture Compression, and ARM TrustZone® allow all parts of the MMS to work seamlessly together, optimizing performance and bandwidth reduction and reducing our partners’ time to market.
Virtual reality (VR) is one of the more demanding of today’s use cases when it comes to the burden it places on a mobile system. To ensure a fully immersive experience in VR gaming requires extensive power and performance optimization. This however, doesn’t mean that you can only join the virtual world by purchasing top of the line devices. Low power VR is becoming a market segment all of its own and is facilitating some of the arguably more useful, every day virtual interactions.
‘Virtual Spaces’ are how we refer to virtual environments that don’t require the fully interactive, highly reactive elements of AAA VR gaming. Virtual spaces are finite environments that can support interactive elements, like the people within them, whilst keeping the surroundings static and therefore minimizing GPU workload. Virtual spaces represent the obvious business application for VR, where you can collaborate with teammates, colleagues and customers across the globe in a much more realistic manner in a virtual boardroom, conference suite or even breakout area.
Socially, virtual spaces allow you to meet up with friends in comfortable surroundings and talk face to face, without ever leaving your sofa. The ability to look at the person talking to you and respond in real time makes the distance between separated loved ones seem much easier to bridge.
The fact that these low power VR solutions can now be supported by mainstream area and energy efficient GPU’s like Mali-G51 means they are accessible to a much wider audience. Businesses no longer need to be constrained by a tighter tech budget and everyday consumers can experience the future of virtual communication without breaking the bank.
In designing the Mali-G51 GPU the ARM Mali team are excited to have brought such significant savings to such an important area of the market and we look forward to seeing them appearing in next generation mobile devices in 2018.