At an event in San Francisco today, Arm announced its latest generation of premium CPU, GPU and video cores for mobile applications. As Arm is an IP company that licenses out its designs to SoC vendors, it will not be building or selling any chips with these cores for any purposes other than verification. However, companies like Huawei Technologies, MediaTek , Qualcomm and Samsung Electronics are expected to use some or all of them in their next generation chips inside of devices out in 2019. While Apple has the highest performance CPU cores, Arm has successfully set the volume standard when it comes to mobile processing cores, especially on the CPU with some of the most consistent performance improvements with each generation. Arm’s work with the Cortex A72, A73 and A75 have shown that the company is interested in going after different markets with the same architecture. However, with all the major improvements it’s made with each generation it’s more able to address multiple markets with a single CPU.
New premium CPU, GPU, video processors
The new CPU and GPU cores Arm announced today are the Cortex A76 and Mali G76, bringing Arm’s processors to naming parity. While the names themselves are arbitrary, they do indicate where Arm believes they lie in the stack of its CPUs and GPUs (at the top, for premium experiences). In addition to its CPU and GPU, Arm introduced its new video processor, V76, which represents a performance level unseen before from Arm.
Arm Cortex A76 CPU
With the new Arm Cortex A76 CPU cores, Arm has focused on achieving peak performance and efficiency for its architecture, with laptops being the highest tier of performance targeted. Arm is projecting huge performance improvements of around 30% and efficiency improvements of up to 40% over the A75, which are mostly coming from architectural improvements and partly from going from 10nm to 7nm on the process node. This is a huge announcement.
The reason why these CPU improvements are so important is that they will help to improve Arm and its partners’ overall performance relative to competitors like Intel in the low power PC segment and the new Always Connected PC (ACPC) market. While the first generation ACPCs impressed with battery life, portability, and LTE connectivity, it still begged for more performance in performance-hungry workloads.
Arm Mali G76 GPU
In addition to the significantly faster A76 CPU cores, ARM announced the Mali G76 GPU. The G76 is also focused on improving efficiency; ARM is claiming an improvement of 30% from the G72. It additionally boasts improvement to performance density, which means that Mali accomplishes more performance in less space. This is crucial for SoCs where every few square millimeters matter. The Mali G76 is still going to be the go-to GPU for ARM’s SoC partners like Huawei and Samsung, but I suspect that its A76 CPU will get even more traction because of its ability to address both high-end smartphones and large screen premium compute like laptops and convertible tablets.
Arm is also focusing on AI and ML performance with the Mali G76, projecting up to 4x improvement in performance for edge AI and ML. This is important because even today, lots of AI and ML inference algorithms run on the CPU because it’s the most consistent architecture on most smartphones and tablets. Sure, there are dedicated AI and ML processors like GPUs and DSPs, but those require more work to implement and developers have to have access to them. This strategy is very similar to Qualcomm’s in that it is leveraging many different, heterogeneous cores.
Arm Mali V76 video processor
Last, but certainly not least, ARM announced its new video processor, the Mali V76. This new processor also features major improvements to efficiency. One of the key features that ARM is touting though is support for 8K 60 FPS video. Today that might not sound like a big deal, but it will be down the road for VR. I firmly believe that the future of 360-degree video will be 8K and to be able to play that back smoothly, you need a good video processor like the ARM Mali V76. Additionally, this VPU can be used in future 8K TVs when SoC manufacturers start building chips for them. The V76 also enables support for 4K video using fewer video cores than the previous generation allowing for less area use and potentially lower power.
These new premium Arm chips represent not only a step up for smartphone workloads to improve AR, VR, modular workspace, and gaming experiences, but also an opportunity to go after the revenue and margin-rich Windows 10 PC market. Arm already has an incredible software ecosystem, security infrastructure, and scale, so by adding the performance element, this is going to be a much more interesting, more competitive future for larger format devices like personal computers.
Note: This blog contains contributions from Patrick Moorhead, Moor Insights & Strategy founder, president and principal analyst.