ARM Takes Aim At Mid-Range Devices With Three New Chips

Max 'Beast from the East' Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope. If you find him looking lost on the streets of London, feed him coffee and sugar.

Follow on: Google +

British chip designer is launching three new designs, as it gets busy at Computex

British chip designer ARM will be launching three new products including the Cortex-A12, a modestly priced processor for mid-range smartphones, and Mali-V500, a video decoding chip with copyright protection features.

The announcement was made at the Computex exhibition in Taipei, which kicked off on Monday. The first products featuring the new silicon are expected to appear on the shelves sometime in 2014.

Less bang for less buck

ARM designs chips for the majority of mobile devices currently on the market. It doesn’t sell any physical products, but licenses its intellectual property to partners such as Qualcomm and Samsung.

641px-ARM_powered_Badge.svgSilicon invented by the company from Cambridge powers hi-end smartphones like the HTC One, Samsung Galaxy S4 and Blackberry Z10. Now ARM is going after the mid-market, which it says will outgrow the premium market and see 580 million budget-friendly smartphones and tablets sold in 2015.

Cortex-A12 is designed to replace the popular but ageing Cortex-A9 silicon, which is at the heart of both Samsung Galaxy S3 and iPhone 4S. According to ARM, the new chip will be 40 percent faster than its predecessor, while consuming the same amount of power. However, it will still lag behind the flagship Cortex-A15.

The Cortex-A12 will feature support for virtualisation, big.LITTLE architecture, and could help the company compete against Intel in the important $200 to $350 cost bracket.

Meanwhile, the Mali-T622 dual-core GPU will become the smallest full profile GPU Compute solution available for mobile devices. It is 50 percent more energy efficient that the previous generation Mali products. With support for features like OpenCL 1.1 and OpenGL ES 3.0, T622 becomes a ‘proper’ GPU, which should be a lot better at processing complex graphics than a CPU.

Finally, Mali-V500 is a video encoding chip that includes anti-piracy features and was designed in cooperation with major media producers.When playing video, it reduces system bandwidth requirements by more than 50 percent compared to currently available solutions.

The chip will ship in different configurations – the basic will encode and decode full HD footage at 60 frames per second, while the more advanced version will be able to handle 4K video at 120 frames per second.

“Silicon partners in the mid-range and mass-market smartphone space are constrained by having to balance functionality with cost and choosing the combination of ARM Cortex-A12, Mali-T622 and Mali-V500 enables them to build efficient systems where each processor has a different and unique role to play,” wrote Jakub Lamik, graphics product manager at ARM.

What do you know about ARM? Take our quiz!