Ask anyone in the graphics and multimedia industry and chances are they’ll have heard of Arm Mali. Ask them what for though, and they’ll say GPUs. Whilst that was the case at the start of the Arm Mali journey, it’s certainly no longer so. In fact, it didn’t stay that way for very long at all. Arm Mali was born in June 2006 from the acquisition of Norwegian GPU start-up Falanx, whose specially designed Graphics IP focused on providing superior performance within the smallest possible silicon area and power budget. While this was the perfect approach for the fast-growing mobile market, it wasn’t long before it became apparent that even greater efficiency gains could be achieved by adding in dedicated video processor IP to work in sync with the GPU. This led to the announcement in early 2009 that Arm had acquired Logipard. A Swedish video processor company, Logipard had been founded two years earlier with eight employees. By the time Arm came along they were already at 15 and building a solid knowledge base and reputation in the industry. With many of the original team still with us we’ve been able to grow and build upon their existing expertise to produce the video processor roadmap we know today.
Starting with the Mali-V500, we aimed to produce the simplest, lowest cost way of providing multi-standard media solutions. With sufficient scalability to address camera and video player configurations it was the smallest 8-bit multi-standard video codec solution for low power devices. Our latest video offering, Mali-V61, was released in 2016. The evolution of the architecture has meant this latest offering is capable of a whole host more performance points with optimization right up to 4K120 video and still just 50% the silicon area of alternative solutions.
So, we had graphics and video, but we still weren’t satisfied. What else could we get involved in to add value for the customer? What to do with all that awesome imagery we’d processed? Display it of course.
This is why we set about acquiring Display IP from what was formerly Evatronix and is now the basis of our brand new Poland office! It had already become apparent that the speed with which Full HD smartphones and Ultra HD TVs were taking off was pushing the market, hard. It was also apparent that the solution to this wasn’t simply more pixels, but better quality pixels. The hardware was a step to this end, and the introduction of the very first Mali display processor, the Mali-DP500, made big leaps toward this goal with the ability to support bandwidth saving technologies like AFBC across the whole Multimedia IP stack, for example. Mali Display processors continue to evolve, offering a highly efficient hardware composition solution in terms of system power and performance. They enable all must-have, standard image processing functions in a mobile SoC as well as supporting unique technologies such as Assertive Display, and custom third party IP through the intelligent coprocessor interface. Another element that really changed the game, however, is our software support. The ability to provide our partners with the full software stack of drivers, optimized for all of our processing IP, reduced time to market by addressing common industry challenges.
Two more generations of display processor, the Mali-DP550 & Mali-DP650, have been released in the few years since, with the Mali-DP650 introducing important new premium features as well increasing resolution support. Now, with 4K and HDR on everyone’s lips, it’s time for another big step change in the way we handle display. A few months ago we brought you an early look at our next generation display processor, currently codenamed Cetus, and the innovative new display architecture behind it. With up to 8 alpha-blended, AFBC1.2 composition and/or rotated layers, 4 scaled layers, support for mixed HDR/SDR composition and highly robust memory subsystem, Cetus is capable of solving increasingly complex scenes @4K90fps, and is set to take the Mali Multimedia Suite of Graphics, Video and Display to a whole new world of awesome possibilities.
Stay tuned for more on that coming soon…
But still no proper documentation, binary-only userland, crappy kernel code. Practically unusable.