Rockchip Rock the Boat

Chinese Version 中文版:瑞芯微电子打破现状

Today at SIGGRAPH, ARM will be showcasing the graphics capabilities of its highest-end product, the ARM Mali-T760 GPU, available to the public for the first time in the shape of the Rockchip RK3288 processor in the PiPO Pad P1 and the Teclast P90HD. The announcement of the Mali-T760 GPU’s release in October last year seems like a lifetime ago from where we’re sitting – ARM has managed to squeeze in so many activities since then – but when you compare it to the traditional lifespan of delivering a brand new chip to the market, the speed at which Rockchip has been able to deliver the RK3288 has been incredible.

Historically, it has often taken fabless semiconductor companies 2-3 years to move from initial design idea to sample silicon to having a prototype end-product to having the final production OEM device ready to ship.

The problem is, this is no longer holding true in all cases. For some partners, extracting the highest possible performance, best energy efficiency and lowest die area from the IP which ARM delivers is their key differentiation point at the launch of a new SoC. For others, it’s time to market and their competitive advantage comes from being the first to put a new feature, functionality or – in this case GPU - in the hands of consumers.

Rockchip, by working closely with ARM, their suppliers and their customers, have been able to reduce this time from idea to ready-to-ship consumer product down to 9 months.

How Did It Happen?

ARM has collaborated closely with Rockchip over a period of many years, helping them deliver best-in-class SoCs to the marketplace. Rockchip are extremely experienced in designing Mali GPU IP into their silicon – they have been licensees of Mali technology since the days of the Mali-55 GPU. Their engineers know ARM designs well and were able to apply this experience to the new design, along with some of the tools and software used previously when developing an ARM-based chip. Combine this with the benefits of being lead partner along with Samsung, LG and Mediatek in the launch of the new GPU and you have yourself a winner.

There are many advantages to being a lead partner for ARM. Rockchip were able to participate in the development of the product, ensuring their suggestions were considered, but most importantly they gained early access to the IP. This early access enabled Rockchip engineers to start work on their silicon design extremely early on in the lifecycle of the Mali-T760.  ARM also provided regular updates to the project as they were made and delivered detailed support, ensuring that by the time the Mali-T760 was announced, ARM and Rockchip had already done a lot of the legwork needed to bring the first iteration of the RK3288 to market. As Trina Watt, VP Solutions Marketing at ARM put it: “Such a phenomenal achievement in terms of getting end-user devices to the market in only seven months was made possible due to the close collaboration and commitment from both parties.”

Rockchip will continue to develop and refine their software offering over future iterations,  enhancing the processor’s energy efficiency and performance in order to get the most from the IP which they have licensed.

What Does This Mean for the Future of the Mobile Industry?

Firstly, for consumers it means that the latest mobile technology will be reaching your hands sooner than ever before – the days of hearing about sixteen core GPUs with 400% increases in energy efficiency and performance and then waiting for three years before the GPU is in an appreciable form in your pocket is over.

For the mobile industry, it means there is change in the air. With companies like Rockchip now setting the bar for fast tape outs and racing to be the first to market, the question will be to what extent other silicon partners can continue to spend two to three years on chip development.

ARM offers a range of Physical IP products to help reduce time to market for silicon partners. For example, ARM POP IP is a combination of physical IP with acceleration technology which guides licensees to produce the best ARM processor implementations (whether that is highest performing or most efficient) in the fastest time. It implements both the knowledge of our processor teams and the physical IP engineering teams to resolve common implementation challenges for the silicon partner. ARM POP IP is currently available for Mali-T628 and Mali-T760 GPUs.


In addition, to provide choice in the market, ARM works closely with leading EDA partners for integration and optimization of ARM IP deliverables with advanced design flows. ARM directly collaborates with each partner in the development and validation of various design flows and methodologies, enabling successful path from RTL to foundry-ready GDSII. For example, ARM processor-based Implementation Reference Methodologies (iRMs) enable ARM licensees to customize, implement, verify and characterize soft ARM processors. For Mali GPUs, the Synopsys design flow enables a predictable route to silicon, and a basis for custom methodology development.

The Potential of the ARM Ecosystem

“Consumers are increasingly becoming more sophisticated and desire to get hold of the latest technology in their hands as soon as possible” - said Chen Feng, CMO of Rockchip. “In order to do so we need to find new ways of working with our partners across the entire length of the supply chain. Having worked closely and found success with ARM and the ARM Ecosystem over so many years already, we knew that, though the targets were demanding, between us we had the strengths and capabilities to make it happen. The Mali-T760 is an extremely promising GPU and we are proud to be the first to bring it to the hands of consumers.”

If you want to see ARM’s latest GPU in action, come to the ARM booth at SIGGRAPH and discover how the ARM Ecosystem is continuing to expand the mobile experience, with new GPUs, advanced processor technology and innovative additions to the graphics industry.

Graphics & Multimedia blog